Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reform Cantors Condemn Arrest of Women of the Wall Leader During Rosh Chodesh Celebration for Holding a Sefer Torah

A statement by the American Conference of Cantors, courtesy of Cantor Shapiro:
Reform Cantors Condemn Arrest of Women of the Wall Leader During Rosh Chodesh Celebration for Holding a Sefer Torah 
Chicago, IL (July 15, 2010) 

The American Conference of Cantors (ACC), representing over 450 Reform Jewish Cantors, strongly condemns the arrest of Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and chairperson of “Women of the Wall” on July 12, 2010, for the “crime” of holding a sefer Torah in the women’s section of the Western Wall during a celebration of Rosh Chodesh. Her arrest and subsequent ban from visiting the Western Wall for a month is an embarrassment to those responsible for her arrest.

Jewish women throughout the centuries have faced harsh repercussions when expressing their desire to “conduct prayer services, read from a Torah while wearing prayer shawls, and sing out loud at the women’s section of the Western Wall.” The Talmudic dictum “ Kol isha erva ” has been invoked time and again to deny women the same religious rights as men, especially in  Eretz Yisrael  and even more so at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s most holy sites. The American Conference of Cantors, pioneers in embracing women into the role of clergy, began welcoming women into membership as early as 1975, when Barbara Ostfeld became the first woman to be invested as a cantor. 
The arrest of Hoffman for allegedly defying the Israel High Court ruling that outlaws women from holding and reading from a  sefer  Torah at the Western Wall is an act of “ hillul hashem ,” a desecration of God’s name, for the public shame and ridicule brought upon those who purport to defend Judaism. The ACC stands with other arms of the Reform Movement who have also expressed shock and revulsion regarding Hoffman’s arrest.

Created as a result of the First International Jewish Feminist Conference in Jerusalem in 1988, the members of the Women of the Wall have been gathering for prayer services and Torah readings on Rosh Chodesh at the Kotel. Having faced countless physical and verbal abuse, and in spite of a lack of protection from the police and ongoing legal battles in Israel, they continue to gather each month in public prayer. They seek the right for Jewish women to conduct prayer services, read from a Torah scroll while wearing prayer shawls, and sing out loud at the Western Wall–Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish people-hood and sovereignty. 
We praise and affirm the sacred work of the Women of the Wall, offering our deepest respect and solidarity to Anat Hoffman, a timeless model of Jews laboring on behalf of religious and cultural freedom everywhere.

We pray for a State of Israel that embraces both our ancient traditions while granting equal rights to all its citizens in their religious practice, urging our Israeli sisters and brothers who long for true religious freedom to stand up and speak out for religious pluralism in our spiritual homeland. 
We declare our continued support for Israel, representing the highest ideals of Judaism and democracy, whose best actions have the power to inspire Jews around the world to acts of righteousness and kindness in God’s name.

About the American Conference of Cantors

Founded in 1953, the American Conference of Cantors is the pre-eminent professional organization of Cantors in North America, currently representing over 450 cantors in North America and around the world. As clergy committed to Judaism and Jewish Music, the membership of the ACC serves the diverse needs of the Jewish people. As an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the ACC supports its members in their sacred calling as emissaries for Judaism and for Jewish music, providing a unique and dynamic vision of programs and initiatives that respond to the needs of the greater Reform community. For more information, please visit the ACC’s website at .

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