Elyachin, Israel - Rabbi Agrees to Drop Ban on 'Hespedim' Delivered by Women At Funerals
Elyachin, Israel - A rabbi in northern Israel who came under attack for what some called blatant male chauvinism agreed this week to stop reproaching women for eulogizing their deceased loved ones.
Haim Adani, Rabbi of Elyachin, a town of about 3,000 residents located near Hadera, agreed to stop preaching against women who asked to eulogize their loved ones and to join in the funeral procession.
Adani changed his funeral policy after receiving a threatening letter from Attorney Aviad Hacohen, himself an Orthodox Jew. In the letter Hacohen, who represented Mordechai Avdiel, a member of Elyachin’s burial society, and others, warned Adani that he would take legal action unless the rabbi agreed to stop his gender-based discrimination.
In response to Hacohen’s letter, Adani wrote that he would stop reproaching women. “Just as it is a mitzva to warn people who are willing to listen, so too it is a mitzva not to warn people who refuse to listen,” he said. In a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Adani said that it caused a desecration of God’s name when women disregarded his calls not to eulogize or to join men in the funeral process.
“Over the years the residents of Elyachin have become less religious,” said Adani. “Women are less willing to listen to me. So I plan to stop warning them.” Adani said that he took special heed after Hacohen brought it to his attention that restricting women from eulogizing was illegal and constituted discrimination.
In his letter, a copy of which was sent to outgoing Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas), Hacohen said that Adani’s custom was extreme in its stringency.”
“Women are not being allowed to stand inside the room where the eulogizing takes place,” wrote Hacohen. “This leaves them exposed to the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer. This is a custom that is not accepted in most cemeteries run in accordance with Halacha. These stringencies are shared by a minority.”
Adani said that the prohibition against allowing women to eulogize was done out of respect for the men. Women were not allowed to accompany the coffin along with men out of a desire to maintain modesty and separation between men and women.
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