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Sign the Petition for UMJCA Referendum to Increase Women's Representation on Elected Boards of Shaare Shalom and Ohr Esther

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Dear Supporters,

Please note the following changes in the wording and demands of the proposed referendum:

We call for a referendum to change the by-laws of the UMJCA with regard to female representation on the Central Board and the synagogue boards of Shaare Shalom and Ohr Esther. We propose (1) the removal of the 3-person cap (and rejection of any proposed cap or quota) on female Central Board members, in addition to (2) limited representation of women, with 3 out of 7 maximum representation on the synagogue board of Shaare Shalom and 4 out of 9 maximum representation on the synagogue board of Ohr Esther. Finally, we propose (3) a removal of the ban on women from serving as Central Board president or vice president, without restriction.

These proposals will each be voted on as separate issues in the actual referendum, and are subject to change in wording and content by the By-laws Committee, a division of the Supervisory Council of the UMJCA. The endorsement of this petition does not signify an official vote, and will not signify the supporter's endorsement or rejection of any particular item on the official referendum.

In response to the following letter, originally sent on February 25th, 2014, the Supervisory Council of the UMJCA has suggested that this proposal for referendum is best off circumventing the Central Board (at least in its first phase), as it has been rejected for referendum in the recent past. If we gather 300 or more signatures, there is a high likelihood of the referendum taking place. Our respected rabbinical authority has not expressed a religious or halachic ruling against women serving on the synagogue boards:

Dear Members of the Supervisory Council:

In light of the recent elections, I am writing to take issue with an indefensible and shameful exclusionary policy that benefits no one and, in the opinion of many community members, ought to be changed: Women are not allowed to serve on any Mashadi synagogue board, and there is a 3-person [cap] on women in the Central Board - a maximum of 20% say for  50% of community members with roughly the same synagogue attendance as men - hardly fair, hardly sensible.

Most modern Orthodox rabbis I have encountered (including our own) have contended that women are by no means inferior to men in the eyes of Judaism, and in some cases, play an even more important role. While this notion is perhaps directly antithetical to the outdated "traditional" Iranian (non-Jewish) mores that have dictated our operations for so long, it is not at all at odds with our religion, or for that matter, with efficiency in governing.

In terms of practicality, women in this community are no less educated about religion or less observant than their male counterparts, and in fact, are probably more eager and have more time to tackle important issues. Women have no less of an interest in serving their fathers, brothers, and sons as men do their mothers, wives, and daughters, with regard to matters of observance or otherwise.

There is no logical argument that could justify men making decisions for women in the synagogue while women have little or no say in what affects men in the synagogue. While most decisions affect all congregants, there are certain questions that exclusively pertain to either men or women, which is why it is especially critical to have both genders represented.

Opportunity for democratic involvement of various demographics has always proven to be a powerful centralizing and balancing force for institutions of any kind - for nations, for corporations, and for religious entities. I wonder if the current elected representatives, or our esteemed rabbis, could conjure a Jewish defense for excluding women from religious decision-making processes. Questions of modesty or male/female interaction with regard to religious matters could certainly be worked around, if that is indeed the issue. As a former MYC member, I find it baffling and somewhat embarrassing that such limits are still in place for other boards.

Most community members would also note the hypocrisy in the fact that as of a few years ago, women have been serving in the main body of the synagogue (though only in a minor way), the Central Board, whose reach spans all facets of community life, and yet, women are banned from minor tributary boards for reasons that are unclear to most.

I do suppose that a weak counter argument is that women are free to attend meetings without being elected to the boards (though I am not certain of that). Still, no votes means no official recognition and no real clout. Without institutional change, future generations in our community will lag behind similar congregations with more progressive legislative policies which result in far more productive outcomes to the benefit of all.

That said, on behalf of many men and women in the community who share this sentiment, I respectfully propose a referendum, within the guidelines set forth by the current by-laws, to have women allowed to be freely represented on the Mashadi synagogue boards, and to remove the 3-person cap on women in the Central Board. While we are probably a long way from proportional representation, we could endeavor to pride ourselves on taking the first step and opening the door.


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