Reform Cantors Condemn Arrest of Women of the Wall Leader During Rosh Chodesh Celebration for Holding a Sefer Torah
Chicago, IL (July 15, 2010) The American Conference of Cantors (ACC), representing over 450 Reform Jewish Cantors,
strongly condemns the arrest of Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and
chairperson of “Women of the Wall” for the “crime” of holding a sefer Torah in the women’s section of the Western
Wall during a celebration of Rosh Chodesh. Her arrest and subsequent ban from visiting the Western Wall for a
month is an embarrassment to those responsible for her arrest.
Jewish women throughout the centuries have faced harsh repercussions when expressing their desire to “conduct
prayer services, read from a Torah while wearing prayer shawls, and sing out loud at the women’s section of the
Western Wall.” The Talmudic dictum “Kol isha erva” has been invoked time and again to deny women the same
religious rights as men, especially in Eretz Yisrael and even more so at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s most holy
sites. The American Conference of Cantors, pioneers in embracing women into the role of clergy, began welcoming
women into membership as early as 1975, when Barbara Ostfeld became the first woman to be invested as a cantor.
The arrest of Hoffman for allegedly defying the Israel High Court ruling that outlaws women from holding and
reading from a sefer Torah at the Western Wall is an act of “hillul hashem,” a desecration of God’s name, for the
public shame and ridicule brought upon those who purport to defend Judaism. The ACC stands with other arms of
the Reform Movement who have also expressed shock and revulsion regarding Hoffman’s arrest.
Created as a result of the First International Jewish Feminist Conference in Jerusalem in 1988, the members of the
Women of the Wall have been gathering for prayer services and Torah readings on Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel.
Having faced countless physical and verbal abuse, and in spite of a lack of protection from the police and ongoing
legal battles in Israel, they continue to gather each month in public prayer. They seek the right for Jewish women to
conduct prayer services, read from a Torah scroll while wearing prayer shawls, and sing out loud at the Western
Wall–Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish people-hood and sovereignty.
We praise and affirm the sacred work of the Women of the Wall, offering our deepest respect and solidarity to Anat
Hoffman, a timeless model of Jews laboring on behalf of religious and cultural freedom everywhere.
We pray for a State of Israel that embraces both our ancient traditions while granting equal rights to all its citizens in
their religious practice, urging our Israeli sisters and brothers who long for true religious freedom to stand up and
speak out for religious pluralism in our spiritual homeland.
We declare our continued support for Israel, representing the highest ideals of Judaism and democracy, whose best
actions have the power to inspire Jews around the world to acts of righteousness and kindness in God’s name.