Women now eligible for position of Knesset rabbi
Knesset publishes tender for rabbi position, adding rabbinical certification requirement; women's organizations object, appeal to amend tender's terms; Knesset acquiesces, publishes new tender requiring only kashrut supervisor's certificate, which is attainable by women; 'This is a breakthrough harkening additional rabbinical positions becoming available to women,' says Reform Movement lawyer.
The Knesset first published the tender for Rabbi Hochman's replacement several months ago. The position of Knesset rabbi mostly entails handling the kosher supervision of parliament's various kitchens, oversight over its synagogues and assorted religious services, installation and maintenance of mezuzot for its hundreds of chambers, sale of leavened food (chametz) before Passover and other duties.
One of the original tender's prerequisites, however, said applicants had to present a rabbinical certificate from the Chief Rabbinate. This excluded women from being able to meet the tender's terms, as the Chief Rabbinate bars them from its certification exams.
The requirement raised the ire of several women's groups, which were quick to publically oppose it. One of these organizations—the Israel Religious Action Center—even made an official overture to Knesset Director-General Albert Sacharovich and Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon, claiming the tender was discriminatory towards women and was drafted in contravention of the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law.
The Knesset received the appeal and accepted that the tender was discriminatory, and thus Yinon wrote back to attorney Riki Shapira Rosenberg, who contacted him on behalf of the Reform Movement, and told her that the first tender was withdrawn and a new one will be published soon, allowing women to run as well.
Instead of the requirement of a rabbinical certificate, Yinon wrote the group's attorney, a bachelor's degree from an academic institute along with a kashrut supervisor certificate from the Chief Rabbinate will suffice.
The tender's amended terms mean that for the very first time, women will be able to submit their candidacy for the role of Knesset rabbi, as over the past few years hundreds of women have obtained kashrut supervision certificates.
"Changing the education requirement in the new tender will allow a broader group of people, including women, with experience in kashrut supervision and the requisite experience delineated in the tender to apply," the Knesset's legal adviser wrote.
The parliament's spokesmanship office added, "It was brought to our attention that in the tender for head of kashrut and halachic matters, the tender's preconditions were worded in such a way that is not congruent with the most recent rulings regarding requirements for positions of this kind."
"Prerequisites have been amended accordingly, with the intention being to staff the position by the end of the summer session," the spokesmanship's response concluded.
Attorney Shapira of the Israel Religious Action Center was content with the response, saying, "This is a breakthrough harkening additional rabbinical and halachic positions becoming available to women."