JERUSALEM (JTA) – Women may deliver eulogies at funerals, Israel’s Religious Services Ministry told burial societies in the country.
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, also is 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 Petach Tikvah in which a woman was stopped from eulogizing her father. The court’s ruling was not backed up by the Religious Services Ministry until now.
The interministerial 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.