Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has promised to remove the obstacles preventing women from working as supervisors in the state kosher certification system, following a battle waged by the Emunah religious women’s organization.
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In a response to the High Court of Justice, which was hearing a petition from Emunah, the rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Services stated that from now on women will be allowed to take the rabbinate’s professional exam on the laws of kashrut and to receive certification if they pass. The decision was made despite the vehement opposition of several members of the Chief Rabbinate Council, who claimed that women cannot serve as kashrut supervisors.
Until now, the Chief Rabbinate has considered kashrut supervision to be an occupation for men only and has refused to allow women to take the exam. But since there is no halakhic reason (based on Jewish religious law) to ban women from working in the field, they have been recognized as de facto supervisors by the religious councils of a few communities - such as Efrat and Shlomi - based only on a decision by the local rabbi.
The Chief Rabbinate Council decided at a stormy meeting a few days ago to authorize Chief Rabbi David Lau to decide on the issue. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef refrained from stating his position during the discussion, during which his brother Rabbi Avraham Yosef, the rabbi of Holon, led the opponents. The rabbi of Be’er Sheva, Rabbi Yehuda Deri, was also among the opponents. A source in the Chief Rabbinate reported that the change stems from Rabbi Lau’s view that women should not be prevented from working in the field and the rabbinate would not defend a regulation that was customary for decades.
Emunah has been fighting since the middle of 2012 for recognition of women as kashrut supervisors, as well as for a professional course for female kashrut supervisors. After repeated Emunah requests to the rabbinate were ignored, the movement embarked on a legal struggle to force the rabbinate to enable women to take the professional exam.
Emunah chairwoman Liora Minke described the decision as “a breakthrough and a major and significant historic achievement, with broad implications." It will open new channels of employment for many women, to whom this profession was closed throughout the years.
Despite the opposition of some of the members of the Chief Rabbinate Council, Emunah announced the first supervisor certification course for women in Israel. With over 120 hours of study, it will prepare women in the various aspects of kashrut, including koshering meat, insects in food, immersing dishes, terumot and ma’asrot (tithes), “separating challah,” baking and cooking by non-Jews, the laws of meat and milk, and more.