Thursday, 4 April 2013

Kotel Rabbi Backs Down After Angry Sharansky Demands Answers

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky – appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his point man on the issue of women’s prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall) – met earlier today with haredi Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation who acts as the Kotel’s rabbi – to “express his shock” at a letter sent by police, apparently at Rabinowitz’s request, warning that women who say the Kaddish (mourner’s prayer) at the Kotel would be arrested. In response, Rabinowitz promised Sharansky that women who say Kaddish will not be arrested.

 Ha’aretz reports that Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky – appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his point man on the issue of women’s prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall) – met earlier today with haredi Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation who acts as the Kotel’s rabbi – to “express his shock” at a letter sent by police, apparently at Rabinowitz’s request, warning that women who say the Kaddish (mourner’s prayer) at the Kotel would be arrested.

"The Kotel must continue to be a symbol of unity for all Jews in the world and not a symbol of strife and discord,” Sharansky reportedly admonsihed Rabinowitz.

Rabinowitz reportedly responded by promising Sharansky  that no women would be arrested for reciting the prayer.

The letter threatening arrest was sent by Jerusalem Police Chief Yossi Pariente to Anat Hoffman, who chairs the activist group Women of the Wall (WoW). WoW has held a once-monthly prayer service at the Kotel for decades. However, in the past six months more than a dozen of its members – including comedienne Sarah Silverman’s sister and niece – have been arrested by police for various infractions, most commonly for wearing a “men’s” tallit or wearing a “women’s” tallit in the “style” of men.

Sharansky is reportedly “in the final stages” of drafting a compromise that would ensure “that every Jew in the world can pray in the manner that they are accustomed to at Judaism’s most important national and religious site.”

Meanwhile, WoW has decided to stop its practice of leaving the Kotel area for the area to its south known as Robinson’s Arch in order to read from a Torah scroll – something they have been forbidden by law to do since 2003 at the Kotel proper.

Instead, starting next Thursday WoW will read the Torah reading out loud at the Kotel proper. But instead of reading from a Torah scroll, the women will read from a printed Humash (Hebrew Bible).

Hoffman charged that Rabinowitz – who has steadily made the Kotel more haredi since taking over as rabbi in 1995 with the endorsement of haredi leaders like Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv – had pressured police to issue the latest threat.

Rabinowitz has “crossed a clear red line, as women’s right to say Kaddish is respected and accepted by the entire Jewish world, including Orthodox factions,” she said.

 http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2013/04/kotel-rabbi-backs-down-after-angry-sharansky-demands-answers-567.html#more

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