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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Anat Hoffman’

Hundreds of WOW Pray Peacefully

Monday, November 4th, 2013

In a display of the changes the group has experienced this year, Women of the Wall held a peaceful prayer service under police protection at the Western Wall to mark the group’s 25th anniversary.

Absent from Monday’s service, which the group said drew at least 800 worshipers, were large crowds of Orthodox girls who had packed the women’s section in previous months.

For the first time in recent memory, Women of the Wall occupied the majority of the section, with a crowd of male supporters stretching back into the plaza.

The group has met for a women’s prayer service at the wall at the beginning of each Jewish month for the past quarter-century, but has seen rapid change in its status during the past six months.

Until April, women in the group who donned prayer shawls or sang too loudly often would be detained by police. But that month, a Jerusalem district court judge ruled that the group’s practices did not violate any of the wall’s regulations, and since then the police are protecting the women rather than arresting them.

“We’ve come a long way, baby,” Women of the Wall Chairwoman Anat Hoffman told JTA during the service. “It shouldn’t have taken 25 years. It should have taken two weeks. But we’re now where we should be.”

Several dozen Haredi men came to protest on Monday, but aside from a few token disturbances, the service continued uninterrupted.

The past half-year has also seen a compromise solution from Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky. An outline Sharansky released in April called for a significant expansion of an area to the south of the plaza called Robinson’s Arch that is now used for non-Orthodox prayer.

After backing away from the plan, Women of the Wall endorsed it last month, agreeing to move to the new section should a list of conditions be met.

Brandishing the Western Wall regulation that forbids the group from bringing a Torah scroll to its services, Hoffman told JTA that Women of the Wall has yet to reach all its goals. She said, though, that given the relative calm at the Wall, the group will now be turning its attention to negotiations with the government about the Robinson’s Arch plan.

“We’re not scared of jail and arrests — we’re scared of negotiations,” Hoffman joked. “Can we get the maximum? We won’t be suckers.”

Women of the Wall ‘Corralled’ by Police, Drowned Out by Megaphones

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate as they completed their service under a heavy police barricade.

Police wouldn’t let them bring a Torah scroll into the service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang as one woman held a scroll at the plaza’s gate.

One small step for woman holding scroll. No discernable big step for anybody.

Police acted on the side of caution, because, as they had done a month ago, thousands of seminary girls packed the plaza by the Wall and prayed quietly during Wednesday morning’s service.

None of the young women blew a shofar or pass the Torah around, but they did say Hallel, and Mussaf, quietly.

So police decided to barricade the 300 or so Women of the Wall and their male supporters at the back of the plaza, far away from the Wall, behind a heavy police barricade, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police, according to the JTA report.

A WOW statement complained that they were “corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.”

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Meanwhile, over at the men’s section, Haredim blew whistles and chanted insults. One Haredi guy chanted psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the WOW service.

The WOW statement accused Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall and holy places, of leading prayers and addressing worshipers over this loudspeaker while the WOW attempted to pray together.

“The sound system is for public use,” they wrote, “and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Chodesh, until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.”

In other words, a kind of Mutually Assured Disturbance was observed by both sides.

Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman said, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”

Except, whenever this reporter asks the WOW to comment on the similarities between their case and the exile of Jews from setting foot freely, much less praying, on the Temple Mount, they clam up and declare those are totally different things. Freedom is freedom is freedom, unless you are a religious hypocrite, with whom this country has been richly blessed.

JTA noted that over the two Rosh Chodesh days, last month and today, a new status quo has developed at the Wall during the Women of the Wall attempted service: Orthodox girls arrive en masse and pray quietly next to the Wall, Police place Women of the Wall under a heavy barricade, and protesters try to interrupt them.

Two months ago, the protesters were “raucous and violent,” meaning they threw chairs at the WOW, this time things were relatively civil. And by the time WOW leader Hoffman blew the shofar, most of the protesters had already dispersed.

“More than ten women blew shofar together at the Kotel, as is traditional in the Jewish month of Elul preceding the high holy days,” reads the WOW statement. “The sounding of the ram’s horn symbolizes Women of the Wall’s perseverance and determination to see justice for women at the Western Wall, in Israel and around the World.”

Not so much justice as a little bit of civility. You don’t want to be drowned out by megaphones, please don’t do stuff that upsets folks who have been davening here since 1967. It appears the WOW are learning a hard lesson of what happens when you really awaken a Haredi lion from his/her slumber. It’s been known to bite.

Let’s hope nobody forgot to say Ya’aleh V’yavo – which you can always say later, during benching.

Sharansky to Suggest Women’s Kotel Prayers Away from Main Plaza

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is preparing to suggest that women pray whenever they want, complete with prayer shawls and a Torah scroll, at the southern edge of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The proposal was reported by the Forward, and afterwards the Jewish Agency released a fudgy statement that “Sharansky will present his recommendations to Prime Minister Netanyahu upon the chairman’s return to Israel from his visit to college campuses in the United States.”

“One Western Wall for one Jewish people,” Sharansky said, adding that he hopes his recommendations will allow “the Kotel will once again be a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.”

“Strife” is a police war. “Hatred,” ”jealousy” and “stiff-necked” are closer to the truth.

The Women of the Wall argue that the Haredi rabbis in charge of the Western Wall are insensitive to their needs and treat them as second-class citizens.

Although many if not most Orthodox rabbis in the United States have no problem with a women’s prayer minyan, the Chief Rabbinate as well as  and many non-Haredi Orthodox rabbis in Israeli have a problem with it, based on their application of Jewish law.

They charge that a women’s prayer minyan, complete with their own Torah reading, would offend their religious sensitivities.

An unstated but obviously huge difference is that there is no place for prayer in the Diaspora that has the holiness like the Western Wall, and there is no public area for prayer that is attended by both women and men.

The conflict will probably hit the headlines again Wednesday and Thursday, the two days that are the beginning of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The High Court has allowed the Women of the Wall to hold their own minyan at Robinson’s Arch, but the women demand they be allowed to pray at the more widely attended portion of the Western Wall.

Every Rosh Chodesh, they try to break the ban at the Western Wall and frequently are arrested. Pictures in  American media of a policeman struggling with a woman holding a Torah scroll have helped rip to the seams the fragile relationship between the Diaspora and Israel.

Sharansky has come up with a compromise that would give the women half of what they want and would spare the Western Wall rabbi and Haredi worshippers from having to pray at the Kotel while knowing a women’s minyan is taking place next to them, despite a partition, and being exposed to hearing women’s singing, which they consider a violation of Jewish law.

Anat Hoffman, leader of the WOW movement, previously has rejected what she calls a “separate but equal” solution.

Her position has been that having the right to pray in a separate minyan is only part of an overall goal, in her words, “to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation,” the Haredi Orthodox entity that oversees the Western Wall.”

After Sharansky’s proposal went public, she backed off and said she welcomes the compromise.

The idea is “very ambitious,” Hoffman said. ”You don’t always have to be right; you have to be smart — and compromise is a sign of maturity and understanding what’s at stake here.”

Neither side can get it wants without grossly offending the other, but the Haredi community cannot be expected to accept her agreement without suspicion.  If WOW want to pray as they wish, there is nothing to stop them from claiming they have the right to pray together with their husbands or male friends in a mixed minyan, which is totally prohibited in all Orthodox circles and would offend Orthodox worshippers.

But Hoffman appears to be smart enough to accept the Sharansky solution, putting the Western Wall rabbi in a position that he might as well agree gracefully rather than pitting himself against the entire political establishment outside of Haredi circles.

If he does agree, there is a good chance that the power of prayer can exceed political power.

Kotel Rabbi Promises Women Won’t Be Arrested for Saying ’Kaddish’

Friday, April 5th, 2013

The rabbi of the Western Wall has promised Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky that women will not arrested if they dare to say the mourners’ ”kaddish” prayer at the Western Wall.

The “Great Enlightenment” of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is the latest chapter in the saga of the Women of the Wall (WOW), whose movement – however suspect its motives might be – has exposed a total disconnect between Haredi rabbis’ outlook and the Jewish world at-large.

The flak over the recital of the recital of the Kaddish prayer also has showed that Jerusalem police act on the orders of Rabbi Rabinowitz.

WOW plans to pray on next week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) and on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall.

But reciting the Kaddish? That appears to be too much for the Western Wall rabbi.

Even though there is a  partition to separate men and women according to the ancient custom practiced today even by non-Haredi orthodox communities, perhaps the rabbi is  relying on the strictest of the strict prohibition of a man, God forbid, hearing a woman’s voice and therefore losing his concentration on his prayers.

Or perhaps he considers the Kaddish prayer reserved for men.

Whatever his reasoning, Jerusalem police commission Yossi Pariente wrote Anat Hoffman, chairman of WOW, “We would like to inform you that, starting on this coming Rosh Chodesh, the Israel Police will fulfill its duty to enforce the law.”

The police previously have arrested women trying to pray in a minyan of 10 people on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month. The women’s group has drawn worldwide publicity by wearing prayer shawls and trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall, in violation of a High Court order.

There is a solid foundation of rabbinic laws against the women’s monthly attraction, which understandably is seen as a provocation by Israeli Jews, even those who are not Haredi or even not orthodox.

But the altercations of the police and the scenes of a Jew being arrested for holding a Torah scroll have played into the hands of the WOW movement and have indeed been a provocation – provoking more hatred of rabbinic authority.

The motives of the Women of the Wall are more than just reciting prayers or reading from a Torah scroll. They openly campaign against what they call a “monopoly” of Orthodox Judaism, which has been around for many centuries, leaving open the question of how tolerant women and Reform Jewish leaders would be of Haredi demands if they were to be in authority.

Instead of dealing with the challenge in a 21st fashion – perhaps sitting down with the women  and learning with them the Talmudic  views that actually promote many aspects of modern feminism – the Haredi community has chosen measures that conjure up horrid visions of centuries of non-Jewish rules’ disgust of Jews and Judaism.

“Prohibiting women from saying Kaddish is a shanda (Yiddish for shameful) and brought on solely by the hegemony and short-sightedness of Rabbi Rabinowitz,” said Hoffman in response to the letter Jerusalem Police Chief Pariente. “He has, without a doubt, crossed a clear red line, as women’s right to say Kaddish is respected and accepted by the entire Jewish world, including Orthodox factions…

“To refuse mothers and mourning women the right and obligation of saying the mourner’s prayer, Kaddish, is cold-hearted. Women of the Wall will be at the Kotel and will say Kaddish, with the utmost religious intention and emotional commitment that is deserved and require of us.”

The issue has become so emotional that there is almost no room for any logical or knowledgeable input. American Jewish journalists and non-Orthodox Jewish leaders, often without any understanding of Jewish law, have jumped on the harassment of women to show Judaism as Medieval and allegedly anti-feminist.

One of the most recent examples is Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog on the Daily Beast.

He posted an article by Emily Hauser, who has made herself one of thousands of modern “commentators” on the Torah. She titled one recent article, “Moses was a jerk, & Passover wouldn’t have happened without five women.”

Hauser exploited Pariente’s letter to promote populism whereby everyone is a religious authority. The “Israel’s government is telling the world’s Jews that they know what Judaism is, and we don’t,” she wrote.

Female MKs Prayed with Women of the Wall, No Arrests this Time

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

MKs Stav Shafir (Labor), Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) and Michal Rozin (Meretz) participated Tuesday morning in the Rosh Chodesh prayer of Women of the Wall. All three, like the rest of the 300 women present, donned prayer shawls, in violation of a 2003 Supreme Court’s ruling.

This time, however, due to the presence of three legislators, police refrained from arresting anyone. The group noted that this was the first time in 22 months in which none of them ended up in jail.

The Kotel Police did try at first to prevent MK Shafir from entering the plaza, but she insisted on her right to participate in prayer and on wearing a prayer shawl.

This incident was very similar to the attempt, one week ago, of MK Moshe Feiglin to enter the Dome of the Rock, armed with his own MK papers.

Perhaps it is high time that the two groups, the Temple Mount Loyalists and the Women of the Wall combine their efforts…

After the prayer service, MK Shafir said: “They tried to prevent us from entering the Western Wall plaza, claiming we are disturbing the public order, but there is nothing that 100 women armed with tallitot can’t do. Surrounded by male and female police, against the shouting and shofar blowing of Haredi men across the fence – we stood in front of the Kotel and said our prayer.”

If a future prime minister would be looking for a new Minister of Religious Services, perhaps MK Shafir, leader of the social protests of the summer of 2011, would find her true calling there.

“I normally do not wear a tallit, but I feel a duty and a great privilege to stand here and make sure that every Jew in the world can pray as they wish,” MK Shafir stated. “I cannot be that one faction of Judaism take possession of a place which is sacred to all the Jew of the world. While there are genuine disagreements between the different streams of Judaism over the correct way to worship God, we must remember that there’s more uniting than dividing us, and the least we can do is let everyone, male and female, pray to God as they best understand.”

Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman said, with more than a little melodramatic flair: “Today we took one more step in our struggle to liberate the Kotel. Thanks to the members of Knesset, we prayed today with tallit and tefillin, an act which for the last 22 months has carried with it the threat of arrest. We must keep up the pressure to end the oppression of women at the Kotel, to see a day soon when we read Torah in peace at the Kotel.”

Shira Pruce, the organization’s director of public relations, was a bit more prosaic in describing the day’s event, although she, too, sounded elated. Speaking to the Jewish Press, Pruce insisted that the Women of the Wall’s end goal is not to create a new Jewish movement, or promote any particular stream of Judaism.

“There were a lot more Israeli Orthodox women than usual,” she said, referring to the attendance at the Rosh Chodesh ceremony. “Maybe up to 30 percent. I was really surprised. I think in the last few months we’ve started attracting Modern Orthodox women.”

The majority of women, though, were Conservative and Reform.

There were more than the usual number of Haredi women on hand this time, whom, Spruce thought, were there in response to the group’s presence.

“They were screaming and yelling and insulting,” she described, suggesting “there was no doubt” that they came just to disturb the group’s prayer.

On Monday, Women of the Wall announced its concern after Haredi Jerusalem had been plastered with “pashkevilim” calling on Haredim to come in droves to protest the Kotel prayers. But, according to Pruce, “the pashkevilim did not have the desired effect. Maybe we don’t bother the average Haredi person as much as one might think or the government might fear.”

And that’s an expression of hope if I ever heard one.

Police Arrest 10 Women of the Wall as Liberating Paratroopers Watch

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Police said they arrested for “endangering public peace” 10 women who took part in a Rosh Chodesh (first day of the new month) prayer service at the Western Wall.

The women were taken in for questioning. They are members of the Women of the Kotel organization who demand to be allowed to conduct prayer services at the Kotel.

This time, the 300 or so women were accompanied by just under 10 of the very IDF paratroopers who liberated the Kotel in 1967, and who told the press they had sacrificed to make the holy site available to all Jews, not just to a certain segment of the nation.

Police behavior was a bit more restrained this time around, as they waited patiently until the women were done praying before taking them in. But Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations for WOW, told The Jewish Press that police behavior was “sneaky,” or at least confusing, seeing as they arrested the women after they had already cleared the area.

Unlike the cops, Orthodox Jewish men did not respond at all to the praying women. In the past the women’s service tended to provoke the more Haredi congregants in the men’s section. This despite the fact that several women were wrapped in prayer shawls.

“Remarkably, today’s t’filah was beautiful and peaceful,” said Pruce. “Maybe a few Haredi women walked by and called us names. But the police told them to keep walking. With that tiny exception, it was so peaceful, it didn’t bother anyone. No one was upset.”

Pruce told The Jewish Press she and her fellow congregants made no attempt to tone down their prayers. “We sang, we danced—when we women get together for prayer, we ‘milk’ it, we enjoy it.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/police-arrest-10-women-of-the-wall-as-liberating-paratroopers-watch/2013/02/11/

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