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Women of the Wall Updates



Anat Hoffman, Executive Director

December, 2013

Last month, the Israel Religious Action Center, against all odds, won a case in the Supreme Court fighting the incitement of racism in Israel.

IRAC has been monitoring racist incitement in Israel for over a decade. When we saw the racist contents of the book The King’s Torah, we knew we had to take action.  The book cites Jewish texts to allow the killing of gentiles-men, women, and children- whenever their presence endangers Jewish life, “even if the person is a Righteous Gentile and bears no guilt for the situation that has emerged” (page 164).  It was endorsed by four well known Rabbis, including Dov Lior, who is employed by the state.  We asked the Attorney General to stop the publication, but as we have seen in the past regarding decisions against racist incitement by Rabbis, the process took a long time and did not conclude in our favor.

Discontent with the outcome, we took our fight to the Supreme Court.  On the eve of the decision, after more than three years of arguing this case, we were worried that conservative Chief Justice Asher Grunis would throw our case out of court. The dreidel spun in our favor. The State now has two months to either provide better reasoning for why they are not prosecuting the authors, or to take disciplinary action against the state-employed Rabbis who were involved with this book.  

Rabbis who would use Jewish text to justify hate should be challenged at every turn. In order to truly realize the message of Chanukah and to be an or l’goyim, light unto other nations, we must continue to fight institutionalized racism in the name of all minorities that have no place else to turn. This Chanukah, join me in celebrating the little bit of light that can shine through a lot of darkness.

Anat Hoffman
Executive Director, IRAC



June 25, 2013

Last week Barbra Streisand visited Israel. The excitement her presence creates cannot be understated. If she was only the greatest performer in a generation that would be enough of a reason to wait in line to hear her, but we all know that Barbra is much more than a world class singing voice. She is also one of the most important voices of conscience for issues of social justice. When she supports a cause it is wise to take notice, and we are so proud that she supports us. 

While receiving an honorary doctorate at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Barbra spoke truth to power. In front of the President of Israel and many other government officials and dignitaries she expressed her shock and horror over the state of gender equality and civil liberties in Israel. She specifically mentioned IRAC’s struggle against gender segregation on buses and the illegal silencing of women on the public airwaves and in public events where orthodox men are in attendance. She also expressed support for making the Western Wall a more inclusive place and to ending the violence that has been perpetrated against women trying to legally pray there.

We assume that just because she is famous, speaking her mind is easy. But the reality is that standing up for what you believe in is never easy. Her comments are nothing short of courageous. Too often Jews in Israel and abroad are afraid to speak out against issues that are holding back Israel’s march towards equal rights for all its citizens. Unless the entire Jewish word and its supporters for pluralism also have the courage to speak truth to power we will never see change.

To quote Barbra Streisand: IRAC needs people. We need people from Israel and all corners of the globe to take a stand for a more pluralistic Israel. To honor her courage please use this form to ask ten people to join IRAC’s newsletter list so that our voice in Israel will be even stronger. 

We applaud Barbra Streisand for her unwavering support for Israel and for her desire to see Israel stay true to its founding principles of equality for all. 

Anat Hoffman
Executive Director, IRAC

May 10th was a historic day at the Western Wall. It was the first test of Judge Sobel’s ruling allowing women to pray at the Western Wall in a manner they see fit without police harassment. Despite strong opposition the ruling held and hundreds of women prayed with their tallitot, tefillin, and in a strong full voice. The women who came out that day should be commended for their courage. 
We entered the plaza to the sounds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox men screaming insults and throwing garbage. The difference this week was that instead of the police dragging women off in handcuffs they made a barrier of blue uniforms holding back a sea of men trying to fall upon us.  The angry crowd could not drown out our songs or joy at this victory.
Friday was an important step forwards in the process of making the Western Wall an inclusive home for all Jews. The court ruling, along with the Sharansky plan to create a third and equal section of the Western Wall for egalitarian prayer, is the correct formula for respecting the rights and feelings of all Jews. As I wrote last week, this process needs the support of us all.
A few thousand screaming Haredi Jews do not represent the majority view on this issue anymore. A week before this Friday’s Rosh Chodesh service, a poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that, for the first time, a majority of Israelis support women’s right to pray at the Kotel as they see fit. We are on the side of the law and of Israeli, and world opinion. A recent Yediot Ahronot survey (Israel’s largest daily newspaper) showed Women of the Wall enjoy over 67% support from the Israeli public.
The new Diaspora and Religious Services Minister, Naftali Bennett from the Bayit haYehudi party, began his tenure with a promise of new politics. In spite of this promise he is now planning to impose more regulations against women praying at the Wall. He is threatening unilateral actions that would all but stop the Sharanksy process and reverse the Sobel ruling.
I need your help: we need to make it clear that stopping or even slowing down the process of respecting women’s right to pray at the Wall will be met with a tidal wave of opposition from Jews all over the world. 
 Click here to write Minister Bennett directly, and when you have finished please forward the link to as many of your friends and family as possible. 
Together we can ensure equality at the Kotel.
L’shalom, Anat Hoffman
Executive Director, IRAC



A few months ago, police were detaining female shawl-wearers; last month they arrested ultra- Orthodox chair-throwers. For 24 years, the Supreme Court placed ultra-Orthodox sensibilities before religious freedoms. Recently, lower courts have reversed those priorities. From J Post

Non-Orthodox hopeful but wary on rabbinic equality

Government to reform the current Orthodox monopoly over state-funded rabbinic posts, but questions over implementation remain. From the Times of Israel


IRAC News and Events

The new equality

Take the treatment of rabbis in Israel — all rabbis. For years, the Reform and Conservative movements have fought their inequitable treatment in general, and that of their rabbis in particular, at the hands of the government and Chief Rabbinate. The Jewish Chronicle

Education Ministry issues ultimatum to haredim on core studies

The Education Ministry will allow the haredi school system four months to reach an understanding with the State regarding core studies.From Ynet

Comment: Women of the Wall's one way street

The Orwellian quote was the first thing that came to mind, as I tried to process the fact that this Rosh Chodesh the Israel Police, for the first time since 1967, prevented hundreds of Orthodox  Jews from reaching the Kotel Plaza to pray. From J Post

Barbra Streisand speaks of Women of the Wall and other issues of inequality.

Click on the link below for the news story:




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