Israel has already had a woman prime minister and the IDF already has women combat pilots. Even so, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to achieve full equality for Israeli women. As elsewhere in the West, the obstacles are institutional, social and cultural. But along with all of these, in Israel the religious aspect also plays a role. What is the relationship between Judaism and the status of women? Are the Jewish religion and Jewish tradition on the side of those struggling for women’s equality, or vice versa?
Professor Menahem Ben Sasson is the President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the past, Ben Sasson served as the Director of the Ben-Zvi Institute and as Rector of the University as well as Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. A former Member of Knesset for the Kadima Party, he served as Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Wiretapping, and Chairman of the Lobby for Higher Education. Ben Sasson is a Professor of the History of the Jewish Nation and serves on the Board of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
Mrs. Adina Bar Shalom is the Founder, CEO and Chair of the Board of the Directors of the Haredi College of Jerusalem. She participates in the Boards of the Yachad Council, Bar Ilan University and The Jerusalem Business Development Center. Bar Shalom is also a Member of the Association for the Advancement of Education.
Professor Ruth Gavison is the founding President of Metzilah – a Center for Zionist, Jewish, Liberal and Humanist Thought and the Haim H. Cohn Professor emerita of Human Rights Law at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She was one of the founders of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and served as both its Chairperson and President. Additionally, Gavison was the Chair of the Academic Committee of the Minerva Center of Human Rights at The Hebrew University and a member of the International Commission of Jurists. In 2011, Gavison was awarded the Israel Prize for Legal Research.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Prior to his appointment, he served for 20 years as the leader of the Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York and was also Rabbi of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Rabbi Jacobs is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
Nancy Kaufman is the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Prior to joining NCJW, Kaufman served as the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Boston for twenty years and served in the Dukakis administration as Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Social Policy, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Deputy Commissioner of the Welfare Department for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Rabbi Mordechai Neugroschel is one of Heads of the “M’orot HaTorah” Yeshiva in Telz-Stone outside Jerusalem. A graduate of Rav Amiel’s Yeshiva in the New Settlement (Hayishuv HaChadash) in Tel Aviv, of the Hebron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and of Beit HaTalmud Zohar HaTorah, Neugroschel lectures on Jewish philosophy and law and advocates for the religious community and its affairs. Neugroschel is a co-founder of “Judaism from a Different Viewpoint”, a company that publishes Jewish content, and of the lecture program at the Arachim (“Values”) seminars.