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U.S. Conservative Women’s Group Joins Women of the Wall in Prayer

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Some 30 members of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism joined the local “Women of the Wall” group Sunday in conducting a morning service at the Western Wall.

Unlike on several pervious occasions, the women were not harassed by mobs of ultra-Orthodox men and women, who do not believe women should pray as a group or sing in public.

Only two ultra-Orthodox women tried to disturb the women’s prayers, which were led by Marilyn Worman, a third-year rabbinical student at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Worman, a Kippah perched on her short hair said afterward that she and the other women had come to show their support for a group of Jerusalem women who have been trying to conduct prayer services at the Wall for several months.

She said they were also there “to make a statement for Israeli women striving for religious equality.”

The Women’s League national board adopted a resolution on women’s prayer groups at the Wall on June 14, which said the group “is committed to the pursuit of equality in Jewish life and has a longstanding history of support for full religious participation of Jewish women in ritual life.”

The Women’s League, which has 200.000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel, is in Israel on a two-week study mission to Conservative Jewish facilities here.

USED CONSERVATIVE SIDDUR

On Sunday, only some 20 ultra-Orthodox men were present when the women began their service, and they did not seem to take notice of the women, who stood tightly together. The prayers were conducted according to the Conservative “Sim Shalom” prayerbook.

Physical and verbal harassment on several previous occasions led the Jerusalem women to obtain an order from the High Court of Justice permitting them to pray as a group at the Wall.

But the order, which is in effect until the court makes a definitive ruling on Dec. 27, forbids the women from wearing tallitot or carrying a Torah at the Wall, although it allows them to do so at other, nearby sites.

Bonna Haberman, a Canadian immigrant who initiated the Jerusalem women’s prayer group, said Sunday she was astonished the Conservative women were not harassed.

She speculated that the women’s relatively late arrival, and the fact that many were tourists, may have deterred a confrontation. Haberman attended the services with her three small children.

Another group member, Anat Hoffman, who in February became the first woman elected to the Jerusalem City Council, applauded the show of support from the Women’s League.

“We never before dared to say Sh’ma and Kaddish aloud,” she said. She said the fact that many of the group members were visiting from abroad deterred “the usual woman sluggers.”

In recent days, support for the women’s group has been publicly voiced by Labor Knesset member Avrum Burg, who is Orthodox; Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an authority on Jewish theology; and Leah Shakdiel of Yeroham, the first woman to sit on a municipal religious council.

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