The list is in and, according to the Jerusalem Post, Anat Hoffman is the 5th most influential Jew in the world. Hoffman, the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), trails only MK Yair Lapid, Jack Lew, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. She comes in above Jon Stewart (#7), Rep. Debbi Wasserman Schultz (#10) and Justice Elana Kagan (#12), just to name a few. Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, comes in at #26.
Hoffman’s high ranking is in part a result of her leadership in Women of the Wall, which has made remarkable strides over the past year advancing pluralism and women’s rights at theKotel. Just this past week, Women of the Wall made headlines when thousands of Haredi Jews violently protested the group’s Rosh Kodesh service by launching rocks, spit and verbal abuse.
Unlike at previous services, for the first time in over two decades the police protected the Women of the Wall and arrested some of the perpetrators who threatened them. Such a dramatic turn in official treatment stems from a recent court ruling defending the right of women to pray at the Kotel.
The battle over women’s rights at the Kotel has now spread to the Knesset, where Naftali Bennet and Tzipi Livni are publically sparring. Countering recent court decisions, Benner seeks to regulate prayer at the Kotel and to limit the Women of the Wall’s practice. Livni has expressed her opposition to any such limitations, which require her approval.
While the status of the Western Wall now dominates Israeli media (so much so that Women of the Wall is even a subject heading on Haartetz), its newfound fame is symptomatic of greater religious tensions in Israel. As the battles over religious pluralism, women’s rights and the rights of the non-Orthodox are on-going in Israel, we are proud to have Anat Hoffman at the helm.
Mikey Pasek is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.