On February 11th, our Rabbi was detained in Israel at the Western Wall for wearing tallit while in prayer. This incident gained world-wide attention. With support from our congregation, please read the letter to Benjamin Netanyahu from our president, David Hasson, regarding our Synagogue’s position. Please click here to read the original article regarding this incident.
H.E. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister’s Office
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
I am writing this letter as President of Israel Center of Conservative Judaism, a synagogue located in Queens, N.Y. As you know, our congregation’s rabbi, Robyn Fryer Bodzin, was one of 10 women detained at the Kotel last Monday for wearing a tallit while davening at morning minyan.
I am told the charges brought against the women were “behaving in a way that may violate public safety” and “violating regulations of Holy places.” While our synagogue community appreciates the fact that Israeli authorities detained Rabbi Fryer Bodzin in a respectful, non-threatening manner. I must pointedly ask, how is it possible for a group of practicing Jews to behave in a way that may violate public safety simply by wearing a tallit while praying at the Kotel?
Rabbi Fryer Bodzin’s trip, as part of an official rabbinic delegation of the Jewish Federation of North America, started a journey in Kiev, Ukraine, where she and the other visiting rabbis remembered the Holocaust and paid tribute to the Jewish community there, which has begun to flourish despite years of Soviet oppression. During her stay in Kiev, Rabbi Fryer Bodzin prayed openly and freely, even wearing a tallit in an Orthodox synagogue. Ironically and sadly, she could not pray so freely in Israel, our Jewish homeland.
We understand the necessity and importance of generally obeying the law. But we applaud our rabbi’s act of civil disobedience because there can be laws so unfair and unjust that they deserve to be challenged. The law discriminating against women’s right to pray freely at Judaism’s most holy and sacred site needs to be rescinded because it divides us as Jews, both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
The State of Israel has been, and continues to be, a beacon of democracy and secular egalitarianism. In the late 19th century, pioneer women established a tradition of working side by side with men on the kibbutzim. During the war of Independence, women fought side by side with men, and they obviously still serve together in today’s Israeli Defense Forces. Women have gained distinction in virtually all aspects of Israeli life, including its political leadership. In fact, just last week, MK Calderon, a woman, quoted the Talmud in the Knesset.
We, as members of a Conservative congregation, believe it is time for the State of Israel to re-examine itself. In the modern world, it is essential to recognize egalitarianism in the religious sphere as well as in the secular sphere. To fail to do so is both hypocritical and oppressive. It is time to act.
David M. Hasson, President
Conservative Movement Resources
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Woman’s League for Conservative Judaism
Jewish Helping Agencies
Connect to Care » UJA-Federation of New York
Vaad Harabonim of Queens
Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council (NEQJCC)
Samuel Field Y
Queens Jewish Community Council