U.S. Conservative Jews Call 'Global Flashmob' to Protest Arrest of Western Wall Activist

Anat Hoffman, leader of Women of the Wall, was arrested last week for praying aloud at the holy site.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is organizing what it calls a "global Sh'ma flashmob" at 1 P.M. Eastern Time on Monday, in response to the arrest of Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, last week at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

As part of this initiative, it has asked all its congregations and supporters around the world to gather wherever they are and to film themselves reciting or singing the Sh'ma (Hear O Israel) prayer, adding a short statement about who they are, where they are and why they support religious pluralism in Israel. Participants around the world have been asked to post these clips on a special Facebook page created for the event called "Hear O Israel: The Global Sh'ma Flashmob."

Hoffman was arrested last Tuesday while conducting a service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for a group of 250 Hadassah women who had come to show solidarity with Women of the Wall, a group of women who have been holding services together for the past 23 years at the Western Wall, where they wear prayer shawls, pray out loud and read from the Torah. The group typically meets at the Western Wall on "Rosh Chodesh" – the first day of each Jewish month.

The Hadassah women were in Israel participating in the organization's centennial anniversary celebrations.

While the women were chanting the "Sh'ma" prayer, police approached Hoffman, handcuffed her and took her into custody. She reported that she spent that night in jail, forced to lie on a bare floor and was prevented from calling her lawyer.  She shared a cell that night with a woman charged with prostitution.

"The arrest of Anat Hoffman compels us to be participants in the creation of a Jewish Homeland for all Jews," the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism said in a statement on the new Facebook page. "In the spirit of our deep and unshakable love for Israel, we will continue to coordinate and work with our partners to address this issue in a sustained and long-term manner."

Thus far, the following Conservative congregations and organizations have posted on the Facebook page that they intend to participate in the event: United Synagogue headquarters in Manhattan; Congregation Etz Chaim in Palo Alto, Calif.; NOAM Olami in Sao Paolo, Brazil; Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Bridgeport, CT.; Temple Israel of Great Neck, N.Y. A flash mob event will also be held in Zion Square in Jerusalem tonight at 7 P.M, organized by the Masorati-Conservative movement in Israel.

Rabbi Izhar Hess, the movement's executive director and its chief executive officer, said today: "The arrest that took place last week at the Kotel is shameful,  as it demonstrates that Israel, the state of the Jews, is the only democracy in the western world where Jews do not have religious freedom."

Michal Fattal