Avigail Sperber – Promoting Tolerance for Orthodox Lesbians
Once just a small support group, the Bat Kol Organization of Orthodox Lesbian Women has, with Shatil’s assistance, become a leading force for change and tolerance, both in the religious community and among the general public. According to founder Avigail Sperber, the support and guidance the organization received from Shatil’helped Bat Kol to ‘come out.’ Today more than 100 women realize that they do not need to choose between who they are and who they love.
Havruta, an NGO representing Orthodox gay men, received intense Shatil capacity building in the past year, specifically in the areas of resource development, developing work-plans with clear goals, and other organizational issues. This capacity building has already led to several fundraising successes for Havruta. With Shatil assistance Havruta and Bat Kol submitted their candidacy for a French award in human rights and in November 2011 received notice that Havruta and Bat Kol were one of ten worldwide organizations receiving official French recognition of its work, and marking the first time that an Israeli organization won such recognition. We at Shatil were moved by the letter of thanks received from the Havruta activists, acknowledging the incredible guidance that Shatil provided throughout.
Although Israel is a democracy, important personal events – marriage, divorce, burial and conversion – are controlled by the Orthodox establishment. Many Israeli Jews find this alienating. Shatil’s Religious Pluralism Project was founded to strengthen the capacities of religious-pluralism organizations, communities and coalitions; to promote alternatives to the status quo; to ensure that every woman who wants a Jewish divorce will be able to get one; and to link Jewish values with social justice, thus bringing Judaism to a wider audience.
Through specialized trainings, consulting services and assistance with coalition development, Shatil’s Religious Pluralism Project currently:
Is engaged in a campaign to wrest control from the ultra-Orthodox establishment in matters of marriage, divorce, burial and conversion.
Helps liberal Orthodox organizations develop and advance the equal status of women in religious communities.
Assists other movements of Judaism to become meaningful alternatives for the Israeli public.
Hundreds of Jewish women are trapped in abusive or unhappy marriages because their husbands have refused to grant them a divorce (get). Their future is determined not only by their husbands but also by backwards-thinking civil and religious institutions in Israel.
Shatil, in partnership with International Coalition for Agunah Rights (ICAR), achieved a major victory with the passing of a bill allowing for property settlements without a writ of divorce. Shatil continues its active role in the crusade for equitable and timely divorces.
Freedom in Marriage
In today’s Israel there is only one way to get married – through the framework provided by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
The Coalition for Freedom of Choice in Marriage is a coalition of 23 organizations, with Shatil and the Israel Religious Action Center as leading members. The coalition works together to promote choice and freedom in marriage through a change in Israel’s laws, so that every couple can exercise their rights to get married in Israel according to their conscience and as they see fit, which would encompass civil and alternative religious marriage.
The video below, produced by the coalition and funded by the Morningstar Foundation, illustrates the current absurd situation of a one size fit all system for marriage controlled by the Ultra Orthodox controlled Chief Rabbinate.
Supporting Inclusion for Orthodox Women
Orthodox women are important promoters of women’s rights. Shatil provides intensive consultation to women, organizations and grassroots groups working to advance halachic alternatives to the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate, particularly as concerns issues relating to marriage, divorce, and religious observance.
Shatil created an unprecedented “mikve roundtable” project, in which Orthodox women, mikve attendants (who are very often exploited) and women’s rights activists meet to explore justice and pluralism rights around the charged issues of the management of Israel’s ritual religious bath-houses.