An inter-denominational group demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, on July 22 in support of religious freedom in Israel, in opposition to the arrest of Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah at the Kotel and in protest of growing violence against women throughout Israel.
Hoffman is the Executive Director of Israel Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall. She was arrested on Rosh Chodesh Av (July 12) as WOW held their usual monthly service. A woman who was with WOW on July 12 described the event (see second of three demonstration videos). She reported that the arresting officer became visibly upset as a female cantor sang Hallel (psalms of praise recited on festivals, Rosh Chodesh [beginning of a new month] and Chanukah.)
Where will we stand — and how loud will we be — on Rosh Chodesh Elul and in the new year?
The DC demonstration was held ten days after the arrest and just after Tisha B’av [ninth of the month of Av], which closes a three-week period of mourning focusing on destruction of the Temples. The July 22 event was organized by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, rabbi of Ohev Shalom (orthodox). Participants, including a number of local rabbis, represented a range of the Jewish community.
Rabbi Ita Paskind — who began her job as assistant rabbi at Olam Tikvah (Conservative) in Fairfax, VA, only four days before — said she felt she was also representing rabbinic students, many of whom have stood with WOW while studying in Israel.
Rabbi Gerry Serotta, of Shirat HaNefesh (independent) in Silver Spring, MD, spoke of “the one conversation” he had with Reb Shlomo Carlebach. It was Jerusalem, 1971. Even then, he said, Carlebach was disturbed by the scene at the Kotel. People arriving at the Wall, Serotta recalled Carlebach saying, should “be embraced. They should be greeted: ‘Holy brother, holy sister, you’ve made it here!’ instead of being told to put on a certain hat or cover part of their bodies.” (See first of three demonstration videos)
Serotta, along with others who spoke at the demonstration, noted the need for unity and respect among Jews, many noting the irony that Tisha B’av’s destruction has traditionally been attributed to sinat chinam [baseless hatred], while the arrest took place on Rosh Chodesh Av.
In addition, said Elaine Reuben, of Fabrangen Havurah (independent), the current hatred being displayed is “not in the best interest of the the State and the peace that we all pray for.” She urged all friends of Israel to consider how Jerusalem will be shared: “If we can’t share it with each other, the hope of sharing it with others is really in danger.” (Third of three demonstration videos)
Another participant, Rebecca Sender-Israel — who identified herself as a layer and the grandchild of people who fought for Israel — spoke of distress at the growing violence against women, when a woman is seen with tefillin straps, for example. “I fear for the Israel I love.”
A number of Reform rabbis spoke, as did Temple Micah member — and song writer/performer — Doug Mishkin. Noting misgivings with use of the term, “great American,” and unwilling to weigh in on what makes a “great Jew,” Mishkin declared: “I know a great Israeli when I meet one. Anat and the work she is doing are really central to making Israel what it can and should be.”
Standing with WOW
Demonstrators urge citizens to contact the Israeli Embassy, urging Ambassador Oren to speak about against the arrest.