WASHINGTON – Close to 50 protesters, among them a dozen rabbis, warned the
Israeli government on Thursday that the recent arrest of a woman carrying a
Torah at the Kotel risked alienating American Jewry.
“I’m a proud
Zionist, and I’m in love with Israel,” said Rabbi Jonathan Roos, addressing a
crowd standing outside the Israeli Embassy in 90ºF (32ºC) heat. But he said the
July 13 arrest of Anat Hoffman “sullies the entire Zionist
Another demonstrator, Washington lawyer Rebecca
Sendor-Israel, said, “I love Israel, and I’m scared of what the Israel that I
love is becoming.”
The arrest of Hoffman, a leader of the Reform Movement
in Israel, comes at a delicate time in Israeli-Diaspora relations, as members of
the American community have mobilized to oppose a conversion bill in the Knesset that would anchor in law
Orthodox rabbis’ control over the process in Israel.
It was an Orthodox
rabbi, however, who organized Thursday’s protest, in part to show that many
Orthodox Jews embrace the right of women to hold Torah scrolls, and oppose
“This is the greatest desecration of God’s name, the
fact that Jews arrested other Jews for holding a Torah,” Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld
of Washington’s National Synagogue said. “According to Jewish law, a woman is
permitted to hold a Torah scroll.”
At Thursday’s rally, Herzfeld called
on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to denounce the arrest.
come out publicly and say this arrest doesn’t represent Israel, this arrest
doesn’t represent him and that he’s embarrassed by it,” the rabbi
He recalled that Oren hadn’t objected when he celebrated Rosh
Hashana at Herzfeld’s synagogue and women carried Torah scrolls on their side of
the mehitza, a barrier separating men and women.
Herzfeld added that Oren
had declined a subsequent invitation to return to his congregation to
the arrest or meet with him at the embassy.
An embassy spokesman did not
return a call seeking a response.
At the protest’s conclusion on
Thursday, Herzfeld stood outside the gate to the embassy demanding to
or other officials.
In the end, he met with Galit Baram, counselor for
Herzfeld said that at the meeting, he had urged the
government to speak out against what happened.
“Their silence here is
just adding to the upset of the people here in America,” he told The
Post after the meeting. “We expect them to recognize that this was
that was deeply, deeply offensive to the American Jewish community, and
the Israeli government to forcefully distance themselves from this