Livni: Women’s right to eulogize must be enforced

New directive from Religious Services Ministry states explicitly that burial societies must allow women to give eulogies.

Tzippi Livni 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tzippi Livni 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Despite a new ministerial directive presented to the Knesset on Wednesday instructing burial societies and municipal rabbis that they may not prevent women from giving eulogies at funerals, concerns remain that the directive will not be enforced.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, as well as religious rights groups, expressed disappointment that the renewal of a burial society’s license, which oversees Jewish funeral ceremonies, is not conditional on compliance with the ministry’s guidelines.
The new directive from the Religious Services Ministry, presented at a hearing of the Interministerial Working Group for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, states explicitly that burial societies must allow women to give eulogies. This instruction is in accordance with a ruling by Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger that there is no “clear source to forbid women from giving eulogies.”
There is little scope, however, for enforcing the new directive. The ministry’s instructions state that “behavior [of burial societies] not in accordance with the director-general’s directive will be taken into consideration in the renewal of the burial societies’ license.”
“The state needs to ensure that women are able to give eulogies, not just hope for it,” said Livni. “Although the new directive is a step in the right direction, the right of women to give eulogies needs to be 100 percent and expressed unequivocally.”
The authority for licensing burial societies and the renewal of their licenses lies with Religious Services Minister Ya’acov Margi of Shas. A license is valid for two years.
The Religious Services Ministry said only that any extension would be considered if the burial society does not comply with the new directive.
Limor Livnat (Likud) who chairs the working group, called the developments “groundbreaking,” but said she did not think it would solve all the problems. “Now we need to focus on enforcement,” she said during Wednesday’s hearing.
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 the local municipal rabbi and burial society.
“The license should be conditional on the burial society complying with the directive that allows women to speak,” said Rabbi Seth (Shaul) Farber, director of the ITIM religious rights advocacy group. “The real test of the new directive will be in its implementation.