Professor Ruth Halperin-Kaddari is a professor at Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Law in Israel and a member of the United National Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Professor Halperin-Kaddari’s groundbreaking work within family law and women’s rights has made her a respected figure within legal and feminist communities alike. To mark International Women’s Day, Positive Luxury caught up with the professor to learn more about what drives her work and the advice she would offer to the next generation.
When did you first realise/decide you were a feminist?
My transformation into a self-aware feminist came during the years of my studies at Yale Law School. At this time, I was pursuing my doctorate degree and for the first time being exposed to a feminist critic of law within the law school, as well as to Orthodox feminism within the Jewish Community around Yale University.
Much of your legal work is in the realm of women in relation to family law, why did you choose this as the focus of your career?
After returning to Israel from Yale, to start teaching at my old law school, I knew I would look for a field where I could also affect women’s status, so as to use my future position as a law scholar to generate social change.
I realised at then that family law in Israel is the key area in which formal discrimination against women still exists, in that marriage and divorce are exclusively governed by religious law in Israel.
You are also the founding director of the Rackman Center For the Advancement of Women, can you explain a bit about aims of this organisation?
The Rackman Center is a social-legal centre operating within an academic institute to advance gender justice within family law in Israel. It is now the leading force in advancing women’s rights in Israel in the area of family law in Israel, combining research and activism, Jewish law and civil law, leading a dual-track process of both representing individual women and promoting change from the bottom up, as well as facilitating legal reforms from the top-bottom.
It is now the leading force in advancing women’s rights in Israel in the area of family law in Israel, combining research and activism, Jewish law and civil law, leading a dual-track process of both representing individual women and promoting change from the bottom up, as well as facilitating legal reforms from the top-bottom.
Sometimes it feels like the same conversations about women’s rights are being repeated. Do you believe progress is still being made and how do you turn your frustration into action?
I keep reminding myself that we have to look more than a decade back, and to recall how much progress we had made in the past 50 years, not to mention the fact that less than a hundred years ago women could still not vote in most of the countries in the world.
If you could change one thing overnight to improve the rights of women across the world, what would it be?
Of what professional achievement are you most proud?
The Rackman Center has become a key organisation in advancing women’s rights in Israel, placing it at the forefront of social and legal change in family law in Israel. And being re-elected for the third time to CEDAW.
You are a role model to many, what piece of advice would you pass on to the next generation of women?
Strive to achieve the most in fulfilling your potential and dream, but be prepared to pay the price. As women – to some extent – can “have it both”, but there is a cost to this.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to read The Importance of Supporting Women: Be Bold for Change or Celebrating International Women’s Day 2017 with the Positive Luxury Community.