The backlash against ultra-Orthodox women who are daring to demand a public voice in government didn’t come as a big surprise, but it did come swiftly and harshly.
Last week a formal campaign called “No Female Candidate, No Female Vote” was launched to pressure ultra-Orthodox political parties Shas and the United Torah Judaism party to stop excluding women from their party tickets. Their argument: In an era in which ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are already in the public realm, working as journalists, attorneys, doctors or activists, forbidding them to stand for political office makes no sense. These women, who are more often than not both the primary breadwinners in their households and the primary caretakers of the family, deserve direct representation in the Knesset.
An open letter from this group of Haredi women to the Knesset representatives of the ultra-Orthodox parties was circulated on social media, making waves over the weekend. The letter stated that they would refuse to vote for any party that did not include a female candidate — any female candidate — high enough on their tickets to have a realistic chance of winning a spot in the Knesset. The movement put out its message through a Facebook group and a crowdfunding site, and the effort received extensive media coverage.
In response, Rabbi Mordechai Blau, a senior member of the United Torah Judaism party, issued a statement Sunday threatening excommunication to any women who dare buck Haredi political leadership — and by extension, the religious authority of the rabbis who guide them.