Israel's Education Ministry Backs Barring Girl From Singing Over Opposition by 'Religious Public'

A municipality official at a Tel Aviv suburb fired after prohibiting a girl from performing as many Orthodox Jews believe religious law prohibits men from listening to women sing

Residents demonstrate against the operation of public transportation on Shabbat, Ramat Gan, Israel, June 12, 2019.
Ilan Assayag

The Israeli Education Ministry has backed a municipal official in a Tel Aviv suburb who was fired for refusing to let a 17-year-old girl sing at an Independence Day event last month.

Tuvia Azuri, who headed the Jewish culture department at the Ramat Gan municipality, barred the girl from singing so as not to offend religious Jewish people.

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Many Orthodox Jews take the view that Jewish religious law prohibits men from listening to women sing. A statement issued Wednesday by the ministry’s Jewish culture department said the girl’s plan to sing at the event would have been a “deviation from the line-up,” and that Azuri therefore decided that “the time and place did not make it possible for her to sing.”

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“Azuri acted appropriately, and in our view, this is what he should have done in light of the facts,” said the statement, which was issued on behalf of Itiel Bar Levy, who heads the Education Ministry’s Jewish culture department.

Azuri was fired after an investigation by the Ramat Gan municipality concluded that he had lied about why the girl was removed from the stage. She had been invited onstage spontaneously by singer Nathan Goshen, who intended to sing a duet with her. But Azuri vetoed the idea.

“People pushing opinions in the State of Israel are screaming about ‘exclusion of women.’ It’s not at all clear that we ought to respond to such demagogic claims, but because there has been an attempt (definitely successful, unfortunately) to dictate codes of conduct for the entire country, we will state unequivocally what is so clear to all of us: Judaism doesn’t discriminate against women,” the Education Ministry’s statement said.

Although “large segments of the public” do believe that listening to a woman sing is prohibited by Jewish law, “there is not a shred of a connection with discrimination,” the statement added. “Isn’t it reasonable that in addition to the dozens of cultural platforms for the secular public, there should be one platform for the religious public? Where is freedom of religion, a value mentioned in the Declaration of Independence?” And the statement continued: “Even though the girl said she wasn’t at all hurt by what happened, people decided to hitch a ride on this uninteresting story to smear Azuri, through no fault of his own.”

Last week, several hundred people demonstrated in Ramat Gan to protest what they deemed desecration of the Sabbath after the city decided to run bus transportation on the Sabbath to entertainment spots in Tel Aviv. There was also religious opposition to this month’s gay pride parade, which was held in Ramat Gan for the first time.