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For the past twenty years, on the first day of each month in the Jewish calendar, a day which Jewish tradition teaches gives a special honor to women, the group “women of the wall” comes together for an early morning prayer service at the Western Wall.

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and a founding member of “women of the wall” stated, “We feel that there is a great deal of hypocrisy here: On the one hand, the Western Wall symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, and on the other hand women, who comprise half of this nation, are being silenced, along with the traditions of the largest Jewish movement in the world.”

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women of the wall Program (for adults)
women of the wall Program (for teens)
IRAC initiated a conference on July 13, 2010 to discuss the Western Wall. It was attended by 70 people, including MKs from different parties (Shlomo Molla of Kadima, Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz, Yohanan Plesner of Kadima, and Einat Wilf of Labor). Other participating organizations included: Yerushalmim, WoW, and the Masorti Movement. Also the photographer and one of the paratroopers from the iconic ‘67 photo were there who stated that the Western Wall has been reoccupied and that they no longer feel a connection to it. This conference inspired a new working coalition of Kolech, women of the wall, the Reform Movement and the Conservative Movement that meets regularly and is coordinating its efforts to combat the Haredi monopoly a the Western Wall and to push back against the spreading segregation.

VIDEO:Praying in Her Own Voice:women of the wall
- Directed by Yael Katzir and produced by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus. This powerful film documents the courageous struggle of the famed women of the wall movement. This group has spearheaded the battle for female equality in the religious world.
In honor of the new Jewish month of Kislev, I joined my mom at women of the wall this morning. women of the wall is an organization that has existed for more than twenty years and meets monthly on Rosh Hodesh, the start of each Jewish month. Traditionally, Rosh Hodesh has been a time for women to gather to celebrate their womanhood around the lunar cycle (Hello Red Tent). WOW was founded in reaction to the present reality of the Western Wall in Jerusalem — the women’s section is significantly smaller than the men’s and there is not a place for women to sing or read the Torah out loud, unlike the men’s side. At their monthly meetings, WOW members and various guests gather in the back of the women’s section and pray in a huddle. Women will put on their tallitot, their prayer shawls, and a few even dare to wear kippot. _
To read the rest on IRAC's blog, click her
I am shocked by the recent criminal arrest at the Kotel. Nofrat Frenkel, a 28 year-old Israeli medical student, a committed Conservative Jew, and a friend and fellow member of women of the wall, was arrested and interrogated last Wednesday morning for wearing tallit during our Rosh Chodesh service. Or, as her interrogator explained to her while she was detained at the Kishle police station, “I accuse you of acting provocatively and in a way which upset public order.”
I immediately recognized the arrest as history-making: on November 18th, 2009, a deeply religious young woman was arrested for wearing tallit, which she wears everyday, and for holding a new sefer Torah, recently given to women of the wall by Women of Reform Judaism. In my twenty-one years of praying at the wall every Rosh Chodesh, no woman has ever been arrested before on such grounds.
Nofrat, who has been forbidden to approach the Wall for the next fifteen days, has asked me whether it is safe for her to wear tallit again to our services. I told her, “wear it.” But hers is not an unfounded question, even were it not for her arrest. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, and current spiritual leader of the Shas political party, has said – and this is documented – that women of the wall members are stupid, that we should be slapped on both cheeks, and wrapped in our tallitot and buried.
At IRAC, we work everyday to change Israel’s current religious system, which is so backwards and out of date that it allows for a woman like Nofrat to be arrested and tried as a felon for openly expressing her Judaism. We fight for everyone’s religious freedom. We work as a countercurrent, moving against increasingly pervasive and accepted religious discrimination.
The arrest of Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a tallit at the kotel on Rosh Hodesh Kislev compels us to raise our voices and engage our communities in joint action. We invite you to join in a community-wide Day of Solidarity and Support for women of the wall (WOW), to take place all over North America on Rosh Hodesh Tevet, Thursday December 17th, the sixth day of Chanukah. With this national grassroots initiative, we will express our support for the rights of the women of the wall to assemble at the Kotel and to pray there with dignity, in safety and in shared community.
As with many other women’s grass roots efforts, each community, organization and institution shall develop its own program of prayer or study and shall reach out as widely as possible to its constituencies. For some groups, this day of solidarity and support will be in the manner of WOW, including tefillah and the reading of the Torah. For others, the program may be a lunch and learn text study session; or a women’s Chanukah observance. For yet others, it might be a gathering of three or more friends in a living room or office who will dedicate their joint prayer and/or study to the women of the wall. Some communities may want to add to their programs a screening of Yael Katzir’s film, Praying in Her Own Voice.
We ask that you convene a program that shows your support for this initiative. Please share your plans and document your activities by sending an email to jackie.ellenson@gmail.com. We also ask that you send a photo of your gathering to Judith Sherman Asher, judithrafaela@mac.com, who is a member of women of the wall in Israel. Please caption the photo with the names of the participants, the date, location of, and information about your program. Feel free to add a short message of support for women of the wall. This will greatly strengthen the morale of our sisters in Israel.
We hope you will join in a groundswell of support of American women for the women of the wall. We encourage you to send this letter to any other women’s groups who might want to participate. As Rosh Hodesh Tevet takes place during the week of Chanukah, the holiday of religious freedom, what better time to affirm the right of women to raise their voices in prayer at the Wall!
Video:women of the wall, December 18th, 2009
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In the twenty-one years that members of women of the wall have prayed together, we’ve celebrated joy and lamented defeat. It was only a matter of time before someone demanded we stop. After twenty-one years of preparing for this day, I was actually taken by surprise when I was summoned to the Jaffa Gate Police Station on January 5th, 2010. I was warned I was being investigated for committing a felony. And my crime? I performed a religious act that offended the feelings of others: praying out loud, reading the Torah, and wearing a talit at the Kotel.

On behalf of the Jewish people fighting for religious pluralism in Israel, I am outraged that one of our leaders, Anat Hoffman, was interrogated and fingerprinted by Jerusalem police on January 5th, 2010. Police told Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and leader of women of the wall, that she may be charged with a felony for violating the rules of conduct at what many consider to be Judaism’s most sacred site.
Hoffman’s interrogation came less than two months after the November 18th, 2009 arrest of the women of the wall member Nofrat Frankel for wearing a talit and holding a sefer Torah.
This past week I’ve been moved in so many ways – by the heroic efforts of the Israeli emergency responders and by international aid relief efforts in Haiti, and more personally, by the outpouring of support we’ve received from around the world for women of the wall and religious pluralism.
From one of my favorite passages in Isaiah: “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:1). The walls of the house can be built of anything, anywhere; it is the people who dwell there that count.
On behalf of the Jewish people fighting for religious pluralism in Israel, I am outraged that one of our leaders, Anat Hoffman, was interrogated and fingerprinted by Jerusalem police on January 5th, 2010. Police told Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and leader of women of the wall, that she may be charged with a felony for violating the rules of conduct at what many consider to be Judaism’s most sacred site.
Hoffman’s interrogation came less than two months after the November 18th, 2009 arrest of the women of the wall member Nofrat Frankel for wearing a talit and holding a sefer Torah.
We are shocked by the brutal and callous insults to which women of the wall have been subjected. Many of these curses cannot be repeated in polite company. Israeli police have seen fit to arrest women who go to the wall for peaceful prayer, and make no attempt to reprimand those who spit and curse at them, a stark reminder of the power enjoyed by the Israeli ultra-Orthodox, and their success in forcing their religious practices on an entire nation.
If this were to happen in any other country in the world, the Jewish community would be up in arms. Israel is the rare democracy today that tolerates and even endorses religious discrimination against Jews.
P.S. To set the record straight: I was questioned by the police about my activities with women of the wall and then fingerprinted – I was not and do not anticipate being arrested.
The writer served in the Jerusalem City Council for 14 years. She was a founding member of women of the wall and continues to be an advocate for freedom of religion and women’s rights. In 2002, she became the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the legal and advocacy arm of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.
To read the original article in The Jerusalem Post, click her
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of IRAC, stated that the assault on Noa Raz for wrapping tefillin “should not be seen as an isolated incident, but as taking place within an atmosphere of growing violence toward and intimidation of women who seek to pray freely and equally. Too often these acts of violence are tolerated. The fact that this man thought it acceptable to attack a woman for performing a religious act in private is an example of the escalation of violence targeted against women and against religious pluralists in Israel. We at IRAC are pushing the Israeli police to take this investigation seriously.” She added, “Noa, a member of women of the wall, is expected to join us tomorrow for Rosh Chodesh Sivan.”
women of the wall Program (for adults)
women of the wall Program (for teens)
Someone needs to design a folding table for the social activist. As social activists, we know that a heavy table is hard to set up or take away quickly, as demonstrations often require us to make haste. I must have bought the heaviest table for women of the wall, and I’ve got to extend my gratitude to those of you who helped me carry it this morning at our Rosh Chodesh prayer service.
There were well over a hundred people with us at the Wall this morning, several of which came from across the world simply to spend this Rosh Chodesh, the first of Kislev, with the other women at the Western Wall. While I left the Kotel thanking God it was not a very eventful day—there was no physical violence—my daughter quickly reminded me that for those who were with me for the first time, this was an unforgettable experience that deeply impressed upon them the need for greater pluralism in Israel.
Among today’s visitors were Drs. Ami Goodman and Abby Caplin, who came from San Francisco to pray with women of the wall for the one year anniversary of Nofrat Frenkel's arrest. Gathering together was surreal, dreamlike. Reading about it is one thing, but being there made me feel connected to this important cause for the right to be Jewish at the Kotel, Ami told me. He also said that he offered his medical expertise to a man who claimed to faint from the sight of us. For Ami and Abby, davening is about feeling connected, and today they felt that our solidarity brought true tefilah.
Praying in such an environment is almost unheard of anywhere else in the world, with people shouting profanities and insults and police everywhere. In all of this chaos, my daughter managed to get a perfect photograph. The picture was of an Orthodox woman who was looking at us with such curiosity. She appeared to be asking herself the most subversive question of all—why not?
When people visit the Wall (called the Kotel in Hebrew), they expect to have a profound spiritual experience and connection to Israel. This place holds an enormous amount of significance for the Jewish people, which is why I too, along with the women of the wall seek to pray there every month.
As readers of our newsletters, you know that the Kotel has recently become more and more strictly Haredi in its requirements of all visitors. They are even approving a new renovation plan for the Kotel Plaza in which they can finally set in stone that women are spectators and men are worshippers. The proposed plan will deny entirely alternative prayer such as mixed groups and Bat Mitzvah services and even national ceremonies. In the face of these proposed construction plans, IRAC is working to ensure that progressive Jewish voices are heard at the Kotel as well. The Wall cannot be an Ultra-Orthodox synagogue since most Jews in the world are not Ultra-Orthodox.
     The Tallis Girls
The Tallis Girls are four girls from Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York. We want to support the women of the wall and promote well being of and rights for women at the wall and Israel, and we want to support the Israel Religious Action Center in getting rights for Reform and Conservative Rabbis in Israel. We also want to show the Israeli goverment the American Jewish population can come together and take action.
We will do this by contacting Reform and Conservative temples throughout the United States, asking for the pictures of their Middle School Bat Mitzvah students wearing tallitot, as well as letters from their Bar and Bat Mitzvah students asking recognition for their Rabbis in Israel. We hope to gather all of this from students whose Bat/Bar Mitzvah would be in 5770, 5771 or 5772.
But I don’t expect we will all sit around having staring contests on Purim. My favorite part about Purim in Jerusalem is that we have it a day later than most parts of the world. Shushan Purim, it’s called. So on Monday morning, you can find me at the Kotel, dressed in costume and reading Megilah with women of the wall. If you can’t join us, we hope that you all have a ball. What are you dressing up as?
Purim Sameach from all of us at IRAC!
The writer is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement and president of women of the wall.
To read this article in the Jerusalem Post, click here.
In honor of the new Jewish month of Kislev, I joined my mom at women of the wall this morning. women of the wall is an organization that has existed for more than twenty years and meets monthly on Rosh Hodesh, the start of each Jewish month
Video:women of the wall, December 18th, 2009
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