The Status of Jewish Women
11 August 2021
In the nineteenth century, parallel to the founding of Jewish communities in Switzerland, Jewish women’s associations also came into being. The oldest Jewish women’s association in Switzerland is the «Israelitische Frauenverein Basel», founded probably in 1834. In the first years of their existence, the Jewish women’s associations mainly carried out charitable work.
In 1924, the «Federation of Swiss Jewish Women’s Associations» («Bund Schweizerischer Jüdischer Frauenvereine» or BSJF) was founded as an umbrella organisation for Jewish women’s associations in Switzerland. Their aim was to network the individual associations with each other. Whether women in the individual Jewish communities were granted the right to vote and to be elected in community affairs was decided autonomously by the various communities. Accordingly, the Jewish communities introduced voting and electoral rights at different times: The Jewish community of La-Chaux-de-Fonds, for example, granted voting and electoral rights to the wives of its members in 1959. By the 1970s, several Jewish communities had followed this example, such as the Jewish communities in Berne, Geneva, Fribourg, St. Gall and the Jewish community of Zurich.
Today, many communities have female members on the board or even female presidents, which is also thanks to the work of the BSJF and its members. On a Swiss institutional level, Jewish women have been able to take on important offices since 1971: Ursula Koch was Zurich city councillor from 1986–1998, Claudia Kaufmann became the first head of the Federal Office for Gender Equality in 1988, and Vera Rottenberg became a federal judge in 1994. In 1993, Ruth Dreifuss, a Jewish woman, was elected Federal Councillor of Switzerland, something that had, until then, seemed unthinkable even in Jewish circles.
verfasst am 17.12.2021
Photos © Elwira Spychalska