South African Jewish Group Sued for Alleged Discrimination Against Women at Holocaust Event

Plaintiffs seek the cancellation of a ban by the Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town on women singing at an annual Holocaust ceremony.

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Haaretz
Holocaust Memorial ceremony Cape Town 2015
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Haaretz

A South African Jewish organization and two private individuals are suing the Jewish Board of Deputies in Cape Town for discrimination over a ban on women singing at an annual Holocaust Memorial ceremony, The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The ban has been in effect in these ceremonies since 2005 purportedly to avoid offending rabbis, who, based on a Talmudic dictum, believe it immodest for women to sing in a mixed audience.

The plaintiffs, who include the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity, and South African Jews Gilad Stern and Sarah Goldstein, want the court to declare the ban unlawful and unconstitutional under South Africa’s Equality Act, says the report.

The case is expected to be heard ahead of this year's memorial which falls on May 5.

“It’s appalling that a Jewish civil organization is adopting a gender policy that is anathema to the modern world we live in. It’s a terrible insult to women,” Stern, an orthodox Jew, told The Guardian.

Stern's affidavit to Cape Town's equality court alleged that "while the ceremony is not a religious ceremony, the JBD has taken the view that if women were allowed to sing, the rabbis might absent themselves entirely from an important event in the Jewish community calendar.”

Rabbi Julia Margolis of Sacred said: “The denial of voice is a most fundamental attack on the very worth and dignity of women in our community.”

The JBD responded in a statement that it would "continue to work towards an inclusive ceremony where all members of the Jewish community can attend without exception."

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