Between tradition and innovation: alternative funeral rites in Israel

Ana Prashizky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This ethnographic chapter is about alternative (non-Orthodox) funeral rituals in Israel, from the post-secular and post-modern perspectives. I trace the major components of non-Orthodox funeral rites in Israel. I propose to view them as a novel type of post-secular, post-modern ritual, which combines components associated with the meta-categories of religion and secularism, rather than exchanging one set for another. The new alternative ritual in Israel entails hybridization of canonic religious prayers and appeals to God with components devoid of religious connotation and even conveying an unequivocally anti-religious message, such as a secular Kaddish, poems and songs of famous Israeli and world poets and singers. My second claim is that in the frame of alternative rituals, the canonic and static repertoire of the Jewish Orthodox funeral is replaced by the new, more flexible repertoire of literary creativity including pieces from modern Hebrew and world poetry. These transformations in funeral rituals reflect multiple changes occurring in Israeli society: the trends toward post-modernism, post-secularism, feminism and the changing status of women; and growing individualism reflecting the increased presence of Western individualist ideas in Israel. The mass immigration from the secular (former) Soviet Union, economic growth in the context of globalization, a neoliberal shift since the 2000s, an expansion of consumerism, and new demands for recognition by non-Orthodox groups, all enabled the emergence of dramatic changes in the area of alternative funerals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook on Jewish Ritual and Practice
Number of pages14
StatePublished - 2023

RAMBI Publications

  • RAMBI Publications
  • Jewish mourning customs
  • Death -- Religious aspects -- Judaism
  • Jewish funeral rites and ceremonies
  • Secular Jews -- Relations -- Orthodox Jews


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