March 4, 2009

Women Rabbis expelled from Western Wall


by David Masters

A group of women Rabbis were asked to leave Jerusalem’s Western Wall because their prayers were deemed offensive to local custom.

Around 70 women visiting Israel for the Central Conference of American Rabbis were expelled from the Jewish Holy site because they were wearing prayer shawls and skull caps – traditionally only worn by men according to Orthodox Jewish custom.

The women later chanted songs and read from the Torah.

In the Orthodox tradition, only men are allowed to sing in public and read from the Torah.

“Someone from the men’s section started shouting that ‘a woman’s voice is lewd’ and that our singing was offensive,” said a female Israeli activist for Reform Judaism who attended the prayers.

“I was ashamed in front of the guests from America,” she added.

Two Orthodox women then began shouting at the female Rabbis.

“The women shouting at us were much more bothersome than our prayer,” said Rabbi Jackie Ellenson. “We sang beautifully together.”

Police were called to the site, and the group was expelled from the wall because they had “failed to follow the place’s customs.”

The Western Wall is the last standing remnant of the ancient biblical temple in Jerusalem.

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