Thursday, February 22, 2018

First the Good News

Israeli Justice Minster, Ayelet Shaked (Arutz Sheva)
I am happy to report that Israeli Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked and her 9 member committee has just appointed Chavi Toker to head the Jerusalem Magistrate Court. Mrs. Toker is the first ever female Charedi judge in Israel.

Her Charedi credentials are impeccable. She attended Beis Yaakov in Bnei Brak, the center of the Charedi world in Israel. Her father was considered to be the right hand man of Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach, ZTL - a man many in the Charedi world considered to be the Gadol HaDor. She is married to the son of the late dean of the Chevron – a world famous first class Charedi Yeshiva. (Which also happens to be my grandson’s Yeshiva.) 

What makes this story even more amazing is that her oldest son is now in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He enlisted in the Givati Brigade's Charedi Tomer Company. According to Wikipedia, the Givati Brigade is an infantry unit serving as the IDF’s amphibious force.

Considering her very Charedi upbringing and environment it is amazing that this woman will now be a sitting Justice in Israel heading its magistrate court. So much for stereotypes.

Mrs. Toker did not just wake up one day and - with no secular studies background - decide to attend Hebrew University Law School . That assumption would probably be incorrect, despite the fact that there is no such thing as a secular studies program in the Israeli Charedi Yeshiva system. How is it possible that Mrs. Toker had such an education? The answer is quite simple. That’s because she probably did have one.

True, there are no secular studies programs in Israeli Charedi elementary schools and  high schools. But that is only true for half of the Charedi population. The male half. Most girls schools do have a secular studies program. Some better than others. But virtually all of them do. They all offer at least a basic secular studies program. Enough of which will give their students the study skills to enable university attendance. 

While there are an increasing number of Charedi men that attend universities, it is not because they learned those skills in their schools. It is because they are smart enough to catch up on their own and/or have attended special programs and classes designed for them to catch up.

Those who might say that a secular studies have no value towards a successful career and better income - might want to rethink that in light of what Mrs. Toker has accomplished and the increase in male Charedi university attendance.

As happy as I am to see a Charedi woman rise to such heights, I am not all that surprised by it. Nor am I surprised that her community didn’t object to it. (At least I haven’t heard about it if they did.)

That’s because it has become the norm in Charedi Israel for women to have broad based educations. However, the norm for men is that their education is limited to Limudei Kodesh. (Primarily the study of Talmud, its commentaries, and Halacha.) Their Yeshivos cater to this ideal to the extent that there not be any distraction from that study. Including the ‘distraction’ of a secular education.

Women, on the other hand are encouraged to get a broad based education. Their schools are facilitated along those lines. That’s because they end up becoming the primary bread winners for their families – all while retaining their roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker. The men are too busy studying Torah to support their families. Their Kollel stipends are hardly enough to do that.

A woman becoming a judge might very likely be seen by the Charedi world as a great career move. One that includes the all important increase in salary so that a husband can continue to learn in a Kollel full time. 

This is how Charedi world in Israel is now structured.  A structure that is enhanced as a result of feminist pursuit of egalitarianism in the workplace. Something the Charedi world should be thankful for and express gratitude to.  An unlikely an event as will ever occur!

Although some might see this as some sort of feminist victory, I see it as turning tradition on its head. It is still the paradigm and that’s the bad news.

I am – and have always been - a feminist in the sense of treating men and women with equal dignity. Dignity that all human beings should get having been created in the image of God. I have also been a feminist in the sense of equal pay for equal work. 

But I have never been a fan of overturning Judaism’s traditional roles for men and women. And yet that is exactly what the Charedi world has done. Especially in Israel. Making it worse is the fact that women have not given up their traditional roles. There was no exchange. As noted, women are still wives, mothers, and homemakers. They have just taken on the additional roles of men as breadwinners!

So even though this news about a Charedi woman in Israel is good, they are not living a Utopian life.The Charedi world has evolved into one that has increased the burden on its women. 

I’m not saying that Charedi women are unhappy with their lot. I have no clue how they feel about this in their heart of hearts. Although I am led to believe that they have taken on these additional responsibilities with great spiritual joy - doing their part in devotion to God. But that does not lessen their additional burden

Meanwhile for those men that do feel a sense of responsibility to support their families - they have a harder time accomplishing that than women. Because the education needed for them to do that is sorely lacking. It would be nice if that would change.