Discrimination in Australian Jewry… again

Just saw this post on Galus, showing the number of female speakers in Melbourne shuls over Shavuot (in most cases, the number was “0”).

Shavuot Scorecard – Where are the Women? | Galus Australis | Jewish Life in Australia.

I may have a bit too much time on my hands this week, and I did a little survey after I received an email of all the Tikkun Leil Shavuot events happening in Orthodox shules [eds: The Tikkun Leil Shavuot is an evening of Torah learning that is held on the first night of Shavuot].

Each shule is hosting between 3-11 speakers on the night. Below is a list of how many women are speaking at each shule.

St Kilda Shule: 0

South Caulfield: 0

Elwood: 0

Spiritgrow: 0

Chabad Malvern: 0

Elsternwick Shule: 0

Hamayan: 0

Yeshiva: 0

CBH – Katanga: 0

Chabad Glen Eira: 0

Kew Hebrew Congregation: 0

Chabad on Carlisle: 0

Blake Street: 1

Bnei Akiva: 1

Mizrachi: 1

Caulfield Shule: 1

Beit Aharon: 2

Shira: 7

Regular readers may know that I have been looking at a lot of material on discrimination recently — mostly to do with racial discrimination, but there is an obvious overlap with gender.

A couple of very important points to note are firstly that discrimination is generally not a conscious decision and secondly that it is generally hard to see in individual cases, but reveals itself when you start looking at the broader picture.

This is a case in point. No doubt, each shul would have a very reasonable explanation for who they invited, but taken as a whole, it is obvious that Melbourne’s shuls are not interested in hearing from women. I would venture a guess that the picture would not look too different in Sydney (or indeed in most Orthodox communities).

This is once again a sign that Orthodox Judaism is a sect by and for men. As I have often maintained, manifest discrimination during the religious service filters into all other aspects of life on some level. This is off-putting even for people like me who are not women.

Yet the rabbis of these shuls are sitting there, staring at thousands of empty seats and wonder what could possibly be keeping their congregation away…


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  1. #1 by jskaif on May 30, 2012 - 11:48 am

    (hard not too)

  2. #2 by Chaimy on May 30, 2012 - 1:10 pm

    What a load of crap MK. Any woman who wanted to participate could’ve and did participate.

    I personally was at Yeshiva for Shavuos – a Chabad instituion where you’d probably like to think there wasn’t a woman in sight. You’d be wrong. Young Adult Chabad featured a number of female speakers and had many women in attendance.

    If there is any reason why there was a lack of ‘mothers’ there and at many other shules, it’s for the sole reason that traditionally, Jewish mothers have stayed home with their children whilst their husbands have stayed up all night at Shule.

    To claim some sort of institutionalised discrimination against women is ludicrous.

  3. #3 by MK on May 30, 2012 - 7:09 pm

    Note to anyone reading this, there was quite a lively discussion on this post on the Karnage Facebook page.

    Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/MajorKarnage/posts/199942933462613?notif_t=share_comment

  4. #4 by shailee mendelevich (@ShaileeM) on May 30, 2012 - 7:39 pm

    no women in that conversation either..

  5. #5 by MK on May 30, 2012 - 8:36 pm

    So speak up!

  6. #6 by jskaif on May 31, 2012 - 9:32 am

    Hey chaimy: “Jewish mothers have stayed home with their children whilst their husbands have stayed up all night at Shule.

    To claim some sort of institutionalised discrimination against women is ludicrous.”

    – the issue is that it IS an institulionalised behaviour, because just maybe, the fathers could stay home with the kids? *stir*

  7. #7 by ittayf on June 3, 2012 - 6:33 pm

    Shaul Kellner writes that “Several years ago, a friend at a Jewish feminist organization asked if I would consider joining some of my male colleagues in making a pledge: to not participate on all-male panels and to make the inclusion of at least one woman a condition of my involvement. The idea was to enlist men as allies in the ongoing struggle for gender equity in Jewish communal life.”

    This is what happened as a result of him making that pledge. http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/a-mitzvah-of-egalitarianism/

    It would be great to see the rabbis and educators in our community also make such a pledge

    • #8 by MK on June 3, 2012 - 10:00 pm

      I actually am not totally against the idea…

      I also think that this paragraph pretty much says everything about the primary argument that people have been using in defence of organisations not having women:

      When event planners are faced with criticism over lack of female representation in their speaker line-ups, a common dodge is to claim that they are under pressure to bring in “big names” and that these are just more likely to be men. But there is a circular logic here. Someone becomes a “draw” when they have appeared in many public settings, when they are invited to be on important committees, and when they are invited to address large convenings. The absence of women from these settings is thus a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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