Frum Female Singer Sues Jerusalem Municipality For Religious Discrimination

Jerusalem city council plenum. (Jerusalem Municipality spokesperson)

A frum female singer in Israel submitted a lawsuit against the Jerusalem Municipality for discrimination for refusing to allow her to hold a female-only concert for a municipality-sponsored initiative.

According to a Makor Rishon report, the singer, Nirit Hotoveli, wanted to participate in a municipality-sponsored project in which city residents were invited to host performers of their choice in their homes, with the municipality subsidizing the gathering.

The project’s regulations emphasized that “there will be no religious, gender or sectarian discrimination in the events and in their content.” After Hotoveli read that, she inquired whether she could still participate in the project but the municipality’s response confirmed her fears. “According to the procedures of the Jerusalem Municipality, events cannot legally be held in a gender-segregated manner and therefore you will not be able to participate in the project due to your special need,” the municipality responded.

After Hotoveli appealed twice to the municipality but was again told that it will not sponsor a female-only event, she filed a lawsuit.

Her attorney claims in the lawsuit that it is not Hotoveli’s refusal to appear before men, but rather the municipality’s decision to prevent her from participating in the project, that constitutes discrimination – on the grounds of religion. “There is no legal source that prohibits a singer’s performance in front of women only,” the claim states. “There is no question about that: in fact, according to the municipality’s position, in order for a woman to be allowed to sing and practice her profession, she must provide her services to men, against her will!”

“This position is incomprehensible: forcing a person to provide a personal service, certainly forcing a woman to provide a personal service such as singing to a man, and if not, she can’t sing at all – is behavior that belongs to other periods and regimes and undermines the foundational principles of our legal system. Therefore, it’s no wonder that there is no legal source that dictates this.”

The amount of the claim against the municipality is NIS 50,000, in accordance with the law prohibiting discrimination in products and services. The municipality is now required to submit a statement of defense within sixty days.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit, Tzafnat Nordman, told Makor Rishon: “The significance of the municipality’s decision is that a religious artist who adheres to halacha cannot participate in the initiative and benefit from public funding. This is clear discrimination on the grounds of religion.”

“The claim that gender separation causes discrimination is fictitious,” Nordman added. “No man has complained that he is not allowed to hear Nirit or other religious female singers.”

The Jerusalem Municipality responded: “The general directive is that any request to hold a segregated event must be legally examined and permission to hold the event must be obtained. Upon receipt of the request regarding alleged discrimination, the department that launched the initiative was instructed to freeze the project in order to evaluate the claims. It was made clear to the artist that she can submit a request to the department and it will be examined in accordance with the established parameters and provisions of law. The municipality will submit its response to the lawsuit to the court.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)