… Meanwhile, it’s business as usual for the women kashrut supervisors. Under the exceptions of the law, they make sure that the place is kosher, but they don’t grant a certificate.

“I don’t understand who decided that kashrut supervision is a man’s job,” says Hemdah Shalom. “With all due respect, I know a little bit more about cooking. The male monopoly in the field comes from the Rabbinate’s need to give yeshiva students a livelihood that relates to their main occupation—Torah studying. They can also be allowed to be supervisors, but not exclusively. Women deserve it too.”

From a halachic perspective, there is indeed no reason why women cannot work as kashrut supervisors. In practice, however, apart from a few exceptions, all supervisors in Israel are men. For years, the Chief Rabbinate refused to allow women to participate in kashrut supervision courses “for modesty reasons,” and it remained an exclusively male profession.

Shalom and other women refused to accept the discrimination and joined a battle led by the Emunah movement against the Ministry of Religious Services and the Rabbinate to allow women to become part of the kashrut system. After an 18-month struggle, which included a High Court petition, Chief Rabbi David Lau ordered the Rabbinate to allow the Emunah women to take the kashrut supervision tests. Sixteen of the course’s female graduates took the exam—not in the same room as the men, of course—and they all passed with flying colors.

“There is still a long way to go,” Shalom says. “I hope that in the future the Rabbinate will actually start employing women.” […]

Avivit Ravia is 49 years old, the 14th generation of Jerusalem natives in her family. She was raised secular in the Rehavia neighborhood, but became religious at the age of 30 and moved to the ultra-Orthodox city of Beitar Illit, where she raised her seven children. “I was hardcore religious,” she says.

When she heard that a course for female kashrut supervisors was about to open, she was curious and decided to join. The Halacha studies helped open her up to new approaches.

“I suddenly started seeing that there are different things here. I realized that nothing is unequivocal, neither from a religious perspective nor from a Haredi perspective,” she says.

This insight grew stronger when she faced the fortified wall of the Chief Rabbinate after completing the course. “I couldn’t understand why I was not allowed to be part of it,” she says. “Why can a man be a supervisor while I can’t?”