Groups worried over rabbinical judges c'tee

A possible deal between UTJ and Labor could make Gafni opposition candidate.

May 28, 2013 02:02
2 minute read.
Moshe Gafni.

moshe gafni 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Women’s rights groups are concerned that the opposition government will support the candidacy of United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni for a place on the committee for appointing rabbinical judges.

The Jerusalem Post
understands that a possible deal is in the works whereby Gafni will receive the backing of the opposition, of which UTJ is a part, in return for unilateral support of the opposition for a prominent member of the Labor party seeking election to the committee for electing Supreme Court justices.

Sources close to the Labor MK in question denied that a deal had been made, but acknowledged that “the haredim are part of the opposition and there are things that they want too.”

A spokeswoman for MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) confirmed the MK had submitted her candidacy to be on the selection committee for rabbinical judges.

A spokeswoman for Meretz said no decision had been made on an opposition candidate and a Gafni spokesman confirmed this, but added Gafni had served on the committee in the previous Knesset.

The composition for the selection committee for rabbinical judges is considered critical for the advancement of women’s rights, especially in regard to divorce.

There are currently 10 members of the selection committee, including two rabbinical judges from the Supreme Rabbinical Court, two members elected from the Israel Bar Association, the justice minister, a minister appointed by the prime minister, the two chief rabbis and two MKs. Customarily, one MK is nominated by the coalition and one by the opposition.

Much of the casework of the state rabbinical courts deals with divorce cases, in which women are generally at a disadvantage to men in the proceedings because of the nature of Jewish law.

Women’s rights groups also claim that many of the rabbinical judges are deeply conservative and fail to protect women from extortion by their spouse in divorce proceedings.

For several years, the selection committee for rabbinical judges has not functioned normally. Internal political conflicts as well as an injunction issued by the High Court of Justice due to the absence of any women on the 10-member panel, has prevented the committee from convening.

Because of this there are very few seats occupied on the Supreme Rabbinical Court. Regional rabbinical courts require new appointments which mean that the new committee will be influential to the composition of the rabbinical courts system in the coming years.

The Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status expressed anger on Monday when hearing that support for Gafni was a possibility.

“It’s very important that the MKs who are elected will lead to the appointment of appropriate rabbinical judges, especially in relation to Supreme Rabbinical Court, which these elections will greatly influence in the coming years,” said Rackman Center Associate Director and Attorney Atara Kenigsberg.

“The state needs to take responsibility for the fate of the people who come to rabbinical courts,” said Robyn Shames, executive director of the International Coalition for Agunah Rights.

She continued that the state cannot abandon the people to “haredi MKs for them to treat state rabbinical courts like private courts.”

Shames said the makeup of the selection committee is important in gaging what the makeup of the rabbinical court will be and how the religious law will be interpreted and implemented.

“Their decisions affect the fate of many women going through divorce,” she added.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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