Government blasted for sacrificing plight of agunot for political survival.
By ETGAR LEFKOVITS
A government committee appointed 15 new rabbinical judges (dayanim) on Monday, including 12 haredim, sparking protests by modern Orthodox rabbis and women's advocacy groups, who said the government and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann are sacrificing the interests of thousands of agunot - women who have been refused a Jewish divorce - for political reasons.
The 10-member committee, which has six haredi members and falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, refused any compromise that would have appointed more non-haredi judges, prompting a modern Orthodox member of the committee, MK Nissan Slomiansky (NU-NRP) and two members of the Israel Bar Association to storm out of the meeting.
Black hats in the front of the bus (op-ed)
Slomiansky blamed Friedmann for cooperating with the haredi representatives since he could have suspended the panel's meeting until an accord was worked out between the sides.
"The government sacrificed all the women who have been refused a Jewish divorce on the altar of their political survival," said NRP Chairman Zvulun Orlev.
Women's rights and modern Orthodox groups said the government's cooperation with the committee was a severe blow to efforts to reduce haredi domination of the rabbinical courts.
"Thousands of women are liable to remain hostages to their husbands in light of the selection of candidates who are not worthy of office," said Robyn Shames, executive director of the International Coalition for Aguna Rights.
"Daniel Friedmann betrayed the non-haredi public by allowing the haredim to rule the rabbinical courts and as such to rule over every couple that wants to divorce in Israel," the Dead End organization, which is active on behalf of agunot, said in a statement.
The group said the fact that only three modern-Orthodox rabbis were appointed was a "a mockery to the poor."
"The decision to appoint the haredi judges represents a lethal blow to Zionism, the status of women, and the secular public," the Tzohar organization of Orthodox Zionist rabbis said in a statement.
Shas chairman Eli Yishai said the National Religious Party lost out on an additional dayan from the modern Orthodox camp by walking out of the meeting, and by passing up an offer to appoint 16 new judges instead of 15.
Friedmann called the group of new judges "varied" and said it "maintains balance and offers a variety of views on Jewish law," according to a statement from the Justice Ministry.
A higher proportion of the new judges served in the IDF - 40 percent - than among the incumbent rabbinical court judges, according to the ministry's statement.
The rabbinical courts are dominated by haredim.
Rabbinical judges were selected on Monday for the first time in four years as justice ministers have refrained from convening the committee in an attempt to avoid the intense power-struggles between Shas, United Torah Judaism and the National Religious Party.
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