Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and its Ministry of Religious Services buckled to a looming ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice and agreed to allow women to take the rabbinate’s professional exam on the laws of kashrut and to receive certification as mashgiachs (kosher food inspectors/supervisors) if they pass it.
Chief Rabbinate Backs Down, Allows Women To Work As Kosher Supervisors
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and its Ministry of Religious Services buckled to a looming ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice and agreed to allow women to take the rabbinate’s professional exam on the laws of kashrut and to receive certification as mashgiachs (kosher food inspectors/supervisors) if they pass it, Ha’aretz reported.
The High Court was hearing a petition from the Orthodox women’s group Emunah, which had started a class to train women to be mashgiachs with the permission of the Chief Rabbinate only to have the Chief Rabbinate refuse to test Emunah’s students or grant them certification – effectively shutting them out of the job market.
Several members of the Chief Rabbinate’s Council insist that women cannot work as mashgiachs and reportedly vehemently opposed the decision to approve and employ them – despite the fact that the Shulkhan Arukh (Code of Jewish Law) allows women to fill that role. Their opposition is apparently primarily based on modesty concerns.
Several Orthodox and haredi women in the US work as mashgiachs for major kosher supervision organizations and a small number of women do the same in Israel for local Religious Councils where they were appointed by local rabbis.
The Chief Rabbinate’s Council reportedly held a stormy meeting a few days ago and authorized haredi Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau to decide if women will be allowed to work as mashgiachs or not
Haredi Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef effectively recused himself while his brother, Chief Rabbi of Holon Rabbi Avraham Yosef, led the vociferous opposition to women mashgiachs. Avraham Yosef was joined by, among others, the Chief Rabbi of Be’er Sheva, Yehuda Deri.
Emunah spent much of the past two years asking the Chief Rabbinate to explain its behavior. The Chief Rabbinate refused and continued to exclude the women, forcing Emunah to petition the High Court of Justice to get an explanation and resolution. Its chairwoman called the Chief Rabbinate’s sudden decision “a breakthrough and a major and significant historic achievement, with broad implications."
In the wake of the decision, Emunah reportedly announced its women-only 120-hour comprehensive mashgiach certification preparation course is now taking new applicants.