Pat Reef, our chair for Israeli Affairs, recently participated in a conference call set up by Rebecca Krevat, NCJW Community Engagement and Communications Associate, at the Washington, D.C., office. About a dozen representatives of NCJW section boards across the country (including California, Long Island, St. Louis, and Louisiana) dialed in Wednesday, December 9, 2015, for a briefing from Shari Eshet, director of the NCJW Israel office.
Here is Pat’s report:
Security issues were the top priority. Certainly, we see the problem every day in the news.
Gender equality is another important issue. Eshet outlined the difficulty in getting a divorce in Israel. The challenge is getting female representation on the Rabbinical Courts which govern family law, most notably divorce.
There has been progress in gender equality. Israel’s government recently acknowledged the importance of the issue by creating a cabinet level position — Minister of Gender Equality. Seven years ago no women served on the nominating committee for Rabbinical Court judges; now four women serve on the nominating committee. Still, the ultra-Orthodox community continues to wield an outsize political influence which seeks to restrict the role of women in Israeli society.
NCJW recommends two resources for those who want to learn more. I have sent away for a book, The War on Women in Israel by Elana Maryles Sztokman. I will read it, report on it, and make it available to anyone who would like to read it.
For a look at how rocket attacks affect Israeli life, the documentary film Rock in the Red Zone, directed by Laura Bialis, focuses on the music scene thriving in the town of Sderot less than a mile from the border with Gaza. I do not know whether it’s out in DVD, but I will look for it. It has been screened at various Jewish film festivals.
NCJW promotes progressive action on women’s rights through the Israel Granting Program. Our section can designate a donation of any size to the Israel Granting Program. If we chose to get involved, gifts of $2,500 and above will be recognized by NCJW in printed donor materials. The Israel Granting Program supports organizations and programs designed to address Israeli women’s rights and well-being in areas like economics, politics, education, domestic violence, and social justice. Some other NCJW sections host a big luncheon every year to support this initiative.
In conclusion, security and gender equality were the two top issues discussed in the conference call from Israel. I look forward to more conference calls. Look to the NCJW website for recordings of conference calls and other current information.