Gender separation illegal at Jewish cemeteries, Israel’s Supreme court rules

Cnaan Liphshiz

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against requiring gender segregation at Jewish cemeteries in Israel.

The ruling Thursday Jerusalem overturned two lower court rulings dismissing a lawsuit filed in 2011 against the municipal chevra kadisha burial society of the City of Netanya, the news site reported.

The lawsuit was filed by Susanne Ayad, who that year was instructed by chevra kadisha personnel to stand with other women, separate from men attending a funeral. The geoups were separated by a row of flowerpots and a chevra kadisha rabbi asked mourners to keep to their gender group.

“Despite objections by many of the funeral’s participants to this discriminatory demand, which is opposed to our worldview, we refrained from protesting out of sensitivity to the situation, and so we were forced to follow the rabbi’s instruction,” she wrote in her lawsuit. “Throughout the funeral, I felt humiliated, angry and insulted for being forced to comply in a public space to an order to stand at a designated place just because I am a woman.”


The Netanya Magistrate’s Court dismissed her lawsuit in 2013, with judge Smadar Abramovitch-Kollende ruling that the rabbi’s instructions were not discriminatory.

Israel’s Ministry of Religious Services that year issued a circular instructing rabbis not to impose gender segregation at cemeteries unless specifically requested to do so by the immediate family of the deceased. The family at the funeral Ayad attended made no such request. Ayad is a friend of the family.

Ayad appealed to the Supreme Court with the assistance of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, a group representing the interests of Conservative and Reform communities.

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