Calderon sticks up for females in politics

Comments come against background of forced withdrawal of haredi woman candidate from Jerusalem’s municipal elections.

ruth calderon 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
ruth calderon 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon expressed support for women seeking to enter politics on Monday while referencing the recent withdrawal from Jerusalem’s municipal elections of a haredi woman who was running on the Bayit Yehudi list.
“It’s becoming clear that even in 2013, not every woman who wants to enter the world of politics and lead social change can actualize her goals,” wrote Calderon on her Facebook page. “In recent weeks, we have unfortunately heard about extremely talented women who were forced to give up on their dreams to enter politics because of threats they received.”
Racheli Ibenboim, a 28-year old haredi woman from Mea She’arim, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem, who serves as director for the Meir Panim charity, was given the third spot on Bayit Yehudi’s electoral list for elections to the municipal council, an eminently obtainable spot.
Having declared her candidacy however, she was subject to numerous threats from elements within the haredi community demanding that she withdraw her name or face serious social consequences.
Writing on her Facebook page just before Rosh Hashana, Ibenboim said that following her announcement it became clear to her that if she were to continue with her election campaign she would be denounced by the community, despite having received permission from “a senior rabbi accepted in the community to which I belong” to go ahead with her candidacy.
“Little politicos enlisted the influential people in order that I would not be left within any choice other than to chose between public service in the Jerusalem Municipality or my belonging to the haredi community,” Ibenboim wrote.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, she said that threats were made that her children would be expelled from the educational institutes they attend, and that she and her family would be expelled from their synagogue and community.
Saying that politics was a means and not and end, Ibenboim said it was not in her interests to “sacrifice everything that I have and everything that I am” by continuing with her campaign.
“My goals are to try and change, at least a little bit, the social climate in the haredi sector. To prove that it is also permitted for a woman, that women also have the ability to make a not inconsiderable contribution to haredi and Israeli society.
That every person has affiliated with any sector the right to free choice and the ability to fulfill themselves,” she wrote. “It seems I was too optimistic to quickly.”
In a later post, Ibenboim condemned in even stronger terms the community insiders who had forced her to withdraw her candidacy.
She said that “politicos” within the community “who are not qualified to express a Torah ruling, who were not appointed to decide on the direction of the public, and for whom it is impossible to know (but maybe to guess) the considerations that motivate them,” had been able to force her to withdraw despite the backing she received from a prominent and respected rabbi, who she nevertheless declined to name.
Maimonides, the 12th-century rabbi and codifier of Jewish law, wrote that it is forbidden to appoint women to rule or to any public leadership roles. This is a position to which the haredi world, as well as more hard-line elements in the national-religious movement, seemingly adhere to, although it was not widely adopted by later authorities, including the Shulhan Aruch, a universally accepted codification of Jewish law written in the 16th century.
Calderon in her comments wrote that she would be active in promoting the participation of women in public life.
“The world of politics and the the public forum need those women who dream and arouse inspiration. I will continue to fight so that women will have an active and central role in Israeli society without any cause for fear whatsoever.”