Women underrepresented in workforce of state’s religious agencies

However, women are grossly underrepresented in senior positions in those agencies.

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September 12, 2019 20:12
2 minute read.
Women underrepresented in workforce of state’s religious agencies

A Tunisian Muslim woman buys food from a Jewish restaurant in DjerbaCyrine Ben Said (left) and Amnia Ben Khalif, Muslim Tunisians, light candles during a religious ceremony at El Ghriba, the second oldest Jewish synagogue in Africa. (photo credit: AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS)

Women are significantly underrepresented in the workforce of Israel’s various religious authorities, including the Religious Services Ministry, the Rabbinical Courts Administration and the Chief Rabbinate, a government report has shown.

According to the report written by the Knesset Research Department obtained by the ITIM religious services organization, women comprise 39% of the three major government bodies dealing with Jewish religious services, despite making up nearly two-thirds of all government employees.

The Rabbinical Courts Administration employs the least number of women out of all three agencies, with women making up just 25% of its workforce.

A respectable 48% of the Religious Services Ministry’s workforce are women, and women make up 44% of the employees in the Chief Rabbinate. However, women are grossly underrepresented in senior positions in those agencies.

According to the report, 43% of senior staff roles in all governmental agencies are filled by women – such as ministry director-general, department head, and similar roles – compared with just 17% in the government departments for religious services.

In the Chief Rabbinate, no women are employed in senior positions, while 17% of senior positions in the Religious Services Ministry are held by women, and 33% of such positions in the Rabbinical Courts Administration.

The Law for Equal Rights for Women – Fair Representation stipulates that women should be fairly represented at all levels in government agencies and public bodies.

In 2018, the Rabbinical Courts Administration agreed to the appointment of two legal advisers for the rabbinical courts network due to a legal action filed in the Jerusalem Labor Court by the ITIM Advocacy Center and the Rackman Center for Advancing the Status of Women. In addition, a woman also heads one of the Rabbinical Courts Administration’s departments.

“Israel’s religious establishment is rife with gender inequalities that ITIM has been working to rectify for more than a decade,” said ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber. “Especially during election season, it is critical that the government commit to putting an end to gender discrimination institutionalized by its own agencies.”

The Chief Rabbinate challenges the statistics, noting that the head of its human resources department is a woman.

A spokesman for the Rabbinical Court Administration said in response that there were “many women in senior positions” in its ranks, including its deputy director, a department head, and the two legal advisers.

A spokesman for the Religious Services Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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