Conservatives Protest Israel's Treatment of Women of the Wall

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Published January 11, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Israeli police’s recent interrogation of Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman and member Nofrat Frenkel “opens a new and ominous chapter in intra-Jewish relations,” The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism declared in a sharply worded statement released January 11.

USCJ, which represents 670 synagogues in North America, is urging its members to write letters of protest to Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.

Hoffman, who directs the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, also urged Diaspora Jews “of all denominations” to send letters “in support of pluralism” to their Israeli ambassador.

Frenkel was detained by police and threatened with arrest for wearing a tallit at the Kotel, Judaism’s holiest site, in November. Hoffman, who chairs Women of the Wall was detained and fingerprinted by police on January 5, and warned that she was “being investigated for a felony” offense, also for wearing a tallit and reading the Torah at the Kotel.

Women of the Wall is a women’s prayer group which has met for some 21 years to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, or Kotel, as it is known in Hebrew, which marks the place where the Second Temple stood until its destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E. The Orthodox rabbinic authorities that control the site have divided it into sex-segregated sections, as per Orthodox worship custom, and prohibit women from praying there in a formal group or in other ways that differ from common Orthodox practice.

Women of the Wall, which prays there at the start of every new Jewish month, challenges these strictures.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, USCJ’s executive vice president, told The Forward, “The harassment of those who are progressive such as we saw with Nofrat Frenkel and now with Anat Hoffman is unconscionable.”

These moves by the Jerusalem police drive “a wedge between our communities at a time when working for unity within Israel and enhancing the connection between Diaspora Jewish communities and Israel should be a primary concern,” says United Synagogue’s statement.

Wernick said that he hopes other branches of the Conservative movement will have signed on to the statement within the next day or so, and once it is finalized, he said, he will send it to Oren and “request a meeting and a conversation.”

Calls to Oren were not immediately returned.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.