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The Torah That Made History

The Torah That Made History

It finally happened.

After a 26-year struggle, Women of the Wall read from a full size Torah scroll in the women's section of the Kotel.

Last Monday at 7:00 in the morning, I arrived together with 133 women and 50 men at the Western Wall plaza. We stood on both sides of the Kotel's gender partition. At just the right moment, we went to a small, unlocked gate in the partition, opened it, and brought in one of the Torah scrolls from the men's section.

We hugged the Torah. We danced with it. We prayed with it. We read from it. We uncovered new meaning in the words “For from Zion the Torah comes forth.”

Meanwhile, two men who helped us were accosted by employees of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the governmental body in charge of managing the Kotel, whose authority and leadership the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) has been challenging for years. Charlie Kalech and Alden Solovy were attacked and injured. Charlie was detained, interrogated, accused of "disturbing the public order" and banned from the Kotel for 15 days. (Read Alden's prayer after the attack.)

There are 100 Torah scrolls in the men's section of the Kotel for the public's use, but women were never considered part of the public by the Kotel's rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitch, who announced that he would fast for 24 hours to atone for our "desecration" of the Torah, and that the very scroll we read from would somehow have to be ritually "cleansed" of our touch.

In 2013, the head of IRAC's legal department represented Women of the Wall in the case that lead to the historic ruling by Judge Sobel that our monthly prayer services at the Kotel are legal.

IRAC, with the support and involvement of allies in Israel and around the world, will continue the struggle for a Kotel where Israeli families will be able to pray together as a family, a Kotel where egalitarian services can be held proudly, instead of hidden out of view from the Western Wall Plaza.

Sign our petition to Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and ask him, as the "Prime Minister of the Jewish People," to use his influence to push for equality at the Western Wall and to do everything in his power to ensure that the Kotel becomes a place of worship for Jews of all denominations, and for men and women alike.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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