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