Religious reform lies in Bayit Yehudi's hands

Legislation on rabbinic courts expected to pass ministerial c'tee, while changes to chief rabbi selection process put on hold.

Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau_370 (photo credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Lau_370
(photo credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters)
The fate of two bills that could transform religious services lays in the hands of Bayit Yehudi ministers, who have the ability to veto any legislation related to religion.
Bayit Yehudi is fighting to postpone a Ministerial Committee on Legislation vote on the bills to change how the chief rabbis are elected from Sunday to an unknown date. The party had yet to decide whether it would exercise its veto power or not as of Saturday night.
The faction has yet to choose which candidates it will back for chief rabbi. As such, the party’s ministers could not decide in a Thursday night meeting whether or not the bills, which would add women to the selection committee and require candidates to be qualified as municipal rabbis or rabbinical judges, among other changes, would help or hinder its eventual candidate.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni insisted on Saturday night that the two bills proposed by MKs Elazar Stern (Hatnua) and Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) be brought to a vote. A final decision must be made by Sunday morning.
The ministerial committee is expected to authorize on Sunday a different religious reform bill proposed by Lavie and MK Shuli Muallem (Bayit Yehudi) to reserve spots for women on the committee that appoints religious judges.
“Religious courts are responsible for women’s status as Jews in the State of Israel,” the bill explains.
“In the current rabbinical courts, according to Jewish law, there are only male dayanim [judges]. The courts deal with women’s issues and men and women appear before the court.”
The legislation would have half of the representatives of the cabinet, Knesset and the Bar Association be female, and a female rabbinical pleader be the 11th member of the committee.
“We all protest when we see examples of women being excluded from public spaces, but avert our eyes when it happens in the most obvious way, in a place with great influence,” Lavie said.
“The panel to appoint dayanim directly affects women, and the fact that it does not include even one woman proves we must pass a law to make sure women are fairly represented,” she added.
Muallem pointed out that half of the people appearing before rabbinical courts are women, adding that the legislation would strengthen Israeli society’s connection to Judaism while acting within halachic frameworks.