Israel’s Rosa Parks comes to speak at Temple Beth El

Anat Hoffman, founder of Women of the Wall in Jerusalem, keeps a photo of Rosa Parks on her office wall as a source of inspiration. Hoffman has spent most of her career promoting Jewish pluralism, tolerance and equality in the State of Israel.

Last summer, Hoffman was arrested for carrying a Torah scroll near the Western Wall, Judaism’s most sacred site. Is this possible? Arrested for carrying a Torah scroll!

The primary mission of Women of the Wall is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, and to pray and read from the Torah out loud at the Western Wall.” On July 12, 2010, Women of the Wall gathered at 7 a.m. for their monthly worship service on the women’s side of the Western Wall.

Since Jewish religious practices in Israel are controlled by the Orthodox establishment, the Wall is divided into sections for women and men, just as you would see in an Orthodox synagogue.

On that warm July morning in Jerusalem, 150 women gathered to pray together. Hoffman held the Torah scroll in her arms throughout the service. As the women left the Wall after their prayers, police confronted her and blocked the procession.

They tried to tear the Torah scroll from Hoffman’s arms. As the police eventually took her into custody, she was still holding onto the Torah scroll, and still singing songs from the Bible and from our tradition.

As I sat at my computer watching videos of the arrest on You Tube, I was at first annoyed, then I became angry. My eyes filled with tears as I watched this courageous woman suffering verbal and physical abuse at the hands those who claim to be acting in accordance with the will of God.

The scene was reminiscent of something that might take place in the streets of Iran, or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

This is not a feminist issue – it is a human rights issue. This is about nothing less than the future of religious pluralism in the Jewish State. It is about the rights of nonOrthodox Jews, who we are and what we stand for.

I urge you to join us as we stand up for our rights in the Holy Land, supporting our brothers and sisters in Israel who are fighting this noble fight.

If you would like to learn more, come and hear Anat Hoffman during her first appearance in our area. She will be speaking at Temple Beth El in Bradenton at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19. All are welcome. There is no charge, but you will have an opportunity to make a charitable donation supporting the Women of the Wall.

May God bless our beloved State of Israel with peace.

Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd Street West, Bradenton. Shabbat services are held 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900 or visit