“It’s easy to sit in America and watch things play out here. It’s much more difficult when you have to sit here and deal with [Cabinet Secretary Avichai] Mendelblit.…We, who have demanded change from the most conservative sectors of Israeli society, will also have to change ourselves."
Women Of The Wall’s Anat Hoffman Lashes Out At Internal Critics, Ducks Interview
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Women of the Wall’s Chairwoman Anat Hoffman was accused by the group’s founder and other longtime members of being a “dictator” who sold them out to enhance her own power after she allegedly forced the group's board to vote for a compromise that would, if enforced, see WoW praying exclusively in the new egalitarian section at Robinson’s Arch rather than at the Kotel (Western Wall) proper.
Now Hoffman is lashing out at those internal critics, Ha'aretz reported.
“It’s easy to sit in America and watch things play out here. It’s much more difficult when you have to sit here and deal with [Cabinet Secretary Avichai] Mendelblit.…We, who have demanded change from the most conservative sectors of Israeli society, will also have to change ourselves…This sort of change, as is often the case, can be very painful for some people. Those of our members who oppose us now, they are very dear and good sisters. Their motives are pure, but their methods less so,” Hoffman reportedly said during a conference call with supporters who had been invited to question Hoffman about the compromise and Hoffman’s role in accepting it, referring to at least 10 longstanding members who issued an anti-Hoffman statement to the press late last week.
Hoffman reportedly told the conference call that she spent two hours yesterday morning talking with Bonna Haberman, one of the leaders of the Hoffman critics. Haberman started the first WoW Kotel prayer service 25 years ago.
“I heard from her how much we betrayed the idea, but the more I heard, the more important I thought it was there are voices out there that let us know what the ideal situation should be,” Hoffman reportedly said.
Hoffman also reportedly claimed convincing WoW’s board to go along with the compromise was difficult.
“It would have been easier to pass a decision that we are all going to sit in prison for half a year,” she reportedly said.
The compromise passed 9-2.
Shockingly, Hoffman reportedly claimed that her sudden realization that is impossible to change the mindset of Orthodox Jews was responsible for her decision to accept the compromise.
“Women of the Wall is the right group for bringing about change in Israel but not the right group for bringing about change in the Orthodox world. I’m not sure that a group which has members from all the different streams of Judaism is the right one for doing something like this.…When people tell me we’re abandoning our haredi sisters, there’s something disingenuous about that because our haredi sisters also have rights, and we saw last Rosh Chodesh that they really don’t want – maybe not all of them, but many of them – do not want to see a woman in a tallit and tefillin, and they also have rights. I think it’s absolutely fine that the state gives the Kotel rabbi absolute authority over the haredi space, Hoffman reportedly said, effectively granting haredim control over the Kotel proper. “The Haredim, after all, are a political force in Israel, but ultimately that is what will enable us to liberate the rest of wall, which is something huge.”
The “rest of the wall” Hoffman refers to is Robinson’s Arch, which was never used as an area for Jewish prayer and is far removed from where the Temple actually stood. Other parts of the wall are in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and are much closer to the actual site of the Temple than Robinson’s Arch. WoW will have no control over that area and no access to it.
Absent from Hoffman’s remarks appears to be any mention of pressure from the Conservative Movement – even though WoW had previously told Israeli media that was a major reason for accepting the compromise.
The Conservative Movement has de facto control over the Robinson’s Arch egalitarian prayer area and could most like block Hoffman and/or WoW from paying a major role in its oversight if it chose to do so.
I asked WoW early on Sunday morning October 6 for an interview with Hoffman. Shira Pruce, WoW’s spokeswoman, responded several hours later and said she’d get back to me. On Tuesday, October 8 she offered an interview with Batya Kallus, described as Hoffman’s vice chair and “brilliant,” because Hoffman was too busy to do the interview. I responded that I didn’t think Kallus would be able to answer all of my questions. After some back and forth, I accepted the Kallus interview – as long as my option to follow up with Hoffman if necessary, when she became available, remained active.
More than six full days have passed with no response from Pruce.
Related Post: WoW Splits As Hoffman Accepts Kotel Compromise.