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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

March 9, 2017
11 Adar, 5777

Dear Friends,

In the last newsletter, we turned your attention to the threat emanating from the unholy alliance of fundamentalist religious politicians and secular politicians who join forces in an attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court because they view it as a threat to attaining their respective goals, whether in the area of religious coercion or in the area of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. One of the common rhetorical assaults is that it's Israel's government, which genuinely represents the people's will, whereas the Court is unelected and speaks for a non-representative clique.

One does need much imagination to understand the extent of the threat to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, witnessing the current assault. With this in mind, we decided to test the politicians' claim. As you can see on the right, we launched a special survey in recognition of International Agunah Day and International Women's Day, and one of the questions posed was intended to gauge the public's trust in the 4 relevant public institutions: The Supreme Court, The Government, The Knesset, The Rabbinate.

Unsurprisingly (for our readers), the truth is exactly the opposite of what these politicians claim. The public holds the Supreme Court as a far more trustworthy entity than the Government, Knesset, and the Rabbinate combined. As opposed to 59% that responded that the Supreme Court is the institution they most trust, only 13% hold the same for the Government, 12% - the Knesset, and 16% - the Rabbinate.

So next time you read about Israeli politicians and ultra-Orthodox leaders ranting and raving against the Supreme Court, you will know that what is called for is not a grain of salt, but rather a truck load of salt. In response to the cynicism of Israel's political leaders who sell out religious freedom & equality in the name of "the greater good," pretending to be the authentic representatives of the Israeli public's will - please recognize the need to speak up and render much greater support to advocacy organizations such as Hiddush in fighting for the Israel of our shared values, and for a truly pluralistic society!

All the very best,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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90% dissatisfied with Israeli rabbinical
courts' dealings with Agunot

click for full size

90% of the adult Jewish public is dissatisfied with the Israeli Rabbinical Courts' way of dealing with Agunot and women whose husbands refuse to grant them divorces.

87% believe that the rabbinical courts should force husbands to grant their wives divorces in cases of domestic violence.

Measuring which institutions the public trusts most, 59% of respondents trust the Supreme Court, but only 16% most trust the Rabbinate, 13% - the Knesset and 12% - the Government!

International Agunah Day is marked annually on the Jewish Fast of Esther. Stories of women who are not ‘released’ from their Jewish marriages by recalcitrant husbands appear in the media frequently, but the battle to gain women freedom from unwanted marriages is far from being resolved. Like all social ailments, it affects the society as a whole, not only those who suffer from it directly. In Israel it occupies a major place in the overall battle over the unholy alliance of religion and state.

In Israel, due to the monopolistic authority granted to the Chief Rabbinate over the personal status of all Jews, the State’s official fundamentalist, extreme Orthodox Rabbinic Courts are directly responsible for perpetuating the plights of thousands Agunot, rather than finding solutions to their suffering. The State Rabbinical Courts are ever striving to expand their reach also into the lives of non-Israeli Jews who visit Israel.

90% of Jewish Israelis, including most of the Zionist Orthodox community, want to change the reality that thousands of women cannot escape their marriages because their husbands refuse to divorce them or make unjust financial demands of them as a condition to their ‘releases’ from their religious Jewish marriages. This overwhelming majority believes the rabbinical courts should force the husbands to grant them divorces.


80% of Israel's religious councils
have only one woman

Only 70 women currently serve nationwide (on 58 of Israel's religious councils). They represent 17% of the total 407 religious council members throughout Israel.

These findings of Hiddush's research, which was conducted in honor of Women's Day, were very troubling. Hiddush has actively monitored and pursued this matter since publishing its 2011 Report on Women on Religious Councils.

In response to Hiddush's demands, Israel's Attorney General required the Ministry of Religious Services to appoint women to at least 30% of the positions on Israel's religious councils and to appoint them to senior roles. Hiddush's most recent research, as of February 27, 2017, shows that only 20 councils adhere to the Attorney General's requirements. Nationwide, as reported above, women constitute only 17% of religious council members, and only 4 women nationwide serve in senior positions. Gender equality is a glaring area in which the official religious establishment blatantly refuses to accept Israel's core values as a Jewish and democratic state. Hiddush and partnering organizations will soon challenge this ongoing discriminatory policy before the Supreme Court!

Throughout Israel there are 132 municipal religious councils which oversee and fund the rendering of religious services to the Jewish population in their respective communities. They are meant to be democratically elected. However, since the law governing the creation of these councils was designed to primarily cater to political interests, it requires “advice and consent” by the local municipal council, the local chief rabbi(s) and the Minister of Religious Services. This is a sure prescription for trouble and deadlocks, and it’s no wonder that 74 of the 132 councils (that's 56%!) remain un-elected.


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