The Knesset building.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The position of Knesset rabbi has been opened up to women, following a decision by the Knesset’s legal adviser that the previous tender for the job prevented women from applying.
The previous incumbent in the position recently retired and the tender issued for the job includes the stipulation that the candidate have ordination from the Chief Rabbinate.
But the Knesset rabbi is mostly charged with overseeing kashrut in the building, and a letter from the Reform Movement in Israel to the Knesset director and Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon pointed out that a High Court of Justice decision in 2013 ruled that women should be allowed to serve as kashrut supervisors and allowed to take the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut exams.
Reform Movement attorney Riki Shapira argued in her letter that there are many women with a broad knowledge of Jewish law who are today serving as kashrut supervisors and could do the job required of the Knesset rabbi, and that the requirement for rabbinic ordination was therefore unnecessary.
She also argued that limiting the job to Orthodox rabbis discriminated against rabbis with Reform and Conservative ordination, and therefore contravenes Israel’s basic law for human dignity and liberty.
In his reply, Yinon essentially conceded that there was no reason to restrict the job to someone with ordination from the Chief Rabbinate, and said that a new tender would be published which requires either ordination or an academic degree, together with qualification as kashrut supervisor from the Chief Rabbinate.
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who is religious, welcomed the decision and said he hoped that a woman would get the job.
“I am familiar with the job of Knesset rabbi and am convinced that there are enough women who can fill this position in a good and honorable manner,” he said.
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