Omer Yankelevich named first female Haredi minister in Israeli Parliament
On May 14, 2020, Israeli’s Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz named Omer Yankelevich as Diaspora Minister, making her the first Haredi woman cabinet member. Yankelevich was the second Haredi woman to serve in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).
Yankelevich was born on May 25, 1978, in Tel Aviv. When she was five years old, her family became religious and moved to Bnei Brak, a nearby Haredi city. After earning a teaching certificate, she taught Hebrew and Judaic studies in the former Soviet Union, and she went on to earn a BA in teaching from Cambridge University, a BA in law from Ono College, and a Masters in Law from Bar Ilan University.
Yankelevich worked as a teacher from 2002 to 2007 and then as a law clerk for judges in Magistrate and District Courts until 2015. In 2015, she established the Just Begun Foundation to develop opportunities in Israel’s peripheral areas, particularly for the Haredi community; she served as director until 2019.
In early 2019, Yankelevich was placed on Benny Gantz’s Resilience Party list for the upcoming Knesset elections, and when Gantz created the coalition party Blue and White, she was placed in the 23rd slot. On April 9, 2019, Blue and White won 35 seats in the 21st Knesset elections, making Yankelevich the second-ever Haredi woman MK (Member of Knesset). On May 14, 2020, she was appointed Diaspora Minister by Gantz. She served as MK until April 6, 2021, when Israel’s 24th Knesset was sworn in, and as Diaspora Minister until June 13, 2021, when Nachman Shai from the Labor party took over.
In her role as Diaspora Minister, Yankelevich included the Haredi public in the ministry’s projects for the first time, despite facing tremendous criticism from the Haredi community for becoming a politician: some communities frown on women in the public realm, and the two major Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, do not allow women on their party lists.
Yankelevich also ignited attacks from the left when she visited Samaria in her role as Diaspora Minister and said the government’s goal should be to apply sovereignty to all of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Amid rumors (later proven untrue) that she was having an affair with Gantz, Yankelevich retired from politics before elections for the 24th Knesset.
Yankelevich is married to Yaron Yankelevich, a former full-time yeshiva student and current real estate agent whom she met on a shidduch (a date arranged by a matchmaker). They have five children.
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Times of Israel Staff. “Omer Yankelevich, Israel’s first female Haredi minister, quits politics.” Times of Israel, February 2, 2021. https://www.timesofisrael.com/omer-yankelevich-israels-first-female-haredi-minister-quits-politics/.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Omer Yankelevich named first female Haredi minister in Israeli Parliament ." (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/may/14/2020/omer-yankelevich-named-first-female-haredi-minister-israeli-parliament>.