Yaakov Margi- Tomer Appelbaum- 09/08/2010
Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi speaking in the Knesset, Jerusalem August 9, 2010 Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Emil Salman
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Photo by Emil Salman

The Religious Services Ministry instructed hundreds of burial societies across Israel Tuesday to refuse the exclusion of women from eulogizing at funerals.

The decision was made after numerous women complained that burial staff had prevented them from eulogizing at funerals of loved ones.

About a fortnight ago, the Religious Services Ministry said the issue would be resolved by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar. A short time later, it was discovered that a halakhic ruling on the matter already existed, under the signature of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, and was approved of by the Chief Rabbinate.

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi (Shas) decided to adopt a Rabbi Metzger’s ruling, which was released more than one year ago, stating that women must not be refused from eulogizing at a cemetery.

“We’ve picked up the gauntlet and unequivocally announced that there will be no exclusion of women,” Margi told Haaretz.

A ministerial committee to advance the status of women had decided a few weeks ago that the Religious Services Ministry should amend the licenses of the burial societies, known as hevra kadishas, to clearly state that women may accompany the dead to their graves and eulogize them at funerals.

"It is unthinkable that a halakhic ruling" - a rabbinic ruling on a point of Jewish law - "should dictate a government ministry's decision," Culture Minister Limor Livnat, head of the interministerial task force set up to deal with a recent spate of ultra-Orthodox violence and discrimination against women, said last week. "I will not allow it."

Margi’s decision to adopt the halakhic ruling was welcomed by Tzohar rabbis and Itim Institute, who provides religious resources to the needy.