US Reform leaders condemn body searches of women at Western Wall

The body searches were described as “belittling in the extreme” and “humiliating.”

August 24, 2017 16:53
1 minute read.
US Reform leaders condemn body searches of women at Western Wall

Members of "Women of the Wall" pray with a Torah scroll during a monthly prayer near the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City July 24, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)


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The senior leadership of the Reform Movement in the US has condemned the body searches conducted on women seeking to pray in a Women of the Wall service by officials at the Western Wall on Wednesday.

Worshipers in the Women of the Wall group were subjected to stringent searches at the entrance to the Western Wall complex by security officials owing to the attempts by the administrator of the site, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to prevent the group from smuggling in a Torah scroll, which Rabinowitz banned in regulations in 2010.

According to the Reform Movement in Israel, two female rabbinical students from the Hebrew Union College were pulled aside, questioned, and finally asked to lift their skirts and their shirts before being allowed to enter the Western Wall plaza.

President of the Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of Hebrew Union College Rabbi Aharon Panken and Rabbi Steven Fox, director of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in North America, described the body searches as “belittling in the extreme” and “humiliating.”

They also noted that the body searches contradict a ruling of the High Court of Justice from January which explicitly banned security officials from conducting any searches that go beyond normal security requirements.

The rabbis also said that the women had already gone through the metal detectors for the standard security procedure and therefore did not pose any security threat, and assigned blame to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which Rabinowitz chairs, for trying to humiliate Reform leaders.

“Our goal in preparing youth for leadership is to encourage love and commitment to Israel,” wrote the rabbis.

“We will continue to struggle for justice and will continue to work to create an Israel that we can be proud of, and the actions of the Western Wall officials yesterday just makes this harder.”

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