3/20/2007

“A Black Day for Women”?

For the first time in three years, Israel appointed new dayanim to its rabbinical court system. 15 were appointed, of whom 12 are charedi. The Religious-Zionist world is shraying chai ve-kayam, and women’s organizations like Kolech, ICAR, Mavui Satum, Emunah, and Na’ama”t are calling it a “black day for women” because of what this will mean for agunot.

The Israeli Reform movement called the appointments a “slap in the face” to Religious-Zionists, but this is what they can expect from now on, and this is what they get for supporting an Orthodox religious monopoly for all those years. Too true.

Tzohar weighed in as well, all over the place, making the basic claim that nobody but them really knows how to deal with the man on the street. I’d argue with them on two counts (other people do, too; they don’t always), but that’s for another time.

Justice Minister Daniel Freidmann said that the R-Z are full of baloney, because when they actually had a say in rabbinical court appointments, they didn’t do squat for agunot. Good point. It is hard for any court to force a guy to give a get.

Ha’aretz laments that only one of the judges has a background in law. No kidding. Perhaps they should expand their understanding of law to include Choshen Mishpat.

I saw the list of names. I actually recognize three as ramim at KBY: R’ Yishai Buchris, R’ Tzion Luz, and R’ Zvi Birnbaum. Are all three Religious-Zionist appointees KBY ramim? Or are not all of the charedi appointees actually charedi? Remember, Chief Rabbi Metzger, a KBY guy, was the charedi candidate.

What is really upsetting people is not the agunah issue (because nobody is attacking the reconrds of any of these dayanim on the issue, with the exception of one dayan who once performed a wedding after a heter me’ah rabbanim) or the fact that the courts are being haredized (which they are). It’s politics. The decisions were made before the meeting began, and NRP was left out of the loop. So now they cry about how they were left out in the cold while the charedi parties increase their hegemony over the religious establishment. Chaimi Navon put it well – NRP wasn’t bothered by this as long as it was on the inside.

I also think that the automatic reaction that charedi dayanim are a disaster for women is downright prejudiced. Not every charedi is a misogynist. True, there are dayanim who are performing a form of ‘afkinhu rabbanan le-gittin minei’ by retroactively disqualifying divorce documents. And it may well be that this new crop is a disaster as well. On the other hand, we should probably wait and see before passing judgment.

At the end of the day, though, the whole thing stinks because everybody is related to everybody else. There is high demand and short supply for these appointments, so protexia is the name of the game. It’s not just about being qualified anymore. So maybe these guys are good, maybe not. It definitely wasn’t a factor in their appointments, though. And that, more than anything else, is what alienates the people from the dayanim (well, that and the fact that religious law is enforced by the state in matters of personal status, like marriage, divorce, and conversion).

It’s silly to protest political appointments. Politics is politics. Either deal with it, or start agitating for major reforms like civil marriages (like Chana Kehat of Kolech recently did - link). If the system stinks, then get rid of it (or ignore it) but don’t complain that you didn’t get a large enough piece of the pie.

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