Outraged Reform Jewish Leaders to Israeli PM: Denounce Degrading Body Searches of Female Rabbinic Students at Kotel

Inside Leadership

Outraged Reform Jewish Leaders to Israeli PM: Denounce Degrading Body Searches of Female Rabbinic Students at Kotel

Press Release
Press Release

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

August 24, 2017; New York, NY - This letter was sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the leaders of the Reform Movement, the largest movement in Jewish life, in response to unnecessary and demeaning searches imposed on female rabbinic students at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We are writing to express our outrage and dismay about the humiliation of a cohort of Reform rabbinic students, all of whom are the future leadership of the Jewish people, at the entrance to the Kotel on August 23rd, Rosh Hodesh Elul.

Two of our female rabbinic students, who are spending their first year of studies in Israel, were stopped at the entrance to the Kotel. After they passed through a metal detector (which clearly indicated that they were not posing any security threat), they were asked to lift their skirts and shirts in a demeaning way, an action that completely defied the decisions the Supreme Court reached on this matter.

These bold young leaders were treated in the most degrading way imaginable. They were pulled out of line among hundreds of men and women and were subject to a completely unnecessary search. The actions of the Western Wall Heritage Fund go beyond the disagreement we have about the implementation of a compromise at the Kotel. This was an unacceptable and shameful attempt to hurt and humiliate our leaders, and we are deeply outraged.

Our goal with our young leadership is to cultivate a love and a commitment to Israel.  We will continue to struggle for justice and work to create an Israel we can be proud of. The actions of the personnel at the Kotel yesterday morning only continue to make our work extremely difficult.

Please issue a swift and clear denunciation of the events that took place yesterday.


Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism 
Rabbi Aaron Panken, President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion 
Rabbi Steven A. Fox, Chief Executive, Central Conference of American Rabbis


About CCAR
The CCAR, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. It projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities.  The CCAR’s unique contribution to a continued vibrant Jewish community and Reform Movement lies in its work fostering excellence in Reform Rabbis; enhancing unity and connectedness among Reform Jews; applying Jewish values to a contemporary life; and, creating a compelling and accessible Judaism for today and the future. http://www.ccarnet.org/

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu             

About URJ
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay adept and agile, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel. Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with almost 900 member congregations and work that inspires millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations. Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.

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