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Haredi men gather in Jerusalem for the funeral of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach .(Photo by: EHUD AMITON/TPS)
Court rules UTJ must let women run for office
By GIL HOFFMAN
07/31/2018
"This is an important step on the historic path on the way to integrating women in politics and preventing all parties from submitting lists that do not include women."
The High Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that Agudat Yisrael, one of the Ashkenazi Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties that make up United Torah Judaism, must let women run for Knesset and for city councils.

In a ruling of five judges, the court ruled that Agudat Yisrael must remove a clause in its party charter preventing women from being members of the party. The judges told the party’s representatives to go back to its Council of Torah Sages and change the rule by September 2, three weeks ahead of the deadline for mayoral and city council candidates to announce their candidacy in the October 30 municipal races.

“This is an important step on the historic path on the way to integrating women in politics and preventing all parties from submitting lists that do not include women,” said Michal Chernovitski, an activist for Haredi women who heads an organization called Ir Ve’em (A City and A Mother, referencing Samuel II 20:19).

A representative of the state told the court that the party’s rules were discriminatory but nevertheless advised the court to follow a legal opinion of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and refrain from getting involved in UTJ’s internal decision.

Agudat Yisrael’s lawyers said preventing women from running was not a matter of Jewish law but of Haredi culture and values, and showing respect for women.

Meanwhile, in a blow to the prospective candidacy of Agudat Yisrael’s Yossi Daitch for mayor of Jerusalem, city councilman Yitzhak Pindrus of Degel Hatorah, the other party that makes up United Torah Judaism, said it was unlikely that Degel would endorse Daitch.

“We cannot back a candidate who has no chance of winning,” Pindrus told the Haredi weekly Shaharit. “It is hard for me to believe that there is a Haredi candidate who can win.”

Pindrus also threatened to split UTJ in Jerusalem if Degel was not given equal representation to Agudat Yisrael on the combined list.
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