(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
A number of haredi women have fought a prominent battle in recent years to demand female haredi representation within Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ), as well as some initiatives outside the current haredi parties.
Although they have notched up some legal victories, their goal of representation on the Shas and UTJ lists still appears very distant.
Omer Yankelevich – 41, and a resident of Beit Shemesh – has taken a different path however, and decided to seek elected office outside of the constraints of the haredi system, and was placed 23rd on Blue and White’s electoral list.
Although UTJ and Shas have not permitted any women to stand as candidates on their electoral lists, they nevertheless criticized Yankelevich for having joined a non-religious party, with UTJ’s Yitzhak Pindrus describing her as “decoration” and “irrelevant,” while other party officials reportedly called her “a fig leaf” and “from the margins of the haredi community.”
Despite the vitriol directed at her, she was noticeably silent during the election campaign and does not have any social media presence at all.
Blue and White has declined several requests to interview Yankelevich.
The freshman MK is a lawyer and social activist who was educated in the haredi school system in both Bnei Brak and Gateshead in the UK. She went on to obtain a BA in teaching from Cambridge University, another BA in law from Ono College and a Masters in law from Bar Ilan University.
In 2015, she established the Just Begun Foundation to help encourage development in Israel’s “social periphery,” particularly in haredi society, including initiatives to encourage and assist haredi artists and promote “personal and public leadership” in the community.
Another project developed by Yankelevich within the Just Begun framework was the Alma initiative to help haredi women in economic and social distress.
She has also notably defended gender separation for the haredi community in study frameworks, after the Jerusalem Labor Court ruled last year that a gender-separate cadets course in the Civil Service Commission designed for haredi men and women to be illegal.
The ruling was eventually overturned, and Yankelevich wrote at the time that unless gender-separate study frameworks was available for haredi women, they would not be able to obtain an academic education at all.
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