US/World News

In first, Women of the Wall read from full-size Torah at Kotel

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Women of the Wall for the first time read from a full-size Torah scroll during the group’s monthly prayer service at the Western Wall, contravening regulations there. The Torah scroll was passed across the barrier between the men’s and women’s sections by male supporters of the 26-year-old organization on Monday during services for the new month of Iyar. Regulations at the site set by the office of the Rabbi of the  Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel, headed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, have prevented women from using a Torah scroll in their section. An April 2013 Supreme Court ruling acknowledged women’s right to pray at the Western Wall according to their beliefs, claiming it does not violate what has come to be known as “local custom.”

Haredi Orthodox men praying at the Wall physically attacked the men who helped the women with what the group described in a statement as their “carefully planned help” to obtain the scroll, and then broke through the mechitzah barrier and attempted to take the scroll away from the women.

Police reportedly removed the men, and the women completed their service.

Women of the Wall gather at the Western Wall at the start of each Jewish month for the morning prayer service. The group’s members have clashed frequently with staff from Rabinovitch’s office and with police for holding services that violate the rules enforced by that office, including singing, wearing prayer shawls and other customs that are forbidden to women under the office’s interpretation of Orthodox Jewish law.

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