A new directive of the Knesset legal counsel, Attorney Eyal Yinon, states that the tender for the post of Knesset Rabbi – following the retirement of the current Knesset Rabbi Alexander Hochman – will be open to women.
The role of the rabbi of the Knesset is mainly in monitoring the kashrut of the kitchens serving the house, maintenance of the synagogue, and various religious services, from posting mezuzot to selling chametz before Passover.
According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the Knesset published a tender a few months ago to find a replacement for Rabbi Hochman, with the prerequisite of a Yoreh Yoreh certification by the Chief Rabbinate.
The Talmudic ordination Yoreh Yoreh indicates the recipient demonstrated sufficient education and proper judgment to be able to render halakhic judgments on matters of religious law pertaining to daily Jewish life such as kashrut, nidda, and permissible or forbidden activities on Shabbat or holidays.
As could be expected, the requirement for a Yoreh Yoreh ordination enraged Israeli women’s organizations, since it automatically bans women from applying for the position, since women are not permitted to apply for Chief Rabbinate ordinations.
Attorney Riki Shapira Rosenberg, representing the Reform Center for Religious Affairs, approached Knesset Director-General Albert Sacharovitz and the House legal counsel Yinon, claiming that the tender discriminates against women and, in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law.
Following the appeal, Yinon wrote Shapira Rosenberg informing her that the tender for the post of Knesset Rabbi had been withdrawn, and would soon be replaced by a new tender enabling women to apply. The new tender is expected to omit the requirement for a Yoreh Yoreh ordination, and will require instead a bachelor’s degree and a kashrut supervisor’s certificate from the Chief Rabbinate.
“Changing the education requirement in the new tender will enable a broader segment of the public, including women, who are engaged in the field of kashrut supervision and have relevant experience in accordance with the requirements of the tender, to apply for the position,” Yinon wrote.
The Knesset Spokesperson’s office issued a statement saying: “We have been notified that the conditions of the tender were formulated in a manner that does not meet the recent rulings regarding the requirements of such jobs. The threshold prerequisites have been changed accordingly. Our intention is to end the procedure by the end of the summer session.”