Women may deliver eulogies, ministry tells Israeli burial societies

Women may deliver eulogies at funerals, the Religious Services Ministry told Israeli burial societies.

The directive released Tuesday comes after the ministry adopted a halachic ruling issued more than a year ago by Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger. The Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar is also expected to rule on the issue, according to reports.

Israel’s Supreme Court in 2006 ruled that women should be allowed to deliver eulogies and that the burial societies, or chevra kadisha, should not impose gender segregation in the cemetery. The ruling was in response to an incident in Petah Tikva where a woman was stopped from eulogizing her father. However, the court’s ruling was not backed up by the Religious Services Ministry until now.

The inter-ministerial committee for the prevention of women’s exclusion, at its first meeting two weeks ago, decided that the ministry should rule to allow women to eulogize their dead and join the procession to the gravesite.

The Ministry’s directive “is an enormous victory for the moderate voices in Israel,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center. “Each year, we receive tens of complaints from women – both religious and secular- who were denied their right to express themselves at funerals in Israel. It is refreshing to see the religious establishment stand up for what is right and just, and not capitulate to the extremist forces within the ultra-Orthodox camp.”

There are more than 600 licensed burial societies in Israel.