Shining a Light on Haredi Women in Israel
What started as a Facebook page in fall of 2012 evolved into a protest, and then a movement. Nivcharot (Hebrew feminine form of “elected”) is an increasingly influential leadership training program for ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) women, so they may prepare to compete for, and hold, public office. Nivcharot is also a grantee of Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation.
This week, #SheShinesLight spotlights one of the best known participants of the program, a woman who has also become a staff member, Hila Hassan Lefkowitz. “Growing up in a Haredi family, I never had the same opportunities as my brothers,” Lefkowitz says. “I felt it was unfair, but I never said anything about it. I just accepted it. I also grew up believing that being called a ‘feminist’ was a bad thing.”
Everything changed for Lefkowitz when she first saw an online ad for the “Ha’nivcheret” leadership training program for women just like her. “I realized I was not alone. I met other Haredi women who also had the desire to lead and make a difference in the public sphere. I learned that being a ‘feminist’ is not a dirty word. I am a Haredi woman who is also a feminist and I am proud of that.”
By many accounts, gender segregation among devout Jews has been expanding in Israel, creeping into wider secular society. Religious women are combating what they see as their marginalization in Israeli society. “The resistance comes in different forms…including a court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that an ultra-Orthodox party had to rescind its ban on electing women”. (Dina Craft, “In Israel, Orthodox Women are Fighting to be Heard … and Seen”, Christian Science Monitor)
Israeli women had made some strides in leadership roles both nationally and locally, but the pandemic introduced new challenges into an already complex situation. High COVID-19 infection rates in the ultra-Orthodox sector have been cited. As studies emerge, and more data are analyzed, what is clear is that leaders like Hila Hassan Lefkowitz and organizations like Nivcharot are more valuable now than ever before, because the opportunities for training and public service they offer are of the essence for program participants and society alike.
#yesshecan #sheshineslight #wearetikkunolamwomen #jewishphilanthropy