Ten women, including several Americans, were arrested Monday morning at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for wearing prayer shawls, which along with reading from a Torah scroll is prohibited practice for women.
One of those arrested was Bloomfield resident Debra Cantor, sister-in-law of West Hartford Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor. Debra Cantor is rabbi at B'nai Tikvoh-Sholom – the Conservative synagogue formed through the merger of Tikvoh Chadoshoh and B’nai Sholom in July 2011.
According to the New York Times, the 10 women were part of the group "Women of the Wall." Representatives of the group have gathered each month for the past two years, in protest of "the ultra-Orthodox insistence that only men may pray at the wall wearing traditional garb, a rule that has been backed by the Supreme Court."
In 2003, Israel's Supreme Court upheld a government ban on women wearing tefillin or tallit prayer shawls, or reading from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall. Women participating in the rosh chodesh service have been arrested nearly every month since June for wearing prayer shawls or for “disturbing public order," according to JTA, Global News Service of the Jewish people.
The 10 women were arrested Monday as they prayed with hundreds of other worshipers and supporters. According to JTA, Israeli-American Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of the comedian Sarah Silverman, and her 17-year-old daughter, Hallel Abramovitz; Anat Hoffman, chairwoman of the Women of the Wall; and Robin Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in New York City were also among those arrested.
Cantor, who was released, was arrested on a felony charge and barred from going to the Kotel for 15 days.
She wrote the following in an email:
"We were each interrogated separately. When asked why I wore a tallit I replied that I pray every day and wear a tallit every morning. We were all (10 of us!) supposed to go before a judge at court and clearly, at the last moment (just before we were to board the buses to the courthouse) someone intervened and they said we would be released. But we still had to go into a van to another police station to get mug shots and a full set of fingerprints. The interrogator asked me: did you think that you might possibly bother other people with the things you did? I asked her to clarify. She listed my crimes: wearing a tallit, praying out loud and singing. I considered this. Yes, I answered. I suppose those things might possibly bother someone. But some people might possibly be bothered by the fact that I don't cover my hair or always wear long sleeves or wear pants. I imagine I do lots of things that might possibly bother someone else..."
Shari Cantor said her sister-in-law has always been a pioneer. "She was in the first class of women ordained in the Conservative movement." Shari Cantor thinks Debra Cantor was one of the first to have her own Conservative congregation as well.