Proposal unacceptable, says Cape Board

  • Kol Isha HOME
The Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies has emphatically denied having reached any compromise with the three claimants who are taking the Cape Board to the Equality Court over the constitutionality of not allowing women to sing at Jewish secular events.
by ANT KATZ | Apr 30, 2016

In a letter stating the Cape Board’s position on Thursday April 28, Cape Board Chairman Eric Marx stated emphatically: “Contrary to media reports, no acceptable compromise from the applicants has ever been suggested notwithstanding false reports linking Judge Albie Sachs to mediation.”

Marx does, however, confirm that the “Cape SAJBD has proposed a colloquium to be held within two months for all interested parties to meet and try to find a workable solution.” However, says Marx, no changes have been considered for this week’s Yom Hashoah event in Cape Town.

This case is being deemed urgent as the claimants wanted it settled before the Board-hosted Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) event on May 5. Papers were originally lodged on April 1 in the Equality Court by Advocate Anton Katz SC on behalf of two Orthodox Cape residents, Gilad Stern and Sarah Goldstein.

They were later joined in the action by the SA Union of Progressive Jewry (SAUPJ)-affiliated SACRED by that body’s chairman, Rabbi Julia Margolis. SAUPJ itself, said they were not joining the action, although its national chairman Alvin Kushner acknowledged that the SAUPJ do “share the frustration felt by women who are prohibited from singing”..

Marx said on Thursday that the Board is “a body, elected by the Jewish community to protect the religious and civil rights of the community.” While the SAJBD “recognises the heterogeneous nature of our communities and works hard to balance the needs and requirements of our differing constituencies. Our challenge is to be as inclusive as possible.”

The Law of Kol Isha

An element of Orthodox Jewish law, or halachah, said Marx, “is that of the prohibition of men hearing a woman singing as a solo voice (Kol Isha). The SA Orthodox rabbinic leadership and many members of their communities are unified in their adherence to this law and would effectively be excluded from attending the ceremony were it to be contravened.”

Kol IshaWith regard to the offer from the claimants that the women would sing at the end of the service, Marx believes that “to require those affected to leave the ceremony is exclusionary, disruptive and impolite”.

He said that “it has long been the accepted practice of the SAJBD to run the memorial service so as to ensure that all members of the Community feel comfortable to attend.” Women do play a prominent role in the ceremony, said Marx.

On the contrary, he said, “the real act of exclusion would be the contravention of the Orthodox Jewish law which would result in preventing Orthodox rabbinic leadership and community from attending and participating in the ceremony.”

Clearly angered by the publicity for their Equality Court case – pitting religious law against Constitutional rights, Marx said that applicants “have unfortunately exacted maximum exposure and damage to our community in the media and this has regrettably been the case culminating in an extremely insulting and derogatory outburst against Orthodox Rabbis on national TV on  April 21.”

This action, he said, “will have the certain result of causing an implosion of what is a unifying ceremony.” He said it would also “exacerbate the divisiveness and disunity already created by the applicants’ ill-considered court action.”

Clearly prepared to go to court, Marx said that the Cape Board is committed “to ensuring participation of all in Yom Hashoah and will continue to vigorously defend this and any other action which seeks in any way to undermine any Jewish individual’s right to freely practice his or her chosen form of Judaism. Not to do so would undermine the very reason for the SAJBD’s existence.”  

He concluded with a reconciliatory offer: “We are willing to engage at any time to find a solution,” said the chairman of the Cape Board.

Catch up on story & comments

06 April: Board sued in Equality Court over ‘Kol Isha’ – 9 user-comments

13 April: Lawsuit rabbi suspended from Board meetings – 22 comments

15 April: Court action: Margolis acted alone says SAUPJ – 5 comments

20 April: Video of Jewish women’s orgs protesting outside Beyachad

20 April: Halachah vs Constitution destined for Equality Court – 5 comments

21 April: Compromise on women singing looks likely – 4 comments

30 April: Proposal unacceptable, says Cape Board – 3 comments



  1. 4 Marc Lipshitz 01 May
    Kol has avid to the Cape SAJBD for taking a stance that defends the whole community and does not allow those who do not share our religious values to force those who do to not attend communal functions!

    For that is what this comes down to if the Reform "rabbi" and her cohorts have their way they will have won a victory in which Orthodox Jews are barred from Jewish communal events!  Let Reform with their lack of principles, their lack of adherence to anything Jewish go off and hold their secular event and do things as they choose, and leave the 90% of our community that are affiliated to Orthodox Judaism continue to commemorate and come together as a JEWISH community in adherence to JEWISH law!
  2. 3 jeremy 02 May
    Careful Marc about casting the first stone. Using words like "Let Reform with their lack of principles" is a huge statement to make. Naturally you can back up this statement that every Reform Jew has a lack of principles and you are the most pious, observant, religious, principled person there is. Oh wait, I believe you have slandered a wholer group (let alone a single person) How does that fit in with your principles?
  3. 2 Joshua 02 May
    Marc. I am an observant non-orthodox SA Jew. I belong to a shul which is afilliated to the SA Union of PROGRESSIVE Jewry (saupj) which is turn afilliated to the world union, the wupj, which represents more Jews than any other group in the world. We do NOT have reform Jews in SA. Such a group exists and is quite string in the US, UK and Israel that I know of. But in SA we are progressive! And the last time I looked, the secular jewish organisations represented us too. 

    What confuses me is that you say this is a victory for orthodox jews as if it is against progressive jews. But it isnt. It is between 2 'normal' orthodox jews and the Board of deputies. The progressive linked sacred group only joined the orthodox action.
  4. 1 David B 05 May
    Well said Jeremy -- far be it for little ol' me to be the first to throw the stone back to Marc. We should allow him his 'ancient' principles and to sit in his corner and sulk about others having the temerity to follow new modern thinking within our Jewish community


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