July 2, 2012
Dignity for Mourners
Dear Friends of IRAC,
Imagine not being able to lament in public the loss of a loved one, and being forced instead to watch a funeral take place from the sidelines. For some women in Israel this has been the case as some burial societies force grieving women to stand apart from male family members. They are prevented from eulogizing their departed parents, grandparents, siblings, or even children. In some cases these female mourners are not even allowed to accompany their male relatives to the gravesite.
Last week IRAC won a significant victory against this phenomenon in the courts. You may remember the story of Rosie, who was denied giving a eulogy to her father at his funeral. We helped Rosie file an appeal in small claims court. With guidance from our legal team, she represented herself and spoke about the painful injustice done to her.
Not only did the judge rule completely in Rosie's favor, he also condemned this kind of segregation in no uncertain terms and awarded the maximum amount in monetary compensation (a little over $8,000). This ruling sends a message that is loud and clear: any rabbi who abuses his position to exclude women from the process of mourning a loved one has another judgment waiting for him in the Israeli courts.
Segregating families at a funeral defies imagination, but it is really a symptom of a much deeper problem. The ultra-Orthodox establishment in Israel looks for every occasion to silence a woman’s voice and push her out of view. This will go on for as long as the managing of religious affairs in Israel remains the sole domain of one group, the Orthodox. Until all Jews have a voice in the makeup of Israel’s Jewish character we will continue to see cases like this persist.
Fortunately, it looks like in some areas the tide is turning. Our research shows that segregation at funeral homes is diminishing and this success motivates us to take on other areas where segregation is still rampant.
Giving a voice to all is the main reason we are collecting names for our petition to end the Orthodox monopoly at the Western Wall. You have not signed it yet, and there is still time to help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures by the end of July. Once you have signed please forward it to as many of your friends as you can, post it on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media outlet that you use.
Thankfully, we were able to help Rosie in court, but it is not until all Jews have a seat at the table that terrible events like this will finally be a thing of the past.
Executive Director, IRAC
This petition demands that the Western Wall Heritage Council include members that represent all streams of Jewish practice as well as gaining gender balance. Please sign it and pass it along to as many people as you can. We are trying to reach 50,000 signatures by the end of July. Thank you.