I presume that by now you may have heard about The Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, being taken to the Cape High Court by SACRED (and others) for “discrimination of women on the basis of gender”. The Board placed a ban on women singing at Jewish secular communal events.
We (SACRED) have received tremendous support from a number of people, including from top ranking members within our own Progressive Movement, as well as from all over the world. I have also received a few emails that tended towards being critical of the action that SACRED is taking. It is with this in mind that I reprint below the gist of my response(s) to such criticism:
Speaking from a SACRED perspective, it this very “type of situation/threat” that was one of the main reasons for which SACRED was set up. Also noting SACRED’s parent in Israel, IRAC’s recent court victory for the “Women of the Wall”.
Firstly, let me say that I am certainly not opposed to “talking” with the board, which I will continue to do (and on which board I also serve). Though some, critical of the action we are now taking, feel that a “gently gently approach, extending somewhere into infinity” would not ruffle feathers. Here I must be open with you, that things are indeed much more difficult for me as a woman/woman leader, this even in our own progressive community here in SA, so spare a moment of thought for just how “wrong/hard things are” for women under a more conservative community – I shudder to think.
While we (SACRED) do not go around looking for battles, under my watch we will certainly not run away from (a justified) one either, especially when we know that what is going on is NOT OK, and we have a better than reasonable chance of fixing it, hopefully through dialogue. Though if there are those that need a little coaxing into the 21st century, then so be it.
I am also told that we may “embarrass ourselves” by getting into such a “public” conflict, with our more conservative colleagues, but I must express that I am firmly of the opinion that I (We) are not the ones that should be embarrassed about our conduct. In fact we should be proud (in a modest way) of doing the right thing.
Again, with respect to engaging with the SAJBD, this has been going on for far too long already (without resolution). I have a letter on record from 2013, when the SAJBD wrote back to SACRED (after lengthy discussions at that time) flatly rejecting a straightforward request. While from my side I am certainly doing all I can to talk with the Board, in a sense they need to understand (in a very real way) that this has gone on for long enough – this time around we are serious – change is coming.
Wishing you a peaceful weekend.
Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Julia Margolis.