Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish activist women in Jerusalem, once again challenged gender rules at the Western Wall by reading from a full-sized Torah, something that the Orthodox authority forbids women from doing at the holy wall. Male supporters of the group helped them on Monday to smuggle the Torah into the women’s section, marking the first time the group could hold a reading from a full-sized Torah at the site. When ultra-Orthodox men entered their area in an attempt to try to remove the Torah, a scuffle reportedly left several of the male supporters of the group injured. An Israeli court ruled in April 2013 that women had the right to pray at the Western Wall and are allowed to wear prayer shawls conventionally only worn by Orthodox men, but one rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, has worked to curtail those rights. He opposes their goal of changing traditions and customs that have developed “over hundreds of years of prayer.” Anat Hoffmann, chair of the Women of the Wall group, says its women’s “basic right” to read from a Torah as part of their prayer services. At last year’s Women in the World Summit, rabbi Susan Silverman — also a member of the activist group and the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman — recalled how she was arrested at the wall in 2013 for wearing the orthodox prayer shawls as part of a protest.
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