The Emunah women's organization, together with graduates of its kashrut supervision course for women,
petitioned the High Court of Justice this week, demanding that it order the Chief Rabbinate to recognize the certification of 16 women as kashrut supervisors and allow them to engage in a field dominated by men.
According to the women, there is no halachic reason preventing them from doing so, and in some communities women already work as kashrut supervisors after receiving the consent of local rabbis.
Emunah and Avivit Ravia, a resident of the ultra-Orthodox city of Beitar Illit who completed the course, are asking the court for an urgent discussion of the matter, arguing that the current situation preventing the women from working in their profession is causing them damage.
They are also requesting the court to order the Chief Rabbinate to explain its policy on the matter.
The petition, filed by Attorney Ilan Bombach, says the women have appealed to the Ministry of Religious Services and Chief Rabbinate repeatedly over the past year, asking that the kashrut supervision course they took with Emunah be recognized. But despite a discussion at the Chief Rabbinate Council and a committee appointed to look into the issue, a decision has yet to be made.
According to the petitioners, the course was built in accordance with the curriculum recognized by the Chief Rabbinate and includes all issues related to the field of kashrut. In addition, they say, there are no criteria for recognizing such institutes, and in any case there is no reason to disqualify Emunah.
In general, Attorney Bombach says, "there is no religious or halachic command stating that a kashrut supervisor should necessarily be a man… As opposed, for example, to the role of a city rabbi or chief rabbi, who are required – according to religious/halachic laws – to be men."
Moreover, according to the petitioners, there is nothing more natural than integrating women into the field, as they are proficient, experienced and skilled in these issues more than others, spend many hours of the day in the kitchen, separate meat from milk, sort rice and hummus, salt meat and roast liver.
"Checking vegetables for bugs, observing milk and meat laws – are any of these beyond a woman's grasp?" Attorney Bombach asks. "After all, among the religious public there is a clear and dominant inclination for the woman to be in the kitchen, and therefore she is aware of the religious laws as much as men are. In all houses of the observant public, the woman is in charge of kashrut issues in her home kitchen."
He further adds that petitioner Avivit Ravia believes that "women can actually – pleasantly, fluently and politely – make the kashrut issue accessible to the wide public, and serve as worthy ambassadors in the right place – even on the backdrop of the prevailing trend in the food business today, to do without a kashrut certificate."
Attorney Bombach rejects the claim that employing a woman as a supervisor could lead to "modesty problems" in the kitchen, as most kitchen workers are women.
One of the barriers these women face is a Chief Rabbinate procedure stating that any person interested in taking a test on "Rabbinate issues" must provide a certificate showing that he has studied in a yeshiva or a kollel (religious studies institute for married men) for at least four years after the age of 18."
The petitioners argue that this clause "completely blocks women from serving as kashrut supervisors, as women are not allowed to study in a yeshiva or a kollel… This stance perpetuates serious damage to the legal right of freedom of occupation."