haredi man walking 88.
(photo credit: )
Only 22 women currently serve as members of local religious councils out of the
approximately 450 people on 133 councils nationwide, a new report compiled ahead
of International Women’s Day reveals.
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The NGO Hiddush: For Religious
Freedom and Equality will be presenting members of the government and the
Knesset with the data indicating that – despite a High Court of Justice ruling
in the case of Leah Shakdiel from 23 years ago that women cannot be prevented
from serving on religious councils – only one out of every twenty members is a
woman. In addition, no council is headed by women.
regulations, 45 percent of the religious council’s members are appointed by the
local authority, another 45% by the religious services minister, and 10% by the
One of the 22 to serve as a council member is Elisheva
Stollman from Efrat, who stressed that “we do not get involved in any halachic
issue; our role is purely administrative,” and pertains to such religious
services as “kashrut supervision, burial services, ritual baths (mikvaot), and
Stollman, who teaches political science at the Bar Ilan
University, has been part of the five-member religious council since 2007, with
a one-year hiatus for a post-doctorate in the United States. Unlike the heads of
the religious councils, members do not get paid for their work, but she agreed
to undertake the task “since as part of my community, I have a responsibility
toward it. This is my service to the public.”
She also insisted on being
in charge of the locale’s ritual baths, a service used almost solely by
While it can be at times challenging filling such a function in a
relatively small community of people active religiously, Stollman noted on
Sunday the great meaning to a woman’s presence on a religious council, which the
other members are not indifferent to.
“Efrat’s religious council is very
supportive; they understand the importance of a woman being part, someone who,
for example, has a perspective of using the mikvaot, which the men do not have,
and can represent the general needs of women,” Stollman said. Efrat is also the
only locale to employ a woman kashrut supervisor.
Rabbi Uri Regev, the
head of Hiddush, said of the findings that “the best way to put an end to
exclusion of women from religious councils would be to immediately close them
and transfer the services to the local authorities.”
Minister Ya’acov Margi, however, told The Jerusalem Post that the fact that
there are 22 women serving on councils is “a huge accomplishment.”
appointed more women to councils than any of my predecessors,” he said. “This is
part of a move to fix the injustice of councils without women.”
political parties composing the local councils are the bodies that elect the
religious council members, and do not always seek to appoint a woman, Margi
ordered that the minister’s representatives should include a woman. In the 50-60
functioning councils that received new members during his term, Margi said,
seven or eight women were appointed at his request.