By Lorraine Skupsky, arrested at the Kotel on August 19, 2012 with Women of the Wall
Lorraine Skupsky is a mother of thankfully very independent and socially active 22 year old triplets: 2 gals and a guy with a hubby who supports her social activism. Lorraine has been politically and socially active most of her life having descended from politically and socially active mother and grandmother. Lorraine enjoys going to a morning Conservative minyan every day for about fourteen years.
It had been over two years since I prayed with the Women of the Wall. The last time, my husband was able to join me. I joined the group at about seven, we began the Shacharit (morning) prayers and within about fifteen minutes Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chairwoman, told me that I would be taken away by police if I did not choose to change the way I was wearing my tallit, by putting it onto my shoulders, or wearing it on my head. I have been wearing my tallit for over fourteen years. It was not a shawl, nor was it a head-covering. It is an important symbol of my faith.
I was taken away to the station by a male police officer who was on the women’s side of the machitza (partition separating men and women) along with a female army person. After some time, I was given a form to sign. I asked and was told I would not be given a copy of the form. I did not sign the form, but wrote on the form instead that I had had been denied receipt of a copy of the form I was asked to sign and that police had taken my teudat zahot (Israeli identification card) and had not given it back to me.
I was further humiliated by having my photograph taken, mugstyle, my height and weight taken, fingerprinted and palm printed.
Before being taken to be interrogated, thankfully an English speaking translator along with a Israeli lawyer showed up at the police station, having been provided by WOW. I was then taken into a room with the door closed and was not allowed to have legal council present during my questioning. I was asked if I knew that I was wearing a tallit. I told the officer that I had been wearing my tallit for over fouteen years. He asked me if I was aware that I was wearing it the way a man wears a tallit. I told him that men wear tallitot many different ways and that my rabbi had taught me how to put on my tallit. He tried to correct me by telling me that I meant a rabbinit. I corrected him and told him that it was my rabbi. He asked me if I was aware that I was not allowed to wear a tallit at the Kotel. I told him that there was no sign posted in either Hebrew nor in English denying a woman the right to wear a tallit at the Kotel.
All four of us were than taken to the courthouse. Thankfully, there was a contingent of women from the group waiting for us there, with food and moral support! Anat was able to go into the courtroom with me as my translator of the court proceedings. I am only able to understand at this time about a third of Hebrew spoken, being an Olah Chadosha (new immigrant to Israel).
I had to sign a form agreeing not to go to the Western Wall for fifty days.
I have always encouraged my children to stand up for their belief systems, if they did not hurt others or themselves. There had been no choice for me, but to do what I did on that day. Will it have changed anyones mindset? I don’t think that anyone who does not believe in women’s right to pray anywhere, or anyhow they choose, will have had their minds influenced by what I did on that day. I can say that I am grateful that I was able to show concretely that this is an important issue worth standing up for and fighting for.
I am grateful that all of my children and my husband and 99% of the people who either heard, read or saw the video on Youtube were positive and supportive of my action on that Rosh Chodesh. Especially since this weeks’ torah parsha is Shoftim (Judges), my childrens’ Bnot Mitzvah parsha.
2 thoughts on “From My Perspective/Lorraine Skupsky”
You have my wholehearted support. I wear a tallit and kippah, too.
Your experience raises several questions:
* Why were male police officers on the women’s side of the mechitza?
* Why do police patrol the women and not the men on the other side of the mechita who are perpetrating violence?
* Who called the police to report you? The Haredi?
* How do the Haredi know you were wearing a tallit? Did they climb up to look over the mechitza?
* If it is permitted for them to look over the mechitza into the women’s section, then what purpose does the mechitza serve?
* Can it be arranged to have a section in which families can pray together?
You are a very courageous lady. You have represented all of us tallit wearers. Thank you with all of my heart.
Have there been any further actions taken?