Women’s Rabbinic Network Responds to Anat’s Arrest

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson
Women’s Rabbinic Network

The Women’s Rabbinic Network deplores the recent actions of the Israeli police,
Israeli government, and the religious and administrative powers of the Western
Wall, in the detainment, arrest, and imprisonment of Anat Hoffman, on Rosh Hodesh
Heshvan, this past week, for wearing a tallit and praying the “Shema. “ She was
accompanied by hundreds of women participating in the 100th anniversary of
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Women of the Wall’s
efforts over the past 25 years, to create a gathering place for prayer for women of
all denominations and beliefs, is a singular one in the Jewish world. The arrest,
imprisonment, and cruel treatment of Anat Hoffman, a founder and organizer of
Women of the Wall, and director of the Israel Religious Action Center, is an affront
to Jews everywhere. It is a condemnation of the values of religious freedom and
tolerance. The Western Wall is not, as some believe, an ultra-Orthodox synagogue.
It is a symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty, a Jewish home that must be
open to all people, a religious site that must protect the religious rights of anyone
who wants to pray there. For the past 3 years, since the arrest of Nofrat Frenkel on
Rosh Hodesh Kislev 5770, November 18th , 2009, police and governmental response
to the presence of Women of the Wall’s prayer service has increased. Police now
routinely remove women from the prayer service, bring them to the local police
station, detain them, fingerprint them. Women must not be treated as second class
citizens. Any efforts to silence women at the Wall, to discourage our attendance on
Rosh Hodesh, will be met with continuous resistance and renewed commitment to
participation in prayer services at the Wall, out loud and with great strength.

We cannot submit to the efforts of the authorities of the Western Wall to silence the
voices of women. On this occasion of Hadassah’s centenary celebration, in which
the efforts of women to build the Jewish state are highlighted, it is a crime to see a
woman arrested for a behavior which so many women take for granted. The Reform
movement and the Women’s Rabbinic Network support the efforts of Women of
the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center to challenge the status quo at the
Western Wall. As it is states in Isaiah 62:1, “

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till
her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.

We recommit to our efforts to make Israel, Jerusalem, and the Western Wall a place
of safety and security. We will continue to fight to have an Israel that is truly an
embodiment of our hope for a Jewish homeland that stands for freedom, justice, and
peace, a true democracy that values the participation and religious commitment of
all Jews.

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