Israel's AG Says Women Can Apply to Be Head of Rabbinical Courts

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has rejected the possibility of a woman being director general of the rabbinical courts, a position that he said Jewish law permits only men to hold.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
Emil Salman

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has overruled the position of Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi in order to allow women to apply for the position of director general of the country’s rabbinical courts.

Weinstein was ruling on a petition by Mavoi Satum and WIZO-Na’amat demanding that women be given a “substantial opportunity” to contend for the post.

The rabbinical courts have been without a director general since 2010, when Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan stepped down after 21 years. The courts’ legal adviser Shimon Yaakobi is acting director general.

The main obstacle preventing women from vying for the position was the prerequisite that any contender also be a rabbinical court judge, a position that is barred to women.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has rejected the possibility of a woman being director general of the rabbinical courts, a position that he said Jewish law permits only men to hold.

The argument was rejected by Weinstein in his response to the petition by the women’s advocacy organizations. He said the post is administrative and not religious in nature.

Weinstein has ordered the Chief Rabbinate to allow women to take the examination.

In his response, the attorney general wrote that in light of the fact that half of the individuals who appear before the country’s religious courts are female, it was the state’s position that allowing their participation “in the admiration of the rabbinical courts” was important vis-a-vis “the principle of equality and representation.”

The decision was praised by the groups’ lawyer, who called it an important achievement “that could pave the way for additional women to try to contended for senior position within the religious administration.”