JERUSALEM (JTA) — Women of the Wall asked the rabbi of the Western Wall to allow the group to use one of the site’s Torah scrolls.
In a letter sent Sunday, Women of the Wall made the request to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz for their Rosh Chodesh prayer service, marking the start of the new Jewish month. The group asked to use one of the site’s 100 scrolls available for public use or to bring in its own.
According to regulations established several years ago by Rabinowitz, worshipers are not allowed to bring a Torah scroll from outside the site. The Torah scrolls available to the public are kept in the men’s section and are not available to female worshipers at the wall.
Attempts to provide the women’s section with a Torah scroll have been quashed in the past, according to Ynet.
“We cannot accept the continuation of a policy which prevents women from accessing the Torah at the Western Wall,” read the letter, which was signed by Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall. “Through his own ordinance and regulations, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz prohibits women and only women from reading from the Torah scroll, as men have free access to the hundreds of scrolls at the Western Wall. This regulation does not meet the standards of good governance over a public space nor do the discriminatory practices of the rabbi, as a publicly appointed authority.
Hoffman said it was “absurd” that Rabinowitz has refused Women of the Wall’s offer to donate a Torah scroll to the Western Wall for use by female worshipers there.
The letter was copied to Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, who have been working on a plan to bring egalitarian prayer to the site.
Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jewish month for a women’s Rosh Chodesh service at the wall. Members have been arrested for wearing prayer shawls because of a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall’s “local custom.”
In April, a judge determined that the group’s activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women have been arrested.