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Last chance for agreement on Kol Isha

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If a solution is to be found that stops the case of two Cape Town Orthodox Jews and a multi-faith organisation taking the Cape Board of Deputies to court over applying religious doctrines at secular events, it will have to happen this week. JR Online understands that the parties are all trying to reach consensus this week. Read where things go if they don't...
by ANT KATZ | Jul 06, 2016

As things stand, case #EC/04/2016 is set down to be heard by the Cape Town High Court, sitting as the Equality Court, on August 22 and 23. The main complainant is a Cape Town observant Orthodox Jew, Gilad Stern. He was joined in his original complaint by his sister-in-law Sarah Goldstein and they were later joined by the SA Centre for Religious Diversity and Equality (SACRED).

Their court action regards their belief that the Cape Council of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies acted with unfair discrimination against women by not allowing women to sing at the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony in May. They are claiming that this goes against the constitutional guarantee of equality of gender.

Kol Isha HOMEThe Board, from its perspective, believes that the Constitution guarantees other rights as well, such as the freedom of religion and the freedom of association. A community colloquium was called last week and chaired by an outsider - Bobby Godsel - who was to provide a report and recommendations to Cape Board Chairman Eric Marx.

On Monday morning Marx told Jewish Report he was at an advanced stage of negotiations (presumably with Stern) and that he expected to be able to report on the progress of the discussions “within 24 to 30 hours”.

Repeated attempts to contact Marx on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, however, have not been successful.

It would appear from discussions with key role-players that there are ongoing discussions as this story goes to print and that a positive outcome could still be in the offing.

If the Board does intend to defend the action against Stern et al, it will have to act in due haste. The present order stipulates that they have to file any further papers by next Wednesday, July 13. They last filed in early May. Unless an agreement regarding late filing is reached with Stern, this will be the Board’s last chance to file documents.

Kol Isha documents




In these papers it would need to show what it had tried to do since May to resolve the situation (developments such as having had negotiations with the claimants, proposing solutions, holding the colloquium, etc.)

The Board cannot introduce any further defence thereafter, explains a legal pundit. The applicants, in turn, would have to file their response two weeks later - on July 27.

The Western Cape High Court Judge President last month appointed Justice Lee Bozalek to hear the case.

Kol Isha - the halachic decree that men should not hear the voice of a woman singing - has become a divisive issue within the Jewish community.

The issue has been simmering for several years as both the Board and the SA Zionist Federation have not allowed women to sing at secular events, due to the widely held Orthodox religious practice of kol isha.

While this practice is correct according to halacha, for many years Orthodox religious authorities applied one of the many dispensations available to them to exclude certain events.

However, the current trend among Orthodox Jewry worldwide reflects a “general shift to the right”, explained a respected rabbi who asked not to be named, adding that no Orthodox rabbi in this community would support the perception of applying dispensations to bypass halacha on an issue such as this today.

Gilad Stern told the Jewish Report on Wednesday that he had "no comment to make at this stage". This offered further confirmation that negotiations are ongoing and that the parties are staying mum.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Rosemary Diamond 11 Jul
    The Halacha must be followed. Nothing should be changed to suit thefancies of the modern world. Hashem said and says. Nothing must be changed in any way. It is as it was and will always be.


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