Susan Silverman is the woman who managed to get the world’s tabloids interested in the feminist struggle at the Western Wall.
Never in Women of the Wall’s 25-year struggle for women’s prayer rights at the Kotel has it enjoyed such a high profile as it did on the February morning when police detained Silverman, 50, for public worship while wearing a tallit. Not only is Silverman a Reform rabbi, but she’s also the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman.
With a tweet from the comedian hailing the “civil disobedience” of her “amazing” sister and teenage niece, Hallel, who was also held by police, news of the detention went viral. The world’s media was hooked on the internal Jewish battle over the Western Wall and so was Silverman, who has since become a regular worshipper at the Wall and an influential figure as part of WOW.
Some WOW members believe that the incident also set the stage for a court ruling two months later that put an end to the arrests by declaring women’s public prayer at the Wall legal.
Before moving to Israel in 2006, Silverman helped to shape the way that thousands of Jewish families mark holidays with her 1997 book, co-authored with husband Yosef Abramowitz, “Jewish Family and Life: Traditions, Holidays, and Values for Today’s Parents and Children.”
Silverman, who grew up secular but worked as a congregational rabbi in Maryland and as a Jewish educator in Boston, is now trying to reshape the Jewish world a third time. She has just finished writing a book on adoption — two of her five children are adopted — and hopes to launch a campaign for altruistic adoption in Israel.