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!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • 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.