Limor Livnat 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat told the Ministry of Religious Services
on Wednesday that it has two weeks to finalize amendments to the guidelines for
burial procedures, to prevent the exclusion of women from giving eulogies at
Livnat is the chairwoman of the recently established
interministerial Working Group for the Elimination of Discrimination against
In recent years, numerous incidents have occurred in which women
attending the funerals of relatives have been prevented from speaking and giving
eulogies at the burial ceremony, by members of the hevra kadisha, or burial
society, who run funeral services.
Those with a stricter interpretation
of Jewish law argue that women should not deliver speeches in a public gathering
in which men are in attendance. There is no explicit source for this custom
At the committee hearing on Wednesday, a letter signed by the
director-general of the Ministry of Religious Services, Avigdor Ohana, was
presented in which he said clearly that burial societies were obligated to allow
women who wished to give eulogies to do so.
This follows the decision by
the Minister of Religious Services Ya’acov Margi last week to adopt a ruling of
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, that there is no clear basis in Jewish law
to forbid women giving eulogies.
However, in a legal review presented by
the ministry’s legal adviser at Wednesday’s hearing, the Ministry stated that it
has “no real authority or ability” to enforce Ohana’s directive that burial
societies are obligated to allow women to give eulogies if they so
In comments made to The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday, Livnat
highlighted her demand that the ministry complete the amendments to the burial
guidelines within two weeks, and reiterated the high priority she is giving the
“Burial societies need to understand in the clearest of
terms that their only authority is with regards to the cleansing and burial, and
nothing else,” the minister said.
“I do not intend to let this important
social issue be ignored. We are living in a state of law and not of halacha. It
is our duty to ensure that every man and every woman to act according to their
own wishes at funeral services.”
Rabbi Shaul Farber, director of the ITIM
religious rights advocacy group, also criticized the ministry for failing to
follow through with its commitments.
“It is a minor victory that the
director-general of the ministry has acknowledged that women can deliver
eulogies,” he told the Post. “However, at present the Ministry of Religious
Services seems to be disavowing responsibility for implementing its own
directive. We see this as a substantive issue that cannot be dismissed by
A response from the ministry was not available by
During the first meeting of the working group in the middle
of December, Livnat stated that one of the highest priorities was to end the
phenomenon in which women were prevented from participating as they wished in
As such, she requested that the Ministry of Religious
Services, in conjunction with the Justice Ministry, amend the licensing terms
for burial societies so that they would be obligated to allow women to give
eulogies and walk in the funeral procession.
Despite delays by the
Ministry of Religious Services, which said it was waiting on a halachic ruling
from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar as to the permissibility of women giving
eulogies, and in light of pressure from Livnat and the working group, Margi
announced last week the ministry’s adoption of Metzger’s ruling from a number of