Reform Leaders Demand Wailing Wall Arrest Probe

Anat Cohen Arrested for Saying Shma Prayer at Holy Site


By JTA

Published October 18, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Reform Jewish leaders are calling for an investigation following reports that an Israeli colleague was roughed up by police after leading a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall.

Reform leaders in the United States said Thursday that they have spoken with Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, about the incident involving Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and chair of the Women of the Wall.

Hoffman on Tuesday night was leading a service with more than 200 women marking the start of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan and celebrating the 100th anniversary of Hadassah, which is holding its convention in Jerusalem.

She told reporters that as she began singing the Shema prayer, police told her that if she did not stop she would be arrested. When she failed to halt, Hoffman said she was handcuffed and taken into custody for wearing a tallit and disturbing public order.

At the police station, she told the Forward, “They checked me naked, completely without my underwear. They dragged me on the floor 15 meters; my arms are bruised.” Hoffman added that she was put in a cell without a bed with three prisoners, including a prostitute and a car thief. She lay down and covered herself with her tallit.

Following a court appearance early Wednesday afternoon, Hoffman was released from custody and issued a restraining order from going to the Wall for 30 days.

Israeli police have not commented on the reports.

Calling Hoffman “a courageous champion of social justice,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Hoffman’s treatment “is deplorable and degrading.” He called on Israel’s police minister to investigate the matter and “ensure that the right of women to pray at the Wall is protected.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, added that “There is no denominational monopoly on the spirituality” of the Western Wall and “it is intolerable that any woman should be arrested for praying at one of Judaism’s most cherished sites.”

Barbara Kavadias, acting executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America said, “Anat Hoffman has been arrested for doing what Jewish women all over the world do on a regular basis: pray as Jews.”

In 2003, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit or reading from a Torah scroll at the Wall. Women of the Wall has held a special prayer service at the Wall’s section for women almost each month for the last 20 years on Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Hebrew month.

In August, Jerusalem police arrested four women at the Wall for “behavior that endangers the public peace” and wearing prayer shawls. They were forbidden to enter the Western Wall Plaza for the next 50 days, according to the organization. In June, Israeli police detained a woman wearing a tallit at the Wall and later questioned her for four hours after asking her to wear her prayer shawl as a scarf.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • 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.