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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • 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.