WASHINGTON (JTA) — A multidenominational rally denouncing the Israeli police’s arrest of the Women of the Wall leader was held outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom, the National Synagogue, organized Thursday’s rally to draw attention to the Israeli government’s lack of response to the July 12 arrest of Anat Hoffman reportedly for holding a Torah at the Western Wall. Hoffman’s group advocates for equal prayer rights at the site.
Rabbis and members of congregations across the region came to support Hoffman and denounce the view that women are not allowed to hold a Torah according to traditional Judaism.
“This arrest doesn’t represent Orthodoxy and the Orthodox Jews I know,” Herzfeld said.
Herzfeld wants the Israeli government and Israel’s U.S. ambassador, Michael Oren, to denounce the arrest, but they have remained silent. The rabbi said he met with representatives from the embassy following the rally and they said government officials were trying to determine the facts before making any statements.
Rabbis, lawyers and women who had prayed at the Wall spoke to the dozens of protesters, saying that the issue was larger than Hoffman and that they must fight for equal rights at the Western Wall. Cautioned not to obstruct traffic, the demonstrators marched across the street to the embassy’s gate carrying signs reading “It’s not a crime to hold a Torah” and singing Hebrew songs.
Kay Flick Elfant of the Fabrangen Congregation said she came after reading the Torah near the Kotel with the Women of the Wall.
“We can enable every Jew to pray as they wish,” she said. “That’s well within reason at the Kotel.”