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Tuesday, January 08, 2013 

Here's the right argument to make about Anat Hoffman's MO

Evelyn Gordon at Commentary wrote about the Women of the Wall's fight for rights to pray as followers of non-Orthodox Judaism at the Western Wall, and notes the real problem with how Anat Hoffman and company are handling things:
Because much of what the organization seeks to do at the Wall in no way disrupts other people’s worship, the existing ban on these activities is unjustified. A woman wearing a tallit or carrying a Torah, for instance, doesn’t impede anyone’s prayers: If you’re there to pray, your eyes should be on your prayer book, not on what other people are wearing or carrying. Even a full women’s prayer service complete with Torah reading wouldn’t necessarily be disruptive if it were quiet, as Orthodox worship often is: At many Orthodox services, you can’t even hear the Torah reading from more than a few feet away.

But that isn’t what Women of the Wall want. What they want is to make a political statement by worshiping as loudly and publicly as possible–to “see and be seen,” in Hoffman’s words. And that most definitely is disruptive to other worshipers: It’s hard to concentrate on one set of words when someone else is chanting a different set at full volume nearby.

Indeed, even the limited activity the group is allowed to conduct at the Wall today is conducted in as loud, public and disruptive manner as possible: A New York Times article last month, for instance, described the women “dancing and singing hymns in the women’s section,” which would certainly be disruptive to other women trying to pray at the site.
Well there's the right argument to make against them. If they're not really dedicated to their faith, and solely focused on political statements, then they aren't even dedicated to Reform Judaism, and really are doing little more than annoy other worshipers by disturbing the peace. In other words, much as I dislike Reform, I can say that they're not doing their sect any favors. Here's a rabbi's commentary making a good case of the do's and don'ts for how to manage topics like theirs.

Hoffman's also sent signals of just how skewed their vision of Israel and Zionism are:
Rudoren immediately worked on readers’ sympathies for the Women of the Wall, writing that Haberman was “tearful” when she said, “How can you say this to me “I’m a Jew. This is my state.”

The statement “This is my state” reveals the goal of those who claim “equality” and that they have an equal say with learned rabbis over what is accepted Jewish practice and law - and can ignore rules laid down by the Rabbi of the Kotel. [...]

Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman, another immigrant from the United States, tried to make her case by stating that the movement is an “import from abroad” and that “many of Israel’s best inventions were imports. For example: Zionism.”

In fact, Zionism is rooted in the Torah, beginning with the promise to Avraham that future generations would inherit the Land of Israel.
By making statements like those, it's no wonder Hoffman can't find much support for her movement in Israeli society. If she's going to be so contemptuous as much of the Reform movement is of Israel, then she's doing far more to harm the cause of non-Orthodox Judaism than help it.

I'm fine with non-Orthodox worshipers being allowed time to pray to their heart's content at the Western Wall and abhor any Haredi efforts to monopolize it as badly as they are, but if, as in Hoffman's case, they're only doing it for political reasons, then I must concur with Gordon that it does no good for anyone.

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