Women of the Wall (WoW) may have been prevented from lighting a large public menorah at the Kotel (Western Wall) today, but it didn’t stop the feminist group from holding a special menorah-lighting at the holy site attended by Comedian Sarah Silverman that is drawing international attention to that ban.
Above and above right: Anat Hoffman, Rabbi Susan Silverman, and Sarah Silverman, along with two of Rabbi Susan Silverman's children, at the Kotel 12-18-2014 (WoW)
Sarah Silverman Joins Women of the Wall For Menorah Lighting, Kotel Guards Try To Stop Women From Bringing Menorahs To The Holy Site
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Women of the Wall (WoW) may have been prevented from lighting a large public menorah at the Kotel (Western Wall) today, but it didn’t stop the feminist group from holding a special menorah-lighting at the holy site attended by Comedian Sarah Silverman and at least 100 other woemn that is drawing international attention to that ban.
The group has a court order allowing them to worship in the women’s section of the holy site as they see fit, and asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow them access to one of the site’s large menorahs for the lighting.
Netanyahu, who is busy courting haredi political parties for the upcoming election, passed the request – and the buck – on to Deputy Religious Services Minister Zionist Orthodox Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan. In turn, Dahan sent WoW’s request to the haredi state-appointed rabbi of the holy site, Shmuel Rabinowitz (also spelled, “Rabinowitch,” “Rabinovitz,” etc.). Rabinowitz refused to allow WoW tyo use a menorah that belongs to the holy site and banned them from holding a menorah-lighting ceremony.
For decades, a large public menorah has been lit in the men’s section at the Kotel by men, with women relegated to standing on chairs in the women's section behind a privacy fence in order to catch a glimpse of the ceremony.
Halakha (Orthodox Jewish law) does not require a mechitzah (privacy fence separating the sexes) at a menorah-lighting and a clear ruling by the Jerusalem District Court last year should have allowed WoW to use a large menorah from the holy site and stage a public lighting there.
But under successive Netanyahu governments, court orders and court rulings carry little weight.
WoW’s leader, Anat Hoffman, told RNS guards at the holy site controlled by Rabinowitz at first refused to allow anyone with a menorah to enter.
Eventually, WoW called the police and were then allowed to bring a smaller normally sized menorahs inside the women’s section.
“We lit 28 menorahs placed on silver foil in the women’s section. We sang and we danced around the menorahs. This was the very first time in the history of Israel that women have lit a menorah at the wall. It was very moving,” Hoffman told RNS.
Silverman is reportedly in the country to attend the bar mitzvah of her nephew, who is a son of WoW member Rabbi Susan Silverman.
She reportedly came to the Kotel with her sister and nephew for WoW’s the menorah lighting after hearing about Rabinowitz’s ban.