(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Tuesday’s Israel Bar Association election will have different colors for the first time – more black and white – and maybe even a judge with a wig.
Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) lawyers have united for the first time to run an all-haredi list to put their stamp on the association. The new party is called “Faith in the Workplace” and is led by Yossi Weitzman, head of the association’s collections department.
Among the party’s goals are haredim – both men and women – serving as judges, eventually even on the Supreme Court, according to Weitzman and party activist Sari Neumann.
There are many haredi lawyers who have “served the public for a long time,” said Weitzman, adding that party members thought it was time to join forces in order to “significantly impact important issues.”
The idea to form a haredi list was inspired by Israeli Arabs who did the same in the past with major success, including placing Israeli Arab lawyer Khaled Zoabi on the Judicial Selection Committee.
A united and focused front can get the attention of the top power-brokers, and Weitzman said that “we also have good people” who could fill top spots, such as ones on the Judicial Selection Committee.
Beyond the plight of lawyers, Weitzman said that if his party succeeds and haredim become represented in influential positions on levels parallel to their actual numbers, there will be an “unambiguous” positive impact on young haredim joining the work force.
Haredim will see that they can rise to higher positions, be well-respected and will feel that the system “supports them” instead of having negative associations with the system, he said.
One area where Weitzman said his party would help all lawyers was ensuring that ethics complaints “cannot be improperly used against lawyers, like they are now.”
Neumann added that the party will also try to lower fees for all lawyers to be members of the bar association.
Regarding haredi female judges, Neumann, who has practiced real estate and tax law for nine years, was very optimistic, saying that “haredi women can and need to break the not merely glass ceiling, but the strong cement ceiling,” and reiterating that haredi women “are not merely in the kitchen, they are working” in serious professions like law.
The activist was asked if ultra-Orthodox women could fulfill the role of a judge presiding over a potentially raucous courtroom in light of haredi notions of modesty for women.
A haredi female judge “could tell anyone to be quiet when she is speaking,” she responded.
Pressed on whether the haredi community would really accept women in high-powered roles when it denied even a single spot for a woman in the current Knesset, Neumann said, “in this Knesset we didn’t succeed, but we will succeed eventually and there should definitely be haredi women in the Knesset.”
Weitzman was strongly supportive of female judges, but slightly more circumspect about women in the Knesset, saying “first we will work on lawyers’ issues,” and that issues regarding the Knesset were a separate question.