NIF Grantee Represents Jewish Woman Fired for Refusing to Work on Shabbat

15 December 2008 By New Israel Fund

Earlier this year Shimrit Tzuberi, who worked as an instructor for the fitness club chain Holmes Place, was fired for refusing to work on Shabbat. Veteran NIF grantee Israel Religious Action Center of the Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism (IRAC) has taken up her cause and is demanding $26,000 in compensation and damages for the 25 year-old dismissed employee.

In 2007 Tzuberi began working at Holmes Place in Tel Aviv’s Azrielli Center. Several months after that her father died and she became religiously observant. By Israeli law employees are entitled not to work on their Sabbath and Holmes Place allowed her to stop working on Saturdays. But after her year of mourning was completed Holmes Place informed Tzuberi that she must resume working on Shabbatot. She told them several times that she could not comply and after several warnings was fired.

“I don’t understand how in the Jewish State, Jews are compelled to work on Shabbat,” said Tzuberi.

Yonit Shlain Ben-Or, an attorney in IRAC’s Legal Department who is representing Tzuberi, said. “The struggle for full religious freedom in Israel must include protecting the right of a person not to work on their day of rest and to spend their Sabbath in accordance with their world outlook and beliefs. The fact that Shimrit approached the Reform movement proves that the struggle for religious freedom benefits all social sectors in Israel – religious and secular alike."

IRAC expects an out of court settlement because the right of Israelis of all religions not to work on their Sabbath is enshrined in law. “But if necessary we will pursue the matter in the Tel Aviv Labor Court,” she said. 

IRAC's support for Tzuberi is funded within the framework of NIF's Campaign for Religious Freedom, which uses advocacy and litigation to ensure that all expressions of Judaism enjoy cultural and legal legitimacy.