JERUSALEM (JTA) — A woman was appointed to serve as a judicial assistant in an Israeli rabbinic court — one of the most senior positions in the Orthodox-run court system.
The appointment of Shira Ben-Eli was announced on Sunday by the rabbinical courts administration and the Civil Service Commission to the Jerusalem District Labor Court.
The position involves close contact with the court’s decision-making processes, Haaretz reported.
The appointment comes nearly two years after a lawsuit was filed by ITIM, an organization that seeks to help Israelis navigate the country’s religious bureaucracy, and the Rackman Center at Bar Ilan University, calling for equality in Israel’s rabbinical courts, particularly for non-rabbinic positions.
The lawsuit included a restraining order against the Civil Service Commission and the rabbinical courts administration from hiring judicial assistants as long as they prevented women from obtaining the positions. The requirement that a judicial assistant have rabbinic ordination or qualification as a dayan, a rabbinic judge, was ultimately lifted.
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The Civil Service Commission and the rabbinical courts administration said in an announcement: “The respondents are pleased to inform the court that the committee that examined candidates for two positions of judicial assistant in the rabbinic court chose a female candidate for one of the posts. No candidate, male or female, was chosen for the second position as of yet because no applicant was found with suitable knowledge and experience.”
“This is a great day for women Jewish legal scholars who now have doors opened to them that were unimaginable even five years ago,” Rabbi Seth Farber, ITIM director, said in a statement to JTA. “It is also a great day for Israel which has demonstrated that extremism can be countered by the forces of democracy and equality.”
Karen Horowitz, legal advisor to the Rackman Center said “this is an important step, but certainly not the last one, in the advancement of women.”