Religious woman running to lead Meretz in Jerusalem

“Putting a religious woman at the top of the list will help attract new sectors who can come if Meretz will only start reaching out to them,” the candidate said.

May 13, 2018 13:11
2 minute read.
Jerusalem city hall in Safra Square

Jerusalem city hall in Safra Square. (photo credit: DANIEL BARÁNEK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Meretz’s list for the Jerusalem city council in the October municipal election could be headed by a religious woman if attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg wins the election to be held on Tuesday.

Shapira-Rosenberg, 50, will face off against incumbent Laura Wharton, an American- born, Harvard-educated adjunct lecturer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s political science department.

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Shapira-Rosenberg said she did not plan to run for city council but she did not like it that Wharton was running unopposed.

“I thought there would be multiple candidates running,” she said. “When I saw no one was running, I drafted myself, because it was absurd that there was no competition. Meretz is not in a good place now. It was once a powerful force in the city, and it needs to be again.”

Shapira-Rosenberg has used her law degree to help women, promote equality, and fight the establishment on key matters of religion and state. She worked for the Israel Religious Action Center, representing the Reform Movement’s legal arm in cases aimed at establishing civil marriage, ending the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut, and fighting against bus segregation. She represented the Orthodox feminist organization in cases trying to get segregated bus lines canceled.

For 10 years, she ran legal clinics helping women. More recently, she helped get government polices changed that helped simplify the process for LGBT couples adopting children and expanded the position of Knesset rabbi to include women.

A seventh generation Jerusalemite, she lives in the capital’s Katamon neighborhood and attends Shira Hadasha, an Orthodox synagogue that tries to maximize women’s participation within the frameworks of Jewish law.

On Saturday, after attending services, she walked to the nearby First Station to participate in a rally calling to keep the cultural area open on Shabbat.

“I am not coming as a religious fig leaf to Meretz,” she said. “I am here because I identify with the party. There are many liberal religious people who can support Meretz. We have distanced ourselves from natural constituents. For Meretz to bring those people back and seek support from new sectors, we have to field someone new.”

Shapira-Rosenberg said Meretz lost voters to the local pluralist parties Hitorerut and Yerushalmim, which is led by a religious woman, Jerusalem city councilwoman Fleur Hassan- Nahoum.

“Putting a religious woman at the top of the list will help attract new sectors, who can come if Meretz will only start reaching out to them,” she said.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu pauses yesterday during a special cabinet meeting marking Jerusalem Day at the capital’s Bible Lands Museum. (Amir Cohen/Reuters

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