Women of the Wall won’t try to smuggle in Torah, citing security concerns


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Women of the Wall said it would not attempt to smuggle a Torah scroll to the Kotel during this month’s Rosh Chodesh prayer service due to the current security situation.

In a letter sent Sunday to Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman said the women had decided “out of a deep sense of responsibility, not to attempt to smuggle a Torah scroll in to the Kotel this month, so as not to challenge the security forces during this time of high threat levels,” according to a statement from the group.

Police and security officials in Jerusalem have been on high alert over the past several days following a number of stabbing attacks in the city.

The Women of the Wall said that even with the serious security concerns in the Old City, the group’s members will meet Wednesday for a prayer service for the new Jewish month of Heshvan and celebrate two bat mitzvahs — for teens from the United States and Brazil.

In her letter, Hoffman reiterated her request that the women be allowed to use one of the Torah scrolls located at the site.

In the past, the group has smuggled a mini-Torah scroll into the women’s section. During a service in April, male supporters of the group hoisted a scroll over the divider between the men’s and women’s sections, encountering violent opposition.

Women of the Wall gather at the Western Wall at the start of each Jewish month for the morning prayer service. Its members have clashed frequently with staff from the office of the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites of Israel, and with police for holding services that violate the rules enforced by the office.

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged the women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.”

Regulations at the site set by the office have allowed women to wear prayer shawls and kippahs, but prevented them from using a Torah scroll in their section.

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