By STEVE HEISLER Correspondent
"As Anat Hoffman prepares for her series of presentations, her intent is clear. The director of the Israel Religious Action Center remains determined and focused on bringing about an Israel in which women can pray alongside men in public without fear. Jerusalem's Western Wall includes separate lines for men and women and a strict Orthodox prohibition of women carrying the Torah, wearing a prayer shawl or praying openly and equally alongside their male counterparts.
According to Hoffman and some rabbis in the region, it is a part of Judaism's continuing struggle against an Orthodox branch imposing its rules and beliefs on all Jews. Forced segregation in public transportation and discrimination in open religious practice is part of the atmosphere liberal Jews are working to change. "
"Hoffman's efforts include working for several years with Women of the Wall. The group works to make Judaism's most sacred site a spot where all women can wear tallits or shawls and pray and collectively read aloud from the Torah"...
"...In the eyes of Jewish reformers seeking a more open society, that behavior reached its zenith July 12 when Hoffman, carrying a Torah, was arrested at the Wall. A video of the arrest on YouTube and her subsequent interrogation made Harold Caminker cry."
"Caminker, the rabbi at Bradenton's Temple Beth-El for the past two years, cited the Orthodox Jewish concept of "kol isha," a prohibition against women publicly speaking, praying or singing. Rooted in the Talmud, it has no place in a modern world, he said."
"Enlightened people in the world reject this kind of dogma," he said. "The intention is to keep women down and keep them as second-class citizens. This is something that has been accepted for many centuries unchallenged and we see it today in places where religious fundamentalists are in power."
Caminker's emotional response to the video of her arrest did not surprise Hoffman, but she said her incarceration should serve above all else as a call to action."
"Victory for her, however, could be seen as another scene unfolds at the Western Wall while a system is created to provide services to all Jews, including a girl being permitted to celebrate her bat mitzvah at the Wall in a safe manner."
Bridget Mary's Reflection:
Viva Anat Hoffman, Woman of Faith, courageous witness to gender equality for Jewish women.
Patriarchal religions should embrace women as equal images of the Divine. Genesis states that women and men are both created in God's image. Like Roman Catholic Women Priests who are excommunicated when they are ordained, Anat Hoffman's arrest at the Holy Wall in Jerusalem brings to mind the pain of rejection that women must endure to achieve gender justice in worship. As people of diverse faiths, let us support one another on the journey to equality for all so that future generations will experience the equality that is our birthright as daughters and sons of God.
Bridget Mary Meehan, RCWP
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests