Bank Poalei Agudat Israel, which caters primarily to the haredi community, has prohibited women from attending a business conference it is sponsoring Tuesday in Ramat Gan that will deal with a wide range of economic issues including employment, construction, investments and haredi institutions.
An invitation that was sent to the bank's customers states that attendance at the economic conference will be permitted to men only, due to customer demand.
Several women from the haredi sector have expressed anger over the decision, according to Army Radio which first broke the story, saying that it constitutes gender discrimination and perpetuates the inferior status of women in haredi society.
The bank, a subsidiary of First International Bank of Israel, said in response that "the separation of men and women is not our invention, and characterizes nearly all spheres of life in the haredi sector."
Batsheva Lepkivker, of Afikim PR, a haredi firm that represents the bank, said that this event, which will be attended by Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai among others, is for men only in accordance with the demands of the haredi community.
"We have other conferences for women devoted to health or other subjects," said Lepkivker.
A veteran haredi PR man said in response that in the haredi community men and women attend events together, such as weddings, all the time.
"All you have to do is separate men and women," said the source.
A men-only conference "is something totally new in the business world," he said, adding, "I would recommend that if they are dealing with a traditional clientele they should be less innovative in their approach."