Religious services Min. Proposes a new body to carry out halacha exams for women

The Ministry of Religious Services has proposed to establish an organizational framework within the ministry to screen and qualify women for knowledge of Jewish law, Halacha.

The proposal would circumvent the Chief Rabbinate’s refusal to allow women to take their examinations and would allow women to obtain the same benefits that men enjoy from such qualifications when applying for jobs and for their salary level.

Organizations advocating for women’s halachic qualifications say, however, that the ministry’s proposals will take too long to implement and have suggested a faster alternative instead.

Last year, three advocacy organizations filed a petition in the High Court of Justice against the Chief Rabbinate for refusing to allow women to take the Chief Rabbinate’s exams to receive grades demonstrating the attainment of halachic knowledge.

Men who take these exams can use these qualifications not only to apply for positions within the rabbinate, but also to fulfill the conditions for state jobs in government agencies, municipal authorities and other statutory bodies, and also receive salary benefits for these ratings.

Since women cannot sit for these exams, advocacy organizations argued that they were unfairly discriminated against when applying for jobs and with regard to the level of their salaries.

Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana attends a plenary session in the Knesset Assembly Hall, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, on July 26, 2021. (Credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90)

In its latest submission to the High Court, the Ministry of Religious Services said it intends to establish “an alternative and independent examination framework” that the ministry will operate and provide halachic scores for men and women taking their exams.

The ministry said the content of the examinations and the recognition by state bodies of the scores would be the same as for the Chief Rabbinate’s scores.

The ministry said it has designated state budget funds for this process that will be used to appoint an official in the ministry to develop the new examination system, while a steering committee will be appointed to advance these plans.

The director of Itim’s religious services advocacy and advisory group, Rabbi Seth Farber, welcomed the state’s response to acknowledge the need for women to take those tests, but said the process would take too long and a new government could be in office that would frustrate the establishment. of a new examination system before it can take off.

Farber also noted that since the exams and grades would be different from those of the Chief Rabbinate, their validity for obtaining employment and higher wages would be questioned.

He noted that the Chief Rabbinate currently outsources his examination process to an external and independent organization and therefore said that the best solution would simply be for the ministry to have this organization organize examinations for women, even if it was under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. .

In this way, the exams and grades for women would be the same as for men, so their validity could not be questioned, and the process could also be launched in a matter of months.

“Itim sees the state’s response as a positive step in recognizing the achievements of women in Torah study, but the proposal will take too long to implement and does not take into account women who have already been waiting years to take tests as the case progressed. the courts, ”Farber said.

Furthermore, the proposal suggests a ‘separate but equal’ strategy, which will ultimately promote inequality.

“The ministry should immediately begin administering the exact same test for men and women. This will guarantee the position of those who pass the tests and allow full fairness as required by law, without having to pressure the rabbinate to do something that they feel uncomfortable with. “

A Superior Court hearing on the petition has been scheduled before the end of November.

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