Bloomberg News

Sarah Silverman’s Rabbi Sister Detained at Jerusalem Holy Site

February 11, 2013

Israeli police detained the sister of U.S. comedian Sarah Silverman and nine other women for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, in violation of a court ruling.

“Ten of us were taken, interrogated, and asked if we understood that our wearing of prayer shawls disturbs the feelings of others, is contrary to local custom and was ruled by the rabbi of the wall as an offense to Judaism,” Anat Hoffman, leader of the group known as Women of the Wall, said by phone today.

According to Orthodox Jewish tradition, only men wear prayer shawls. Hoffman and her followers follow more liberal interpretations of the religion. The Women of the Wall have been fighting the Orthodox interpretation for almost a quarter of a century. Their determination to follow their way of observance has caused disturbances at the holy site.

The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled that the Women of the Wall are entitled to pray as they wish, but must take into account the sensibilities of those who oppose their practices. The court assigned them a place to pray at the Wall that is not part of the main plaza. The women disagree with that ruling and have continued to press their claims to pray at the main plaza by coming there nearly once a month to pray, wrapped in the shawls.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that 10 women were detained after they came to pray wearing prayer shawls, known as talitot in Hebrew, which he said violated the court ruling.

“So proud of my amazing sister,” entertainer Silverman said of her sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, on her Facebook page today.

Hoffman said the group will continue to pray at the Western Wall and will return again for the Jewish holiday of Purim later this month.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at aodenheimer@bloomberg.net; Gwen Ackerman in Jerusalem at gackerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Amy Teibel at ateibel@bloomberg.net; Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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