This piece first appeared on The Sisterhood blog at the Forward.
The Tel Aviv Labor Court recently ruled that an Israeli religious school cannot fire an unmarried teacher for becoming pregnant by in-vitro fertilization. The decision has sparked a lot of discussion. For me, it highlights the contradictory expectations put on Jewish women, especially those who choose to live and work in Orthodox communities.
The court ruled that it was illegal for the ulplana (religious girls’ high school), where the teacher had worked for eight years, to fire her for not upholding the school’s values by exposing the students to alternative family models. “The right to be a parent, the freedom to work and human dignity and liberty” are superseding, according to the court’s decision.
The court ordered the school to pay the teacher, who was dismissed in 2009, NIS 250,000 ($67,500) in compensation.
To be clear, the school had no halachic objection to a single woman becoming pregnant by IVF (there are rabbinic rulings in favor of it), but rather to the supposedly unacceptable example the teacher would set for her students. The rabbinic authority consulted by the school declared that while teachers who are divorced or “spinsters” are not optimal role models, they are merely unfortunate and have done nothing negative. However, a single woman who becomes pregnant does “contravene our Torah outlook,” according to the rabbi.
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© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.