Tallit at the Kotel – but worn by a woman

October 24, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
Read on for article

Anat Hoffman is a woman who acts on what she believes in. She writes to J-Wire on being arrested at the Kotel for wearing a tallit…


Dear Henry,

Anat Hoffman

Last Tuesday I was arrested when I took a group of over two hundred women to the Western Wall to pray together in the women’s section. I was arrested for disturbing the peace and endangering the public good by wearing my tallit and saying the Shema out loud.

It was a traumatic experience. I was pulled along the ground by my wrists, strip-searched, shackled by the hands and feet and left to sleep on the floor of a jail cell with nothing to keep me warm but my tallit.

The treatment I received was designed to make women scared of entering the Western Wall complex with a tallit. Women wearing prayer shawls are common all over the world. Only in Israel does this simple act meet with such intense pressure. You have to remember that when I enter a room of Israelis with my tallit, most of them have never seen a woman wear one before.

So why do I do it? The reason is simple: if women do not stand up for their rights the religious authorities in Israel will continue to push women further and further out of sight. Hopefully the more regular Israelis see me and other women wearing tallitot, the better they will come to understand that it is not religious subversion on our part.

I respect Jews who pray differently than me, and I understand that many women do not wish to wear a tallit. But there are millions of Jewish women who do wish to pray at the Western Wall with a tallit. Enabling them to do so in peace and safety was never meant to infringe on the rights of others. It simply means that there is more than one way to be a Jew.

In the past week, I have received more love and support than I knew was possible.  Many of you have written me to express your care and concern and this has meant so much to me in these difficult days. I also thank the organizations who issued statements to condemn my arrest.  It is clear that this issue resonates with Jews from all denominations. Unfortunately, the Israeli government and the Orthodox rabbis that they have charged with administering the Wall still fail to understand that the Western Wall is holy for all Jews.  Together we can stand up against this insanity and show that the Kotel belongs to us all.

Anat Hoffman
Executive Director, IRAC


32 Responses to “Tallit at the Kotel – but worn by a woman”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    First let me wish you a happy Chanukah … just in time as it nears the end of the chag. I hope you have been enjoying this time. Thank you for getting back to me and for your most erudite writings. I don’t think for one moment that your expertise is limited, as you show with your thoughts and knowledge the contrary. However, I will accede that probably within the ‘vast Judaic domain’ of theological and ethical writings that exist yours is probably a small voice, and mine most certainly is. Still, we can discuss as best we can with what we have, and for me it’s not just a question of all the wisdom to be gleaned from those writings (which I respect and wish to keep learning), rather it’s the concrete realities that manifest from them due to the particular interpretations and practices of some men.

    I do not have a problem with the notion of men and women being different – they are. And I don’t have a problem with some separate activities for men and women in this world if they are freely decided upon, or even with the concept of ‘men’s business’ and ‘women’s business’ in very general terms relating to modes of thinking and doing. I do, however, have a problem with rigidly imposed rules by religion, or any other ‘authority’, that dictate separation or what a woman must or must not do due to the perception of a man, or indeed of a woman indoctrinated to this way of thinking and also making judgement and imposition on what a woman can or can’t do. That’s the gist of it. As I’ve said before, Judaism is strong enough to bear more liberal thought in this area and more commonsense practice.

    I know, too, that current practice of Orthodox Judaism does not necessarily equate with ‘a perennial conflictual stand-off’, as you put it, and that most definitely there can be mutual respect between man and woman. However, it is also true that these Jewish religious laws put into practice by many usurp a woman’s development and disenfranchise her across many facets of life. For some women this might not be an issue. But for many, it is. For me, it is. I am almost sure that it’s not possible for you yourself to understand this assertion, and that is probably because words are abstract, and in dealing with these issues we’re discussing them in words. Without the concrete experience to go with the abstract, there cannot be a fuller understanding.

    I shall give you one example that is not personal of a woman who rebelled against her Orthodox Jewish father and the rigidity of the laws imposed on her upbringing, not because she was renegade or a rebel as such, but simply because she was an intelligent, creative young woman, who was astute enough, and perhaps wise enough, to see her actual situation and what that situation would mean to living the only life she had on this earth if she didn’t change it. Her name was Dora Diamant and she was courageous enough to make this change, under difficult circumstances in 1920; at the age of 22 years, she left her family home in Bedzin, Poland to begin a new life in Berlin. She would become Kafka’s common-law ‘wife’ for the year before he died, a year that would measure almost as much as a lifetime in its significance for both of them. Her father, of course, sat shiva on her departure. However, the fact is where she lived and how she lived was untenable for an intelligent woman, thirsty for knowledge and the possibility to develop her intelligence and creative gifts. “In Bedzin, Jews judged one another “not by their tastes, literary preferences, or style of dress, but by the character of their observance.” Dora’s father, Herschel Diamant (Dymant) was a learned man and highly respected in his community. He spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and Hebrew. Every morning he got up to recite his prayers, to study and learn before eating breakfast and going to work. He was the model of a pious Chassidic scholar and members of the synagogue came to his home to study and engage in Talmudic discussions. Dora’s father did nothing without permission from the Gerer Rebbe, and the Rebbe called him “his diamond”. Dora’s life was strictly organized according to her father’s rigorous religious observances. It was a “highly structured symbolic universe”. She managed to escape an early marriage, which of course was her prescribed future. She was also necessary for the smooth running of her father’s household. At that time for Dora, marriage would have meant the end of hours she liked to spend reading and studying, and dreaming perhaps, the end of her life as an individual, albeit a fairly neutered individual; she would have had to cut off her thick hair and wear a wig; she would have existed to serve her husband’s ‘will’. She would work only to support him and the children she bore him.

    This situation might seem a far cry from the likes of Anat Hoffman, however it is not so terribly different for many women today living within this kind of framework. I have no real idea of the comprehensiveness or depth of Anat Hoffman’s Judaic knowledge, or of her personal understanding of it, however I most certainly defend her right to challenge Jewish laws, or rather the current interpretation and imposition of those laws, that she might consider threatening to her ability to practise Judaism in a more inclusive and appropriate way. And I feel sure that it has not been a ‘comfortable’ path to follow. Certainly her time spent in the police station after arrest in Jerusalem was not comfortable – whether you respect her or disdain her, it must be acknowledged that her treatment was inhumane and conducive to shock, if not trauma.

    As for me, I’m with Dora, I’m just not willing to subjugate myself and my individual freedom to grow and live as a ‘full’ person for the sake of the patriarchs and their powers, regardless of the beauty and well-intended wisdoms of the ancients. To appreciate the position of Dora, of me, and of Anat Hoffman, as well as a multitude of other women, Otto, you would need to imagine yourself fully, and perhaps even diabolically, into our shoes. It’s not just about the preservation of religion and laws – it’s about the living of life without impairment of positive gifts already bestowed by G-d to utilise and use to the fullest, and it’s about living life with the freedom that so many men take for granted and/or feel entitled to.

    with warmest regards,

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    In matters that are approached with passion, as well as dedicated study, the tendency to digress from the strict specificity of the “isse”is as natural as the complexity of the field itself.
    My limited “expertise” in the very vast domain of Jewish theology can only allow me to express that cute little enthusiasm, not that I have abandoned the desire to enrich my knowledge in the vastness of Judaic wisdom.
    Still at home with the role and responses to certain vsible manifestations of objection to fundamental Judaic principles I am inspired by what Gershom Scholem defined as the “natural” relationship between Man and God, comprising all human necesities without any segregational allowances, without placing genda priorities in the transmission of values and ways of observing them.
    Separations of functions do not affect the essential behavioural “guidelines” or, if you want, strict rules of devotion. Yes, devotion would follow rules at least for fear of diversion, stray tendencies where difficult to control “endocrinological” functions may take the reins of existence.
    Herewe may pause and acknowledge that Judaism has introduced millenia before strict medical science defined the process, the notion that, indeed, natural genda separation contains details worth observing both analytically and in terms oif behaviour. This is not to dismiss as qualitatively inferior one against the other, but, distinct semanthics aside, to conclude that there are quakitative distinctions which only as a matter of practical, and ethical respect, must be addressed. Pragmatically all parties needed to be satisfied that all necessities, as per distinct genda cathegories, are satisfied and provide…satisfaction.This is not a sepration conducive, intentional as it may be wrongly assumed, to a perennial conflictual stand-off., but, one of the kind of mutual respect which would ensure the dominant imperative of …natural necessities, human perpetuity as the main object.
    The conflict ridden conceptual structure seen in religion by the Anat Hoffman objectors would have been so designed, the famous Jewish continuity, particularly in circumstances of the worst enmity, would not have been such a miraculous phenomenon. All parties ( actually only two ) would have desintegrated well before the “progressives” would have taken some corner of the historic stage.
    There is evident progressive impetus, of the perennial kind, within the very structure of Judaic Orhodoxy, even in the most ,seemingly, obstinent lodgers of the vast Juadic domain.
    The highly vocal intervention of those who attempt at the dynamism already in place, intergarl as it is to the very function of Judaism, only wish that Judaism itself would no longer function per se – has vSholem – simply because they have comfortably decided that, instead of taking the trouble of understanding it profoundly, a vacan space will delight their void visions on necessary spirituality, ethics, inspirational efforts in addressing ALL existential vicissitudes.

    have a happy Chanukah !!!


    all possible typos …possible

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    re my posting to you of today’s date, part of one of my sentences doesn’t read as it should. Please see the following to replace part of lines 4/5 in para. 4:
    “We have already adjusted one eye to another by forfeiting the practice of some of the more ancient barbaric acts that were to come from some ‘unlawful’ human acts …”

  4. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    You and I are not as diametrically opposed as you might think, for in your last response to me I embrace fully much of your discussion on the core values of Judaism, and myself recognise its splendour. (You might be interested to know that in my first book of poetry published in 2001, ‘curving my eyes to almonds’, I evoke in many of the poems these splendours, both in an intimate and more ‘ancient’ way. My particular relationship with Judaism has engendered both transformation, sustenance and a deeply abiding strength of spirit. In fact it’s true to say that I actually relate within my own interiority to the stones, light, desert, mountains and most certainly to Yerushalayim, in an ancient way rather than a contemporary way.) I certainly agree that it is relevant to take the discussion to the area of ‘Faith and Symbolism’. It is difficult ground, of course, for the very different perspectives and understandings relating to this due to the fact that one must interpret before one can understand or have a perspective.

    And there lies the gist of the problem: interpretation. Not so much with faith, which cannot be pinned down, and nor would we wish to do so. Faith is what enables us to go on despite anything, no matter whether it’s faith in G-d, faith in Judaism, or even faith in one’s self. However, blind faith used destructively can be a source of evil or at the very least bad doing. Symbolism is another matter altogether. Symbolism can be argued to represent more than one thing and this is where different interpretations come to play.

    I do not see the Torah as a book predicated on a frozen strictness of the letter. Not at all. In fact close reading shows a text rich in complexity, highly suggestive as well as instructive, and full of ambiguity in the case of examples given of the behaviour of those who people it. That’s its beauty and its strength as a piece of writing. As you said, Jewish spirituality has its feet on the ground and heart in Heaven (such a manifestly beautiful way of putting it, Otto), and so too does the Torah.

    The big, big problem is some people’s interpretation of the Torah – in the case of ultra-orthodoxy interpretation and application, this is where “a frozen strictness of the letter” comes about. It is not the fault of the Torah. It is not impossible to adjust one eye to another insofar as healthy advancement, or change, is concerned in the practice of Judaism. We have already adjusted one eye to another by forfeiting the practice of some of the more ancient and barbaric acts that were to from some human acts – they applied some three thousand years ago, but not now. The only thing that gets in the way of the kinds of changes Anat Hoffman is pursuing is intransigence, fear of change, and a holding on to power. Change, in anything, is not something humans opt for too willingly, and throughout history this has been the case, and will always be the case. Once good change is implemented and absorbed, it’s as if it was never any different.

    I was interested to read of your life for a while on kibbutz Gan Shmuel in Hashomer Hatzair; I think you were blessed at the time with this insofar as the attitudes of the people around you are concerned. This experience of yours is not necessarily the norm, nor are these more tolerant attitudes. And that’s why we have a problem, well it’s why many women have a problem. I have had different experiences on different kibbutizm in Israel, and I can tell you that on one kibbutz I shall not name in public by way of this post – suffice to say it was in the mountains, about twenty minutes drive from Tiberias – I was made to feel almost invisible, and certainly excluded, during my time there. There is no need for this kind of behaviour on a human level – a religious person will not be contaminated, nor fall down dead at his feet, if he allows a smile or a modicum of politeness in his contact with others different to him. This behaviour is not splendid and it does not show, or inculcate, core values that are valuable. I know the area of Bnei Brak (this is where the young orthodox women had bleach thrown on their new clothing while walking home, by the ultra-orthodox women ‘militia’) and I’ve also attended family weddings (my husband’s family) in Israel where the more religious of his relatives would not eat at the wedding because the food was not kosher enough. When one considers the very basic human condition of sharing food together, and what that means on an emotional and psychological level, to refuse to share that food and that occasion is taking Judaism to a place that is inhumane and certainly not spiritual in the broader, concrete Jewish sense of ‘spiritual on the ground’. In my library I have Jewish literature and it’s the Jewish parables I love in which a Rabbi will, in the way he speaks, bring a whole village of people to the sharp realisation that practising Judaism and loving G-d does not entail the strict, judgemental decisions they are making and enacting, instead it means coming down to a more basic, and grounded, level and having compassion and sensitivity toward a human situation. In the parables the Rabbi doesn’t encourage ‘breaking the law’, he just manages in the most wise and quiet way to show that the extremity that ‘law’ is being taken to is distorting its very reason for being.

    It’s probably necessary for Anat Hoffman to disturb ‘the muted understanding’ that exists if that understanding in any way represents what I’ve attempted to articulate above, and I think it does. She actually just wants certain Jews to be allowed to be just the Jews they want to be in their own land. And for many Jewish women that is just not currently possible.

  5. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    I think it is quite relevant to take this discussion to the area of “Faith and Symbolism”.

    The events at the centre of the discussion, Anat Hoffman and her stance against Orthodox practices at the Kotel, are quite aptly part of that discussion.

    I will give, again, an intuitive account of my reflections.

    Israel is an acutely dynamic society. In all respects the transformations on the ground, spiritually included, as Jewish spirituality has its feet on the ground and heart in Heaven – not a quote, just me – are of the most bewildering kind. If one tries to keep one eye on THE Book and the other one on the tangible realities, the rhythm of advancements – purposely I will not say “changes” – will make it almost impossible to adjust one eye to the other.
    Personal freedom has been one of corner stones of Israel’s existence. Within the highest ethical standards, all Israelis can lead personal lives as they se it fit, in accordance to their beliefs, whatever degrees of Halachic observance. I lived for a while on a fantastic kibbutz, Gan Shmuel, Hashomer Hatzair and when, as a “joke”, I wanted to antagonise the haverim on a Friday evening in the hadara ohel I just turned up with a yarmulke on. The looks of shock were quite a picture, yet nobody asked me to take it off, yet all seeming continuously shocked. I, then, realised that I did not, in fact upset anyone, did not provoke them, but I received their message that, in fact, a Jew in Israel should be allowed to act just like…….a Jew in Israel, his own comprehensive country. Mind you, when my relatives from Bnei Brak visited me they would not touch the food on offer in the same diner.
    Anat Hoffman has been intent on disturbing the muted understanding that, in certain GIVEN spaces, certain Jews should be allowed to be just THE Jews they want to be in their own land.

    A certain book , which is wrongly seen as predicated on a frozen strictness of the letter, such as our Torah, would contain in its inherent reason, so discretely underlined, the highly humane, decent, notion of those dynamics that are “prescribed” to ensure perpetuity of ethical relevance within that forever transformed eternity without denying it’s core values. This is how I look at and why I admire the splendour of Judaism.

  6. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    I have wanted to return to our discussion before now, however other priorities prevailed. We are arguing, or debating, from very different standpoints and also different contexts; we now run the risk, I think, of not really saying anything fresh on the subject or the issues attending it.

    You continue to speak from a fixed, immovable place and in general terms that insist on the ‘fundamental principles’ of Orthodox Judaism being preserved for all time, untouchable in their rigidity, and only available in their true essence to the most loyal followers. And yet that is not really how they were formed in the first place – it took a lot of thought,argument and resolution to get there. In my study of Jewish history, the Torah, the Talmud, ethics, I have discovered the richness of complexity of thought and argument, even of more subtle ‘implications’ emerging from text, that allows for further development of thought and ongoing enlightenment. The way for something to continue to live and develop meaningfully is to allow at least a small breath of space for imagination and soul, even for doubt. Whoever said, indeed, whoever would have the right to say, that Judaism and its fundamental principles are for ‘the loyal few’ only, who adhere to it in a certain prescribed way? This kind of thinking is exactly where Judaism ends on shaky ground and could become more and more narrow, as zealots and/or those who inherit it but don’t have to, or choose to, think about it, claim it for their own. Room must be made for all Jews within Judaism.

    Nobody is suggesting redrafting the perception of an entire complexity where Judaism is concerned, instead there is a movement toward making it more possible for Jewish women to practise their Judaism more actively, instead of keeping to the roles assigned them through the ages which prevent no variation. It is an extraordinary thing that the notion of this appears to threaten, perhaps even frighten, some men and women in the Jewish world.

    You say no human group could possibly survive, let alone for millennia, where oppression, lack of respect for an indispensable half of the same group would be a norm, and yet from the beginning of human civilisation that has been the case for 50% of the human population; of course, I am referring to women. I am not making this statement hysterically, aggressively, combatively, obsessively, or lightly – I am not making it angrily or bitterly. Not at all. I am interested in history. I am, as a woman, interested in the history of women in the world. You say you are a historian, so I would ask you to research with professional objectivity the status and behaviours, the laws of the lands at various times, the societal mores, the assumptions in relation to women’s intelligence and general make-up, the opportunities and actualities that go to shape a woman’s life, through the centuries to the present time. See for yourself the elements that connect and persist. The mind boggles at the enormity of such a research undertaking: you can think of women as witches (which was the case through to the early 1800s) if they had sexual appetites or displayed undue intellectual curiosity, conversely women as ‘stronger’ so therefore able to shoulder more emotional stress and combine household duties and outside work, as well as mind the children, without the actual duress of that needing to be considered because they’re ‘stronger’; women as lacking in what it takes for managerial roles due to lack of logic or the rules of biology. Those few examples are mere appetisers, however when you add religious rules to the bundle as well, then you just keep stirring the pot to keep one half of the world’s population where it’s thought they should be from the point of view of some men and some women. Unfortunately all the above-mentioned elements rolling around in the brain’s receptors, and persistently remaining to become instinctual, colour and affect everything, including the possibility of women participating in a different way in established religious life. It would be easy to brand me as a ‘feminist’ (a word now coming into disrepute), and although I would not find that offensive in any way insofar as the basic rights of women are concerned, I am speaking here as a woman, a scholar and a writer, as well as a fellow human being, and would like to be received in that way.

    So, we are not talking here about idiosyncratic factors or mere anomalies, we’re actually talking about a situation that has not been representative of half of its adherents. The whole structure of Judaism will not come tumbling down in a heap and morph out of existence if women are permitted to practise it and enjoy it more fully. If that means men modifying to some extent their particular activities, that could well end up being beneficial to both men, women and children.

    As for criticism coming principally from those who did not experience the same degree of involvement in the study of understanding of Judaism as those they attack, it’s my experience that there can be a big difference between those who are brought up in the Orthodox tradition and have studied it all their lives almost as an extension of themselves, and their families, and actually ‘studying for understanding’. Often Jews who are seriously and diligently inclined to study Judaism for itself, independent of an assumed inheritance of its laws and its resultant lifestyle, and with a fervent wish to understand, result in maximum involvement and understanding of much more in relation to life and G-d from a Jewish perspective, than the more literal and less examined way can offer.

    I am sure all of this discussion might seem unduly harsh and extreme to you, however would hope that you might realise that it is actually coming from a non-threatening place, firm in thought, but not abrasive, in what you might perceive as its more war-like parameters.
    warmest regards,

  7. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat
    most people are intrigued, energised into reaction by anomalies, extremes, principally what seems counter to normal humane behaviour.
    Judaism has survived for milennia through its inherent safeguarding of all worthy virtues humane intereaction could produce. NOTHING has chganged in its fundamental principles as observed by those loyal to its immutable values. To this extent ,Orthodox Judaism has been the ethical keeper of what must be guarded passionately, intelligently, cogently within our existence.
    Anomalies are detected in all types of structures. Departures from moral tennets, from definitory principles of any entity are as present as human natures is capable of digressing from well deviced norms. Extrapolating those unwanted cases in order to re-draft the perception of an entire complexity is simply unjust. Among people adhering to Orthodox Judaism one will find types that are affected by idiosyncratic factors. Their behaviour is, therefore, uncharacteristic of the group they belong to. Anomalies cannot determine the strength, survival of and entire entity. Consequently, NO human group coluld possibly survive, let alone for milennia, where opression, lack of respect for an indispensible half of the same group would be a norm.

    One must appreciate the dedication of those who believe that only by upholding known and tested values, by immersing themselves in the thorough study of what makes our set of existential beliefs , we can be given hope for a world of acomplished Justice.
    It is not surprising that criticism of Orthodox Judaism comes principally from those who did not experience the same degree of involvement in the study an understanding of Judaism as those they attack. It is, therefore the implicit shortcoming in the understanding of those values that could possibly prompt the sadly misguided objections to it.
    One must hope that that quantum balance will avail itself of the open chances to enlightment.

    warm cheers


  8. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    To accuse me of concluding a complex argument in a ‘facile manner’ is, I think, inappropriate, and unfair. I spent a considerable amount of time discussing the different branches of Judaism and the notion of a Tzadic, in response to your throwaway line, CAN ANYONE NAME A PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL NEOLOG TZADIC!!! In mentioning different definitions of ‘Tzadic’, including Maimonides’ (whose ideas here I like very much), I did not intend to finish off in a flippant or glib manner, but rather to show that with this word and what it implies there are many different views and complexities to consider, rather than allowing oneself the liberty of brandishing it about in one sentence as you have, with the bagging of Progressive Liberal Jews in mind. You will note from my discussion on the Kaddish that I fully and seriously engage with Jewish thoughts, laws and ethics – that doesn’t mean I embrace all of them unequivocally though.

    My mix of traditional considerations with what you call “centrifugal tendencies” does not come only from the intellect, but also from what I call ‘felt knowledge’, as well as my own personal experience. Felt knowledge is powerful due to the fact that it doesn’t rely only on information and analysis, but exists as knowledge felt and acknowledged to be true by the heart (don’t laugh; it’s not as crazy as it sounds) – it doesn’t replace good research and sound analysis, merely accompanies it. Perhaps your personal conclusions, as you call them, are similar in vein. If you seek to protect your ‘valuable notions’ that is understandable and can be necessary for preservation. However, as humans we are sometimes faced with knowledge and experiences that demand recognition and to turn our backs on that is to be at one with illusion. The latter inference is directed at myself, not you. I cannot ignore what I have seen and experienced. Or, I choose not to. I do not hold onto some traditional considerations of Judaism due to distanced respect, I hold onto them for the essence they offer me. However, at the same time I do not accept, or ignore, the abuse of power by some in the name of Judaism, or the very real threat of Jewish women in Israel, and perhaps in some communities in the Diaspora, being increasingly silenced and disempowered. And that is what is happening as we write.

    You say that the Jewish environment does not oppress women and treats them with respect. That is so for some Jewish environments, but certainly not all. And why is that? Because the Jewish environment is dependent on the people who make it up, and some abuse the powers they have in the synagogue, in the community, and even at home. Also, some of the Jewish laws as they’re presently interpreted and enacted are inimical to women and no amount of ‘inherent dynamism … for all possible existential categories’ can change that. The ideals of religion and politics and philosophy can be grand, sound and visionary, however often their practice is not. The present religious/political climate in Israel is ugly where women are concerned and should not be ignored. If your personal conclusions continue to be associated with your life only and your wishes as to what Judaism is and should be, then all these other issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts will fall on deaf ears, and even though they exist in reality, they will not exist for you. That is your privilege, and your business, Otto, and I don’t judge you for it. However, I must take what is really the more difficult path, and acknowledge the problems, as well as seek to remedy them. This doesn’t in any way mar my own personal pleasure in my own faith.

    I so much enjoyed reading of your Mother. What a truly extraordinary person she was/is. I know enough about history, and have the imagination, to be able to realise the courage, resilience and intelligence she showed in the decisions she made and the actions she took. Kol Hakevod to her. I know there are many Jewish families who foster in their children the sort of qualities your Mother displayed – I was never inferring otherwise. I have not at any stage said that being part of an ultra orthodox household or community = subservience and lack of individuality. Please, however, let us consider those who live lives that are far lesser than they should be and do not resemble the kinds of situations you refer to. We also have individuals who rise above and beyond their circumstances, and they are what make for true inspiration, their efforts almost beyond comprehension.

    We probably don’t have a great deal more to say on the subject, however feel free to prove me wrong.
    warmest wishes to you,

  9. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    I must confess that most of my opinions would have to be seen as intuitive and with the best intentions of protecting valuable notions, as not to fall into the abiss of hillul HaShem.
    We are getting somewhere in drewing a profile of respectability for the woman in Judaism.
    Your, obviously intentional, mix of traditional considerations with , what I would call, centrifugal tendencies, is meant to retain a stature of respect.
    I will persist in my previous veiws by adding that Judaism has an inherent dynamism that caters for all possible existential cathegories. This also means that the saud dynamism is, in fact, a necessary adaptation to developments of the socio-political envoronment.
    Where Judaism is , falsely, seen as not dispensing with “anacrhonistic” notions, it is , by careful investigation, a necessary development of the same principles with the SAME purpose, the Messianic ultimate goal.
    I have no preference for the use of famous quotes or famous names, no matter how appropriate that may seem. To me that is a facile manner of concluding a complex argument. I am inspired by sages but abuse their”presence” in my mind I am reluctant to do. Therefore I shall relate only to, as said at the ouset, to my personal conclusions.
    I will come now to something counter-intuitive. As a historian I am reminded of ceratin events, facts of interesting relevance.
    Jewish women have been cared for by Judaism in a manner that encouraged theiractive participation in matters gthat demanded serius thought, intelligence addressing the abstract, involvement in the ehiculation of IDEAS, transgressing the kitchen-maid image of ensalved house keeper cum child producer etc.
    Remember – me so fondly – that it was the Jewish activism among the women working in the shmate factories in America in the early days of trade unionism. We sgtill have images of placcards written in beautiful Yidish paraded during workers’ strikes in the Garment Districts on NYC. Those were the Yidische Mums and daughters, most of them frumm, stricly kosher, shomerot Shabbat etc. taking strong positions on political matters, completely distinct from the false image of subservient servants.
    I must include in this the image of my wonderful Mother. The daughter and grand-daughetr of Ultra Orthodox Rabbis, by the time she was 27 she became a card carrying member of an illegal communist party, active in the anti fascist underground all the way untill the end of the WWII. Her love and passion for Judaism unaltered !!!
    Like so many other Jewish women famous for their intellectual activism they were the PRODUCT of households and communities at large where women were treated with equal respect and expectations of strong INDIVIDUALITY, even is some would have altered their Jedaic observance. The issue is that the Jewish environment does not opress women, but treats them with the respect conducive to creating the same quality humans as the strictly Rabbinical persuasion reserved for men only.

    Just consider yourself, because I do !!

  10. Shirlee. says:

    Very interesting discussion I’m following with you two. I’m sure Henry doesn’t mind.

    If he does I can give you one anothers email addresses.

  11. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,

    What a lot of space we’re now taking up, and it’s interesting that nobody else is contributing to the discourse! I think it’s an important discussion we’re having, and I thank Henry for allowing it.

    Your last posting responding to my comments is far from modest and lacking in dimension, in that it comprises wide and deep knowledge of Judaism as well as your respect and love for it. In this regard, as a man within the faith and the tradition you can be nourished and active as part of its framework in a way a woman cannot.

    If my ‘rationale’ is outside the perennial qualities of Judaism that require endless dedication to comprehension, then that is not because I have not put time into studying the Torah and Judaism as it relates to rules and ethics, for I have; my rationale is apart from that due to the necessity of addressing issues caused by the particular interpretations and rules that exist. You talk of the sages maintaining fundamental principles unaltered while recommending gently the flexibility that guaranteed the historic endurance we have now, and yet many different rationales and arguments have been proffered by those same sages that show different ways of thinking; the Talmud is evidence of this. The Talmud provides the opportunity for ongoing contribution of thought, which is one of the aspects of Judaism that keeps it alive, rather than an ancient fixed dogma requiring unthinking acquiescence. The whole subject is huge: why, a book by name of ‘Kaddish’ by Leon Wieseltier, devotes 588 pages to the rituals he observed (as a previously semi-observant Jew) during the traditional year of mourning after his father’s death; he submits himself to this process and finds the Kaddish’illuminating the world’. And within this personal memoir is his extensive exploration and research of all the opinions and findings of Rabbis through the ages on the origins and meaning, laws and ethics, relating to the Kaddish. This singular aspect alone is mammoth, and interestingly there are many varied and differing views on the Kaddish coming from these learned men, some more humane than others. Sometimes such fine, obscure detail is associated with what is forbidden and what is allowed, e.g. Wieseltier says, “The beginning of the twelfth month. I am a still a mourner. It is only an eschatological technicality that forbids the kaddish to be said for the twelve months of mourning.” (In some areas perhaps we could look at some of these ‘technicalities’ that prevent more commonsense and inclusive participation of women.!) That’s another area denied women, leading the prayer that is Kaddish for the bereaved, And why should they not pray in this way for their deceased mother or father, most especially if there is no male member to do so? It is an unnecessarily cruel rule based on shaky premises. Contemporarily in Israel, many women are being barred by Orthodox rabbis from participating fully in their own parents’ funerals insofar as their physical presence is concerned close to the proceedings; it has been found to be against the law and the rabbis most definitely cannot insist on this as a consequence. It’s a dreadful indictment on those concerned who push for this exclusion at the most vulnerable time in a person’s life.

    Yes, study and contemplation of Judaism can reveal splendours of existential wisdom (what a lovely way of putting it, Otto), and does. When you say to me, “I know you can do it, Liat!!!”, I don’t take that as a patronising remark at all, I can see and hear the warm enthusiasm permeating it. I know I can do it, too; in fact for a time I did do it (not that ‘doing it’ is ever a final act, it’s as necessarily ongoing as the healthy flow of a river), I cannot, though, out of respect for myself as a person, and a woman, and out of respect to the necessary freedom of my thoughts and creativity, embrace Judaism fully in its present Orthodox form, which entails knowingly ignoring the realities around me, some of which are presented in my previous posting.

    What matters here is not turning a blind eye to the disservice some Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and some Rabbis, are perpetrating on Judaism by their aggressive (one can be calmly aggressive, or passive aggressive) issuance of a rigid dogma that divides and punishes, as well as excludes. This has no part in the earlier image of the splendours of existential wisdom; in fact it goes against it.

    Progressive/Liberal/Reform are all names that are bandied about, often with ignorance and disrespect, and, as names proclaiming a type or branch of, relatively new in the long history of Judaism, so perhaps it’s not so easy to show you a fourth generation Progressive Jew, even if as a movement it has been trying to get off the ground since the 1800s. Some people might well give up and abscond to another religion, or more likely become secular, however I’m not sure that they’re necessarily associated with Progressive Judaism before that. Jews who have thought ‘out of the box’ are not so new; they’ve been around for centuries. You say “Can anyone name a Progressive Liberal Neolog Tzadic? (!!!) – well, perhaps not, but then we should examine why not (and why limit it to Neolog?)? The naming of a Tzadic is still within the principality of the Orthodox thinker (certainly in Israel), so Progressive Liberals won’t get a look in there. And, to further complicate the issue, we’d all have to agree on the definition of a Tzadic. Just as a start, we could consider is the definition simply that of a righteous man (the feminine word is ‘tzadeikas’, but I never hear anyone talking about who might be a tzadeikas), or pushing it higher we could add ‘someone who achieves a high degree of purity in thought and action”, which pushes the stakes higher and less achievable by most, or even ‘a spiritual psychological description of the soul’? We could also go with Maimonides’ definition which is “one whose merit passes his iniquity” – I must say I very much like the latter. In my time I have certainly come into contact with a small number of Jews who are not Orthodox whose merit passes their iniquities. There are perhaps 36 Tzadikim Nistarim roaming around the world, unknown and unidentifiable – who are we to say which branch of Judaism they belong to?

    Throwing in Spinoza, whom I’m sure most Jews with conservative thought processes would not want to give the time of day, I was fascinated to read what was said to be a writ of cherem issued by the Lords of the Ma’amad in 1656 in Amsterdam, which ex-communicated, expelled, cursed and damned him, with the Consent of amongst others (including the Holy Congregation) G-d. Yes, G-d: we have the Lords of the Ma-amad taking it upon themselves to categorically speak in G-d’s name, to give His consent! Well, this is what I mean, by what can happen to Judaism in the hands of some men. And it is happening now, with the religious authorities in Israel continuing to push women off and out of sight (as Anat Hoffman said); this is more evident and seemingly more rampant than say twenty years ago and it’s seeking to intrude on all walks of life.

    This is why I cannot just bathe blissfully in the beauties Judaism has to offer, pretending to a balance that isn’t really there, ignoring the realities around me, ignoring my own ‘existential’ possibilities and those of others. ‘The ‘me’ I speak of has nothing to do with ego and more to do with an essence that lives as an individual spark in each person, an essence that has the right to survive and thrive. It has everything to do with living life as fully and in as a developed way as possible. It means striving for active inclusion and maintaining also the solidity and ongoing worth Judaism provides. I agree Judaism, as a natural extension of the Jewish individual, is of critical importance in that regard. It’s a difficult and challenging thing to make necessary changes that won’t alter or harm that. Way back in time it was decided it was no longer necessary to slaughter live animals as sacrificial offerings at The Temple in Jerusalem, and other more symbolic offerings could take their place. The changing of this ancient practice did no harm to Judaism. Perhaps we could calm down and realise that Progressive Liberal Jewry and tolerance of women practising Judaism in a more active way, would in the end not really rock the boat too much. Tolerance and acceptance of Liberal Jews can only assist in unifying Jews as a whole, which is just as important for Jewish survival.

  12. Otto Waldmann says:

    many thanks for your generous and kind address.
    I will attempt a very modest retort, modest simply because my expert dimensions are limited . The perceptions, however allow me some latitude, not to mention an inherent respect for the splendour of Judaism i what I regard its most reliable form.

    Should one allow an immersion in the very substance of the necessity for “strictness” of observance, the first conclusio would be that the forging of the known – and always undestood fully – Judaic mores ( see rules/laws ) has been one of infinite care as NOT to affect human nature in all its complexities.
    The objections you have articulated may be a result of the immediacy of the natural predilection for enquiery by a c reative…in quisitive mind. The strange, apparently contradictory , nature of Jewish familial “networking” of freedom of the mind, seen also as parental warmth, necessary CONTRIBUTION by all – so precious – members of the family set to the strength of the family unit, has created quite often the needed …progressive application of the collective brains in addressing the constance of societal challenges. Thus we have the Jew constantly adjusting what one may – wrongly – the “given” orinciples of ethics as to confront a life constantly attempting at the very survival of the Jewish individual and by the same natural extention, Judaism itself.
    The sgaes have maintained fundamental principles unaltered while reccomending gently the flexibility that guaranteed the historic endurance we now, thousands of years later, still recognise as THE Judaism alive in spite of, but with the conribution, of time.
    This is THE longer conveyance of a simple thought. One should try to see HOW Judaic ethics have survived and mainly why !!
    Before I forget, a certain question has occured to me the other day:

    Idiosyncratic tribullations will be found within any mind or social setting. I dare introduce here a well established witticims: ” Can anyone show me a fourth generation Proghressive Jew !!”
    This is a “nice” alusion to the fact that, since haskala, we have witnessed a painful transgression of Jews to other faiths, most as result of the relaxed approaches to what I previously reffered as “enduring Judaism”. This is but one of the unwanted aspects of the extended criticism one would allow starting with that specific idiosyncratic trait. Trus, after so much obsevring one feels the need to conclude or generalise. It is a reflex act of the brain, particulartly the brain that has acquiered suficient confidence through acclaim, tangible achievements. To this extent I must add that your exposition is most articulate and, condensed as it is, quite comprehensive. It advocates, however, for a rationale OUTSIDE the perennial qualities that require endless dedication to comprehension. For such is the intended nature of OUR Judaism. One must trust IT that it shall constantly reveal splendours of existential wisdom, if only approached with reverence, trust and the inherent desire NOT to alter its values, but understand them.
    I know you can do it, Liat !!!


    if I sound a tiny bit patronising it may be bacause, in fact, on second reading I am excessively so. Can’t help only because in my case “patronising” is a form of care and consideration.

  13. Liat Nagar says:

    Thank you for your most lucid and informed discussion on the practice of Judaism. There is nothing you have said that is not so, however it does invite further comment for underlying issues that do exist in regard to it. The situation is complicated, not because people such as Anat Hoffman seek to change it, but because it holds within it both beauty and worthiness, as well as, for some, stultifying conformity and repression of intellect and spiritual development – even, I think, stunting of inner freedom. It need not, but in some cases it does. It’s true that Jewish men are interdicted in many areas devoted strictly to women, however those particular areas I’m sure Jewish men would be quite happy to steer clear of; as you say women have a vast and demanding role to play here, however it depends surely on where the vastness and demand lie as to whether that role is both fair and fulfilling. In the case of women who want to be involved more fully in Jewish religious observance, or not be separated from their husbands in social situations, such as eating and dancing, or perhaps share with their husbands some real free time that does not have religious connotations, or in public to be recognised and greeted on an equal basis, these women are not so unthinkingly happy with their ‘interdicted’ situations.

    To make some changes that would enable women and men to be together on a more equable basis, both respecting and taking part in religion and life together, is I believe a non-threatening and most
    humane ideal. Initially it is perfectly understandable that most religious Jewish men might abhor the idea, and women who have been brought up in the mind-set that supports the present separation and conduct would also say an unequivocal no to it. Therefore change will never be agreed to without assertiveness and demands from women, so many of whom, as you say, traditionally are not seen kveching about oppression, except for rare cases. It is a common thing for people suppressed, or oppressed, to be silent and just keep on keeping on. (The same situation existed in the vote for women until more assertive women took it upon themselves to demand changes.) If the Jewish way of addressing issues (non-aggression) cannot make room for proper discussion and thought in relation to women’s issues in Judaism, then obviously different ways must be found to accommodate the situation.

    The topic is huge and difficult, and any contemplated change to an ancient rule or custom automatically instils fear or nervousness in those presiding. I do not air my thoughts on this subject in a cavalier manner, or in a fashion that implies women vs. men combatively in general terms, the latter concept being non-productive and too simplistic altogether. I have had many and various experiences as a Jewish woman, including living for two and half years with my second husband, an Israeli Yemeni Jew, within the Yemeni community of Rosh HaAyin in Israel. This experience gave me all the beauty and the shortcomings mentioned in my earlier discussion. Basically, if you’re a woman who likes to use her brain and creativity as fully as possible and live life, as well as practise Judaism, to do this within the framework of a conservative, religious community is very difficult. If you’re a woman who is happy and content within the framework of the male imposed rules of Ultra-orthodox Jewish practice, then that’s a different matter. Each to his own. The problem exists for women like Anat Hoffman, for me, and other earnest, sincere Jewish women I know, who want more, for the women in the IDF who at a concert were asked to leave rather than sing, as they’d been preparing to do, because of religious soldiers whose Rabbi had told them they could not hear and view a woman singing, for the women who walk behind their husbands on the footpaths of Mea Shearim with pram and numerous children to keep under control, not looking sideways, for the young women who had bleach thrown onto their new, perfectly conservative, clothes while walking down the streets of B’nai Brak because they hadn’t bought the clothes in the ‘authorised’ shop, for the women who are not allowed to touch the Torah scrolls encased in their mantles as they’re passed around during the celebratory dancing of Simchat Torah, for the women who slave for days before and during the chagim to clean house and prepare foods but are unable to participate fully in religious services due to the sheer impracticality of that … I could go on, but you get the drift. This is not about kveching/complaining – this is about facing the realities of what many of these rules interpreted and practised with rigidity actually cause. Silence in regard to this does not necessarily mean inner compliance and if traditional Jewish life requires suppression of negative thought or feeling, then it is not healthy psychologically or emotionally.

    I did not really wish to bring my own personal experience into the discussion, and I chose to do so in order to convey the concrete complexity of the situation. I am sure many Jewish couples, man and woman, work out their own lives very well and live quite comfortably, as well as taking comfort from, their chosen rhythm of life. However, it does not apply to all. And none of us should be so sure and so smug as to say that it should. I hope my gentle shades are still most welcome, and I really do appreciate your specific discussion on the matter. I’m all for rationale and balance, but not at the expense of existing realities that need acknowledgement and action.

  14. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    I am impressed by your flexibility – as against the prejudiced use of “volatility”, a necessary discussion as an aside – in accepting my intentional use of light sarcasm in such a tollerant way. I deserved worse.

    I have not departed entirely from the topic at hand. On the other hand – and one more hand this is slowly turning into a Budhist representation – Anat can be dealt with (!!) in but a few sentences.
    Without being sententious – and here I shall abandon the cute play on words – Anat Hoffman has carved a career in peripheral PR attention, nevertheless just as disturbing. Why disturbing ! Coming back to your alusion to male-female responsibilities/limitations in Judaism, my position is that women in Jewish life, in the genuine practice of Judaism, have a vast and demanding role, whatever parameters of non-trangression perceived. I would venture that Jewish men are, similarly, interdicted in many areas devoted striclty to women. Traditionally, those involved knowingly in Jewish ways of life are not seen kveching about opression, except for extreme cases, anomalies, which do not represent the essence of the traditions.
    If certain rules are in place and the rules limit access to ANY gender, attempting at those rules, particulaly in an aggressive manner does not fit at all the Jewish way of addressing issues.
    We do not have enough space here and I should not abuse Henry’s time and patience ( yes, Henry is THE man with the chopper in both hands and one MUST acknowledge that ! ) in delving into the effects of progressive activists, their agenda. Sufice to add that the persistance with which Hoffman is following her route of obsessive desire for changes of an entire system cannot attract the sympathy of those of us, men or women, satisfied that Judaism has acquired a structure of rationale and balance worth preserving and, in certain cases, defending with as much sarcasm as necessary, other “ingredients” notwithstanding. These make for the desirable chromatic behaviour we should all enjoy. To this extent, at least, your gentle shades are most welcome !!

    Me greedy, what, when it comes to fishing for compliments !!!!!

  15. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    I would love to share a cup of tea with you one day – I like black tea without sugar, thanks. Although I don’t really mind who makes it, you or me.

    As for the rest of your posting, well it seems to me you’re tying yourself in knots in a humorous, sarcastic sort of way. Where did the idea of ‘that desirable submissive image of the male specimen’ come from? Certainly not from me. Recognising equal opportunities as far as possible for men and women, without anybody having to be subservient, is more to the point. And why do you keep appealing to Henry?

    Have you noticed we are no longer discussing the Jewish issue of women participating more fully in Judaism, or the completely inappropriate treatment by police of Anat Hoffman? (Although I am still waiting to hear your views in this regard.)

    Anyway, Otto, I don’t have to include compliments about your tea-making abilities to make for a tiny, positive line about you: I’ve already said in an earlier posting that you write with underlying warmth and humour, and possibly you’re a charmer to boot! Don’t be so greedy.

  16. Otto Waldmann says:


    you have no idea how incredibly efficient the power of your written word is !
    At once, as you so fairly admonished me for sitting in judgement of others – in this case you – and dare suggest that one may, for instance, indulge in idol worshipping etc., I realised that I, myself, trespassed that golden line of privileges.
    As such, I recognise that you, alone, must be allowed to exercise and enjoy the providential, no less, indulgence in introspecting with your unique descriptive manner the curious and revealing in those who may have the rare privilege to become the subjects, no matter how fleeting, of your descriptive darts.
    I shall only be grateful for being allowed inside your gallery of mortal subjects. ( noticed how I dared a little word game : subject a noun re. matter of interest and also noun person subservient to another ). But hey, mortality is only relative. Now I am right up there etched in the web of universal written memory and for that I thank you.

    could I possibly ask you to insert a tiny positive descriptive line abt meself: ” …Otto’s cholesterol is now at a normal level and he makes a cup of tea to die for – ONE suggar only !!! “. Maybe we could share one one day. ( “one” used twice, different meanings, meaning that I could be a writer too , if allowed…)

    Henry, this one is really, really good for print, considering also how I advocate for that desirable submissive image of the male specimen !!!!

  17. Liat Nagar says:

    I much appreciate your efforts to allow me access to your ‘gentle side’; I too have a gentle side, however grant you it is not evident in my writings on the issue to hand. It is true I have a passion for the written word (I’m a writer) and I also have huge respect for it.

    It is not for you to judge me in regard to ‘a trespass’. You really must be more careful with both your judgements and certainly with your assumptions. I do not believe in idols or heroes and I have none; I do admire some people more than others and in varying degrees, that’s all. I do not harbour total and general ‘gender loyalty’ to my gender, not at all. I make my decisions on who and what I support in regard to the issues concerned. And, it seems you do not engage in discussion of the issues, only the person concerned with the issues.

    It’s a tiresome but salient truism that when a woman speaks assertively (no, not aggressively, assertively) a man is more than inclined to accuse her of ‘stridency’, and no matter how specifically and coherently she addresses her subject matter, if what she says is disliked, or it threatens the man’s equilibrium, she’s pronounced illogical, her comments mere ‘fallacies’. You have fallen into this arena with your comments, and of course there’s nowhere for me to go with this because you will think what you want to think and no amount of evidence to the contrary will sway you. That you think you can give me, let alone guarantee, ‘complete logical satisfaction’, I am interpreting as your sense of humour at play. For, Otto, nowhere so far has your logic been evident (it’s your feelings that have been evident); you don’t even address the issues under discussion, instead you focus on the woman herself, and in a most personal way. But there we have it, many men assume they are masters of logic and don’t think to stand back and actually examine what they are saying. In human relations logic can be used most cruelly to the detriment of emotional intelligence and to the detriment of a fuller truth.

    I don’t at all mind a man with that active ingredient testosterone, and if he also has inescapable seductive prosaic virility, well then he would be very hard to resist. Although, at the end of the day it’s always been my mind that has saved me.

    • Otto Waldmann says:


      revealing in several ways, such as:

      – subscribe to the common variety of objections to the so called attacks ad hominem or muler in our case, as an additional fallacy. Tell you why: humans are the only creatures capable of making statements, ergo, statements pertain strictly to humns ergo whatever a human states is the “intellectual property “of the said human who said it. If the said statement is, say, silly, that renders the said human also…silly. It follows that an intelligent human may not make a silly statement. An intelligent human shall make an…intelligent statement. Therefore it is a comprehensive, all encompassing, mode of expression to refer to a certain person in a certain qualitative way rendereed by the statements cum notions cum ideas for which the said human is responsible. Thus, when I qualified the indefensible Anat Hoffman in a certain descriptive way I, implicitly, covered the ideas for which she is responsible. A totally unacceptable attack ad hominem would be the following: ” Jesabel is unintelligent because she has red hair.” but even that could be relative.

      – cause slight confusion to the reader following abandonment of stated principles within the same phrase. Peruse your generous analyssis to observe how one afforrds herself certain privileges while denying the same to the very subject of criticism. Simply put, the adage : ” How dare you have a go at me when all I wanted was to have a go at you. ”

      Don’t get me wrong, Liat, you are, in fact very, very entertaining and I wish I had more time – and inclination – to disect more of your very telling output. ( I nearly said outpour ! )



  18. Otto Waldmann says:


    what are we going to do with your effervescent passion for the written word and your implicit indulgence in political romanticism !!
    I, for one, shall not attempt any stylistic correction but hasten to your logical aid.
    You may have to tollerate my inescapable seductive prosaic virility, also condensed in that term overdosed in testosterone, called “tachles”.

    Your idol – already a trespass – Anat, has been regaling us with, what is for me, virility notwithstanding, an unbearable amount of hysteria, so solidly in the mishpuha of irrational behaviour and damaging posturing, that her latest exploits justifiably pushed the “MASPIK” buttons with the amply seasoned Yirushalaim Mishtara.

    I enjoyed somehow your gender loyalty to your sister high – on something ! -on the barricades of selfdestruction, but that was only a tribute to your well articulated desire to entertain the reading eye. The other eye, the one with a vision for the splendor of my – and your, I suppose – same Yirushalaim shel zahav cannot ingest any intent, no matter how finely stylisticall expressed, supportive of displays in the class of ganz meshuge .

    Should you wish to find out what and where you availed yourself of strident fallacies in your last postings on the subject, please do not hesitate to ask as I guarantee complete logical satisfaction.

    Henry dear, pls appreciate my earnest in avoiding any offense possibly conducive to tzures and allow Liat to witness my “gentle” side.

  19. Otto Waldmann says:

    your generous posting reveals loyalty to a certain approach to matters related to Judaism. I must specify the firm and precise expressions used, i.e “matters related to Judaism” as against what some – including you, naturally – would believe and insist that would be a representation of Judaism. This follows that Anat Hoffman and all those attached to her beliefs, represents a serious distortion of what I consider Judaism. As such, her methodology – see behaviour – is perfectly consistent with an abandonment of the ethics that constitute the essence of Judaism.
    As you see, I have dispensed with “romanticising” the acceptance of variants.
    Anat Hoffman is one of the least sophisticated exponents of what I call centrifugal irresponsible deficiently informed frustrated individuals of CIDIFI, which, just as well , I am sure in some Central African dialect could mean something incredibly unprintable, but for the purpose of our exchanges we shall retain the English self-evident.
    On the mentioned ABC she was singularly interviewed and excelled in demonising ” the Rabbis” occasionally mentioning ” the Orthodox Rabbis”. Having gained access to important media outlets, Anat Hoffman did not spare any mild or abrasive invectives in relation to the most evident AND respectables notables of our religion. This is a longstanding trait of offensive disposition seen historically at Reform. Havig established this, I must qualify further that the mere fact that if since the outset of Haskala, numbers of objectors to Jewish Orthodoxy has, unfortunately, increased, it does not make the process an acceptable phenomenon.
    Hoffman’s simplistic takes, aggressive and intellectually crude expression make her even more unpalatable. Her strident manner conveyes serious personal problems, not least the evident insuficient capacity of comprehending the deep values of immutable Judaic notions. And, perhaps here we should engage in defining the very term of immutability and the derivates. “Derivates” will give enough slack to allow you, Liat, to exercise what seems to be one laudable passion you posess, anxiety to understand and express, very importantly, as long as you would not apply distonant tones !!! . Hoffman, however, has demonstarted a fiixed disposition of destruction of general entities as substitute to indulging in genuine introspection. I have witnessed enough from her to conclude firmly that blind determination dominates her public persona in matters of general Jewish ethical concern.
    Otherwise, if you are really intersted, I would be only happy to point to you the , roughly, dozen fallacies you have entertained in your last posting while enthusiastically attempting to defend a foul detractor of important Jewish values.

  20. Liat Nagar says:

    Otto, If you say that you take Anat Hoffman seriously, of course I accept that (there’s no need for sarcasm). On the other hand your writing does not convey that. You are responsible for the impressions you leave behind with the words you write, or say, and nowhere in your original comments did I receive the impression that you took her seriously. Your latest thoughts on her describe more your own extrapolation of her activities ‘demonising Jewish institutions’ and have no real substance in relation to what she is actually trying to do specifically.

    Indeed, your discussion is so general that it doesn’t speak to the actual subject. It’s unfair to seek to taint an individual in a general way, whether it’s me or Anat Hoffman – speaking out against aspects of Judaism that are practised in a way that is not good for women does not automatically bring the whole edifice of Judaism tumbling down (It’s stronger than that). It’s possible to improve something without wrecking it.

    Insofar as the incident she speaks of regarding the police, she’s not speaking of the entire Israeli Police force, she’s speaking of those who were in charge of her after her arrest, so why make the comment you did on perhaps including Israeli police in the generous album of broygess-Bible-basher, etc. for greater effectiveness?. Is it not possible for you to separate one or two, or more, from the entire number that make up the Israeli police force? Must they all be accorded the utmost respect because of the whole Force as a unit – don’t they have to earn it as individual representatives of that Force, or can they just join the Force and do whatever? It is absolutely possible to defend Eretz Zion and at the same time speak out against those in the population who are not behaving justly or well. It would be a dangerous thing to romanticise it to the point where it was felt you could not, as it would be fostering an illusion and allowing all sorts of aberrant behaviour.

    I heard Anat Hoffman being interviewed on ABC Radio when she was here and complained to that station on the aggressive hectoring she suffered during the interview, as well as complaining of the nature of it. Not only was Israel attacked, she was also attacked. It’s my opinion she did her best in a difficult situation, and the way she handled it actually made the bias of the interviewer very apparent. The ABC, SBS, the Fairfax media, all of them will use every avenue to put Israel in a bad light, and I fight it every time. The woman I have heard speak does not resemble in any way “the apostolic relentless ranting messy mindless poorly articulate (at least in English) activist” you refer to. Her English is excellent and she speaks calmly and eloquently.

    I am quite aware of what Hoffman’s agenda is and I don’t expect that any, or very many, Jewish men would be sympathetic to it. There are probably many ultra-orthodox Jewish women who would not be sympathetic to it either, but not all. She does not care about being famous, she cares about changing unjust situations. The organisation she is involved with, IRAC, was successful in court some months ago with sorting out the ridiculous situation that existed on Egged public buses in Jerusalem and other places whereby women were intimidated to sit at the back – of course, the ultra religious can do what they like with private buses, but not dictate rules within the public bus system. Hoffman is not attacking Jewish institutions en masse, or at random, she is attacking the rigid employment of rules made by men (not G-d) who prevent women from practising Judaism more fully or living life more normally, viz. relegate women to the back seats of buses, upstairs or behind curtains in synagogues, in kitchens cooking and cleaning-up, with no time or energy for anything else, during chagim (Jewish festivals), and confined to particular types of clothing/hats/wigs when in public.

    I well know the absolute importance of Judaism over the millennia – it’s unique in the history of man that after such a long dispersement of a people from their land to many others, they should remain true to their culture, their religion and their particular ethics. I completely accept the significance of that. I also want as a woman to take part in that fully, not simply be revered as ‘A Woman of Valour’ because I am living a life dictated by Jewish patriarchs who benefit from it comfort-wise enormously. There are many good, warm-natured, well-meaning Jewish men within this framework, I know, not just authoritarian autocrats inflicting severity. However, that is not the point. You must understand that having a strong view about an aspect of Judaism, or criticizing when seeing the need for that, does not constitute a person any less passionate or serious about being Jewish and the history, culture and tradition attached to that.

    I know too much objectivity can end up missing the point, or the truth, however unwillingness to at least examine different views with sincerity does the same.

  21. Liat Nagar says:

    Oh, by the way, Hoffman was strip-searched by police (yes, a policewoman) as well; obviously an exercise in humiliation. Work out for yourself if the deeds deserved the end result. This was mentioned in her full account of the experience appearing in the IRAC newsletter ‘Pluralist’ on 22nd October.

  22. Liat Nagar says:

    More power to Anat Hoffman that she continues her efforts in the face of strident authoritarianism, unnecessary brutality and/or the patronising voices of those who find her an irritant while remaining ensconced in their own comfortable positions that tradition endows them with.

    The situation played out at HaKotel was, of course, obviously in order to attract attention with the purpose of changing the status quo. Anat should not kvetch about her troubles? … not even the extreme treatment accorded her in the police station? She should not have been released onto the streets again? … well, Otto, perhaps she should have just been kept in a cell indefinitely with hands and ankles shackled, no blanket, and food thrown into the cell as if it were swill. Sounds like a medieval scenario. If you don’t agree with someone’s point of view and actions, does that necessarily have to entail lack of care as to their humane treatment? Oh, okay, you won’t even grant her the respect of taking her seriously … but does that also mean that it doesn’t matter what happens to her as a human being?

    Otto, there was warmth and humour underlying your comments (and for all I know you’re a bit of a charmer as well!) as you threw in your twopence worth, however that doesn’t take away from the fact that you completely ignored the main issue, which is Hoffman’s treatment at the hands of police. If people don’t want to believe her account because they don’t agree with what she says or does, then that’s a reflection of their incapacity for less subjective judgement and unwillingness to admit to truth, in any form, no matter how that might prick their balloon.

    I’m sure the good Rabbi will be most pleased to discover that he is perfect and always right because he married you and Florence.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Who says that I don’t take Anat Hoffman seriously !!( for the record Liat Nagar says so ).
      Trouble with the trouble seeking Anat is that her agenda is not about the manner in which Jerusalem police treat well-known, habbitual social irritants – although for the sake of greater effectiveness why not inlcude Israeli police in the generous album of broygess-Bible-basher-balabusta -, but her determination to carve momentous one minute of fame in the un-wanted gallery of Jews bent on reforming what has been carrying Judaism for milennia. And, as part of this apostolic relentless ranting messy mindless poorly articulate ( at least in English ) activist, her fairly recent visit down under has elicited some of the most venimous commnets on the most willing ABC Radio about the viciousness of Jewish religious institutions, Orthodoxy bin the main, of course, for the delight of all those who could not hope for a more efficient anti Semitic episode hitting the public domain. For to the darlings of the Jew hating social-religious set there is nothing more delightful than having a technical Jew ( or Jewess ) having a go at his/her own people.
      As Anat Hoffman has abandoned her mind and body to the cause of demonising Jewish institutions, seemingly in support of a “cause” causing serious rachmuness to the observing – and observant – regular Yid, coming to grief at the hands – and handling – of those she attacks with so much passion should not be seen as a reason of criticism of the same institutions, unless one is careless enough to be caught in the – not so – smart PR tactics employed by the same Anat.
      To mine, attacking Israel does not carry any rationale if one wants to be seen as a … defender of the same Eretz Zion !

      Ah, one more thing, I already graduated with Honours in the Course of ” Objective objections can only assure survival of great ideals.”

  23. Otto Waldmann says:

    I cannot help intrruding into this little soul searching pre-Shabbat forum by saying that if this is the same Anat Hoffman we have been encountering for the last “few” twenty years, the new installment in the ongoing “Tales of Hoffman at the Wall” proves once again that the lady did not go there to daven but to get arrested and she knew best of all what she had to do. That follows that our annoying Anat should not kvetch about her troubles but be grateful that she got what she went there for ….

    Anat Hoffman has been causing all kind of rachmunes to all Jews, not just the Orthodox with so much passion and determination for so long that, in my humble and utterly decent view, the only mistake the policemen or policeWOMEN made was to release her out on the streets again !!!

    YES, I AM BACK, so there !!!

    And the good Rabbi can only be right. He married me to my greatest love, Florence.

    • Shirlee. says:

      Gee Otto it’s been quiet without you

      We’ve missed you around here.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        …and bringing you fresh tides of lovely smiles and gentle manners ( and price of food stuff to shame the local ripp-offs ) from UK.

  24. Liat Nagar says:

    I admire Rabbi Appple and his diplomatic, polite response is what I would have expected. It does, however, deflect the main issue at hand and instead imply the possibility of lack of genuine spirituality on the part of Anat Hoffman due to disturbance caused. Unfortunately, change often entails disturbance, and sitting quietly in a corner praying is not going to achieve anything in this regard. Rebelling against something (in this case male imposed rules on the use of the Wall and the wearing apparel of women in association with it) does not negate true feelings for G-d.

  25. Jonas Michey says:

    An interesting perspective on Ms Hoffman’s arrest by Rabbi Raymond Apple – http://www.oztorah.com/2012/10/women-shema-the-western-wall-ask-the-rabbi/

    • Shirlee. says:

      Jonas I thank you very much indeed for posting this. Rabbi Apple is a great man and he has said it how I feel.

      I really can’t believe we are hearing the whole reason behind her arrest . I think there must be more to this than meets the eye. I also doubt the description of her treatment. I think it’s highly exaggerated.
      I think the whole thing was designed to be provocative and it achieved the desired result.

    • Paul Winter says:

      Many thanks for providing the link to Rabbi Apple’s comment about Anat Hoffman’s actions and its consequences.

      Rabbi Apple, as always, speaks wisely and his views deserve to be respected.

      I note, however, in reading his comments that he talks of “truly pious people” praying at the Kottel and decries those “acting out of militancy to make a point”. He, quite properly notes that it is not enough to merely consider the action, but also its motivation.

      I humbly submit, however, that Hoffman is as pious as any soul communicating with his or her God, and that is her true motivation and that is the basis on which she should have been judged. I also would note that the pious men who have set the rules that govern prayer at the Kottel are very militant in having those rules enforced and that they are less than loving or tolerant or behaving in a way that indicates that they are guided by the Golden Rule: do not do unto others as you would not have others do unto you.

      My regard for those praying piously would be tremendously raised if I heard those men of god condemning the brutality and the humiliation inflicted on Hoffman.

  26. Liat Nagar says:

    I support Anat Hoffman’s courage and resilience. I also support her efforts towards pluralistic representation on the committee which has been assigned to administering HaKotel, all members of which are Ultra-Orthodox men. In 1967, when Israel claimed victory in the Six Day War, and also reclaimed the Western Wall, that repossession was not intended only for the Ultra-Orthodox, it was for all Jews. For centuries Jews in the Diaspora have prayed to Jerusalem, yearned for it, and kept the unfailing spark of Jewishness in their hearts and souls to sustain them in all sorts of terrible situations by remembering it or their notion of it. They did not have to be Ultra-Orthodox to do this, they could simply be a Jew, man or woman, anywhere and in any place. It is time the Wall became accessible to all kinds of Jews and that Israeli society reflects in its behaviour both men and women equally. It’s okay for women to participate actively in the defence forces; it’s okay for the wives of Ultra-Orthodox men to bear many children while simultaneously working full-time ‘approved’ jobs as some of their husbands study Torah in the Yeshiva all day; but it’s not okay for women to participate more fully in praying at the Wall! This is obviously all about religion and the laws and rules put in place by men over time in relation to that. To discuss that is to open a Pandora’s box, however does that mean it has to be left alone? To discuss it is not to disrespect it. To attempt to change it to make it fair does not necessarily involve disrespect.

    In Israel there is the vexing problem of a minority of Ultra-Orthodox rabbis, and some in the communities, who estrange themselves from others and seek to fashion the land to their own strict interpretations. It is dangerous for the future insofar as dividing the Jewish people and fragmenting unity, and if their power and influence is allowed free reign, a more fundamentalist society could emerge along the lines of Islamic fundamentalism. I say all this while remaining an activist for Israel and all that it strives for and hopes for.

    It is disturbing to read of the kind of treatment Anat Hoffman suffered during her arrest and time spent in the gaol. One would not think it necessary to shackle her hands and feet given her age and circumstances, one would think it necessary to provide at least a blanket for overnight warmth – what is the rationale behind this kind of treatment for someone in this particular situation and why are the particular police officers not accountable to someone for their behaviour? We’re not talking about Arab terrorists here, just a Jewish woman who led a prayer service at the Wall?

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.