In ancient times, Jews living in Israel ululated if I am not mistaken. Is this practiced by Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews today? Which other Jewish communities ululate? Ethiopians, Mizrahis, etc?

Are there any notable rulings or commentaries regarding ululation? Would it be considered immodest of a woman if she ululated in a public gathering such as a wedding or funeral? Is it prohibited for a man to do this?

  • 2
    Anecdotally, I can tell you that it is done among Sephardim. But what is the basis for your statement about ancient times?
    – Seth J
    Nov 18 '12 at 0:51
  • 1
    Re "In ancient times, Jews living in Israel ululated if I am not mistaken.": Where do you get that from? The WP article you linked to doesn't say so.
    – msh210
    Nov 18 '12 at 1:08
  • @msh210 That's my link. judaism.stackexchange.com/revisions/22323/3
    – Double AA
    Nov 18 '12 at 1:09
  • See also the Tif'eres Yisra'el at the end of Mo'ed Katan
    – b a
    Nov 18 '12 at 2:10
  • I read somewhere that Israelites would have as it is a common custom in the Middle East. I'll look for the link.
    – Malka S
    Nov 18 '12 at 7:43

A partial answer to the first part only.

It seems that ululation is practised by Sephardic women.

In this article, it is connected to the Torah reading:

“Sephardic women, primarily those from Syria, Iran, and Iraq, make an ululating sound after the Torah honoree (especially a bar mitzvah or bridegroom) has concluded the final blessing or has left the bimah to take his seat. This practice is thought to avert the evil designs of malevolent spirits determined to cast a pall on all joyous events, similar to the original rationale for breaking a glass at the end of the wedding ceremony.”

In this Chabad article it is related to the Circumcision ceremony.

"In many Sephardic communities, the infant is accompanied by musical instruments when brought to the synagogue where his circumcision will take place. The women ululate in high staccato sounds that sound like "Lelelelelelelele," a chant of joy in many Middle Eastern countries. 9"

Wikipedia remarks that:

"Sephardic music adapted to each of these locales, assimilating North African high-pitched, extended ululations; Balkan rhythms, for instance in 9/8 time; and the Turkish maqam mode."


Mizrahis ululate even in present day. My fam Iraqi Jew and we stay ululating for any joyous occasion or just when we get together and get rowdy

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya elsye! Thankyou for sharing your knowledge with us. Consider taking the following short tour to learn more about the site. Hope to see you around. Perhaps you could enrich your answer by editing in some information about your country of origin (so we know where ululation is practiced).
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 2 '15 at 4:33

According to my uncle (who is a good surce as my entire mother's family still speaks Aramaic (lishan didan dialect) and have retained many lost meanings), it comes from the word kililah (I dont know the hebrew and forgot the meaning, so if someone knows please let me know). I do know that the word means something about hapiness. The ululation actually goes kililililil...


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