A Statement from our Women’s Rabbinic Network Director on the arrest of Anat Hoffman at the Western Wall

The Women’s Rabbinic Network deplores the recent actions of the Israeli police, Israeli government, and the religious and administrative powers of the Western Wall, in the detainment, arrest, and imprisonment of Anat Hoffman, on Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, this past week, for wearing a tallit and praying the “Shema.”  She was accompanied by hundreds of women participating in the 100th anniversary of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America.

Women of the Wall’s efforts over the past 25 years, to create a gathering place for prayer for women of all denominations and beliefs, is a singular one in the Jewish world.  The arrest, imprisonment, and cruel treatment of Anat Hoffman, a founder and organizer of Women of the Wall, and director of the Israel Religious Action Center, is an affront to Jews everywhere. It is a condemnation of the values of religious freedom and tolerance. The Western Wall is not, as some believe, an ultra-Orthodox synagogue. It is a symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty, a Jewish home that must be open to all people, a religious site that must protect the religious rights of anyone who wants to pray there.

For the past 3 years, since the arrest of Nofrat Frenkel on Rosh Hodesh Kislev 5770, November 18th, 2009, police and governmental response to the presence of Women of the Wall’s prayer service has increased. Police now routinely remove women from the prayer service, bring them to the local police station, detain them, fingerprint them.  These actions are deplorable anywhere, especially in the State of Israel. Women must not be treated as second class citizens.  Any efforts to silence women at the Wall, to discourage our attendance on Rosh Hodesh, will be met with continuous resistance and renewed commitment to participation in prayer services at the Wall, out loud and with great strength.

We will never submit to the efforts of the authorities of the Western Wall to silence the voices of women.  On this occasion of Hadassah’s centenary celebration, in which the efforts of women to build the Jewish state are highlighted, it is a crime to see a woman arrested for a behavior which so many women take for granted everywhere except in the Jewish homeland.  The Reform movement and the Women’s Rabbinic Network support the efforts of Women of the Wall and the Israel Religious Action Center to challenge the status quo at the Western Wall.  The most meaningful response to this offense is to renew our commitment to women’s services at the Western Wall. As it is states in Isaiah 62:1:

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.

We recommit to our efforts to make Israel, Jerusalem, and the Western Wall a place of safety and security.  We will continue to fight to have an Israel that is truly an embodiment of our hope for a Jewish homeland that stands for freedom, justice, and peace, a true democracy that values the participation and religious commitment of all Jews.

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, Director, Women’s Rabbinic Network




3 thoughts on “A Statement from our Women’s Rabbinic Network Director on the arrest of Anat Hoffman at the Western Wall

  1. ב׳ה

    As a traditional Jew in practice and a liberal Jew in thought, I understand that their are many men and women who wish a Mehitzah. But I do not understand the idea that a woman cannot daven with a Tallit. I cannot understand how it is a police option to arrest a woman for the way she prays at the Western Wall. Rashi’s daughters lay Tfilin, and in a Hasidic shul where I often daven, women daven, on the other side of the Mehitzah, the same service as the men, adjusted for gender.

    The liberal in me would like to share that there are synagogues of every flavor and we can all choose where we are comfortable. But the Western Wall is, or should be a generically Jewish holy place. The Mehitzah is a compromise between Liberal and Orthopraxis Jews. But the Jewish prayer apparel of the daveners is personal. Rabbi Alexander Schindler (זצ׳ל) of the Reform movement told me that he went to the Wall without a Kipah. No one arrested him. We need to end the politicization of our sacred space and sacred practice. Thank you for your article.

  2. This is an incredibly eloquent statement. I pray that the blessing that will emerge out of the despicable act of arresting these three brave women will be the victory of justice for ALL at the western wall. When I was a rabbinic student in Jerusalem I felt so humiliated by the ultra orthodox “rules” sanctioned by the state of Israel that I stopped going to the wall. It is time that women are treated with dignity. That is what would make the remnant of the temple in Jerusalem truly a holy place.

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