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Jewess » Eulogizing Not Just For Men: Rabbinic Court Agrees, So What?

Eulogizing Not Just For Men: Rabbinic Court Agrees, So What?


by Rebecca Honig Friedman

It’s official. Praising dead people should be an equal opportunity activity, as Israeli Supreme Court judges ruled Monday in response to a case brought against the local burial society in Petah Tikva: “The burial society will not forcibly separate between the sexes in the cemetery, and women too will be able to eulogize.”
Two sisters filed the lawsuit, as reported by Ynet, after they were barred by funeral staff from delivering a eulogy over their sociologist professor father’s grave, told that “in Petah Tikva women do not eulogize,” as dictated by the city’s chief rabbi.
But what this case highlights is not so much the sexism of Petah Tikva’s rabbi — though that is certainly to be noted — but rather the ineffectiveness of Israel’s rabbinical court, where the plaintiffs initially filed their case and where “Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger ruled that women are allowed to eulogize and participate in funerals.” Which sounds all well and good, except that Metzger “refrained from intervening as every local rabbi is allowed to apply his own rules to the area under his jurisdiction.”
Here we have a rabbinical court actually ruling in favor of women’s rights, but unwilling to enforce that ruling. Which is about as effective as a parent telling a child that bed-time is 8 pm sharp and optional.
Fortunately, the plaintiffs weren’t satisfied either and appealed the case in the Supreme Court, which, like the rabbinical court, ruled in favor of a woman’s right to eulogize at a funeral but, as a proper court should do, “demanded that the burial society implement their ruling immediately.”
Taking a case to a rabbinic court demonstrates good faith in Jewish law and in the power of Jewish legal authority to bring justice to the complainant. So when that court shows itself incapable or, even worse, unwilling to bring justice, and when the plaintiff feels she or he can rely only on the secular courts for protection, that’s what they call a shonde, and it should give the entire religious community pause.

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    Jewess is a blog about Jewish women's issues, and is part of the Canonist network of religion blogs.

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