In First, Women to Be Allowed to Apply to for Key Jewish Religious Post in Knesset

Women should be allowed to apply to oversee kashrut at the Knesset and role should not be restricted to rabbis, legal adviser rules

Knesset cafeteria
Michal Fattal

Women should be entitled to apply for the position of kashrut supervisor of the Knesset’s cafeterias, the legal counsel to parliament has ruled. As a result of the ruling, the Knesset will have to reopen the application process for the job, because the original terms included qualifications that excluded women.

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The primary job of the kashrut chief of the Knesset, which does not have a staff rabbi, is to ensure that the cafeterias in the building maintain Jewish religious dietary standards. The opinion of legal counsel Eyal Yinon was sought after the Israel Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism complained that the original qualifications shut out women by requiring, for example, that candidates be rabbis with ordination recognized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Because the rabbinate is Orthodox, all such rabbis would be men. Under the new terms, the position will be open to men and women with a higher education who are also certified by the chief rabbinate as kashrut supervisors.

In addition to kashrut supervision, the job also involves burning chametz — leavened food — before Passover, and addressing the needs of kashrut-observant Knesset delegations abroad. The job description also includes providing direction to the Knesset gabbay — the assistant at the parliament’s synagogue — as well as inspecting the Knesset’s prayer books, tefillin (prayer phylacteries) and mezuzas. The kashrut supervisor is also responsible for answering questions about halakha, Jewish religious law, if they arise.