Did you hear the one about the woman rabbi at the Kotel?

February 11, 2013 - 9:46 PM by

Rabbi Susan Silverman, center, and her daugher Hallel at the Kotel this morning. (Tovah Lazaroff)

Rabbi Susan Silverman, center, and her daugher Hallel at the Kotel this morning. (Tovah Lazaroff)

It was bound to happen. On a monthly basis, women seeking religious pluralism at the Kotel in Jerusalem have been getting arrested at their Rosh Hodesh services for wearing men’s tallitot.

The uproar has been vocal, but on a low burner. But today, everything changed. One of the ten women arrested this morning and later released for brazenly doing what they can do anywhere else in the free world – pray in public as they are accustomed to – was Rabbi Susan Silverman and her 17-year-old daughter Hallel.

Silverman, who lives in Jerusalem, happens to be the sister of outspoken American comedienne Sarah Silverman. So by mid-day, stories were going out on the wire services to outlets around the world with the headline: “Sarah Silverman’s sister arrested for praying at the Western Wall.”

It’s a headline too juicy for anyone to pass up, and thanks to the substantial coverage the story will undoubtedly receive, it could be a turning point in the effort begun 24 years ago by Women at the Wall in their monthly service to stake their claim to pray as they wish at the Kotel, Judaism’s holiest site.

According to Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovich, a council led by the chief rabbi of Israel determined the customs of the site in 1967 when the Western Wall came under Israeli sovereignty. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that worshippers must “uphold the customs” of the holy site, though there is nothing written in the court decision about specific types of tallit.

The situation is getting absurd however. As a friend of mine observed – ‘A woman rabbi and her 17-year-old daughter were arrested today for praying at the Western Wall. You can’t make this stuff up.’

Unfortunately, it’s true. But maybe with the international publicity that Silverman’s arrest will bring to the cause, the reality on the ground will begin to change.


3 Comments on Did you hear the one about the woman rabbi at the Kotel?

  1. YonahTuvia on Wed, Feb 13th 2013 4:14 PM
  2. I tried but failed to find a good source/intermediary/reporter for Israel21
    who could connect me to sources of Israeli products and inventions that I could promote in the USA with the objective of making nice profits for all.

    [...] Hebrew month) for praying and wearing men’s tallitot (prayer shawls) is old news by now. David wrote about the latest round-up on Monday, and the Israeli and Jewish press has gobbled it up as the [...]

  3. Pearl on Thu, Feb 14th 2013 12:18 AM
  4. So, if the women wore a tallit that is specifically for women, would that be OK and they wouldn’t be arrested?
    We are still living in a male dominated society, expecially in Israel. Since 50% of Israeli’s population are women, doesn’t it stand to reason that women have an equal voice in prayer, as well as other parts of society?

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