SH’MA SMACKDOWN: Let Us Be Heard!



Much has been written in recent days about the arrest of Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, at the Kotel while wearing a tallit and saying Sh’ma with Women of the Wall and Hadassah. There have been articles, websites, and petitions offered by many groups and individuals, each responding in their own way.

WRJ also has expressed our outrage at Anat’s treatment and joined the chorus of women’s groups and other progressive voices calling for a change in policy by the authorities who manage this historic site. Reform women want Anat and Women of the Wall to know that we stand in solidarity with them and will raise our voices on their behalf.

But we need to do more. If government officials in any other corner of the world tried to prevent us from praying in our own voice, wearing our chosen ritual garb or worshipping freely, we would not be silent. We certainly will not tolerate it from Jewish extremists who have been empowered by the government of Israel to wrest control of our holiest site. The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people: women and men, Orthodox and secular and everything in between. We will use every tool at our disposal to secure the rights of all Jews to pray freely wherever they are – including in Israel, including at the Western Wall.

So, I hope you will join women worldwide in the WRJ Sh’ma Smackdown. Create a video of you, your friends, or your sisterhood saying the Sh’ma. Take a photo with the words of the Sh’ma prayer. Send your videos and photos to us at womenofreformjudaism@gmail.com so we can compile them and post them on the WRJ Facebook page. Comment on this blog post, “like” our Facebook page, and forward this message to others.

Let’s make sure the women fighting for our rights in Israel as well as Israeli government officials hear our voices unified by this message: If anyone tries to diminish our rights or silence our voices, we will respond.

And our response is this:

Hear, O Israel. Hear our voices raised in prayer. Hear our voices declare that the God of Israel is our God. Hear our voices make known God’s message to the world. As long as there is breath in our lungs we will proclaim God’s name – out loud. We will not be silenced. 

Hear us, O Israel. Through our tears of anger and anguish, with joy and love for our people, despite our outrage and indignation, hear our voice.

God says, “Cry with a full throat, do not hold back; let your voice resound like a shofar!”  (Isaiah 58:1)

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Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

About Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is the Executive Director of Women of Reform Judaism.

22 Responses to “SH’MA SMACKDOWN: Let Us Be Heard!”

  1. The Southwest District proudly participated in the Sh’ma Smackdown during our Biennial this past weekend! It was very moving, and has already been posted on Facebook. Thank you, Marla and WRJ, for encouraging us with a concrete way to let our voices be heard and our pride be seen!

    • We are so glad to hear you participated! Be sure to forward to our gmail address as well so it can be added to our “Sh’ma Smackdown” album! We look forward to seeing it!

  2. Marla,
    We’re holding a Rosh Chodesh/Ma’ariv service this Wednesday night; at the end, we’ll bring out the Torah scrolls and video tape women wearing tallitot and holding the scrolls, chanting the Sh’ma. We’re calling it a Sh’ma Flash Mob and have invited Jews from across NH. Other than posting the video to YouTube, do you have suggestions of where to post it to show solidarity with WOW?
    Robin Nafshi

  3. On Friday night, November 2nd, over 40 Congregation Beth Torah women put on their tallit and sang the Shema prayer on our biman as part of the Sh’ma Smackdown -

    We are the community we need to sing out for justice!

    http://youtu.be/8qwhs_c6vss

  4. I was privileged to be at Temple Beth Israel in Portland for the Smackdown Shema at the WRJ PD Biennial Convention. What an incredible experience to be united with over 300 people singing Shema and V’Ahavata while the videos were being taken. I felt a deep cxonnection with the women at the wall and a deep connection to my own beliefs. It was a beautiful moment – one none of us will soon forget. The magnificent power of wonen’s voice raised in prayer, support, and love….

  5. Pacific District was videoed at Beth Israel in Portland on Erev Shabbat singing the sh.mah with Rabbi and Cantor Cahana and Cantor Schiff. In the beautiful sanctuary, with more than 150 people in the congregation – most women of Pacific District.
    It was incredibly moving and powerful – few dry eyes in the congregation. We are, indeed, stronger together! Watch for the posting

  6. The USCJ has started a similar action – on facebook, with the virtual flashmob for the shema. Many of us have posted our videos there, and I encourage you to join rather than duplicate, actions.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/uscjglobalshma/

    • Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

      In response to Meredith’s comment – thanks for sharing the information about the USCJ project. I think what they have done is great. The more the merrier! Women of the Wall also has its own facebook page and they are encouraging people to post there. I think the more facebook pages and videos get posted, the better, and duplication, repetition and amplification are signs of success. We need to send a message to Israeli officials that we are paying attention, we are engaged and we are not going to let up until things change. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  7. Planning to video this at our WRJ Northeast District Convention the first weekend in November.

  8. I hope it is okay, I’ve cross-posted this to my own blog with appropriate citations! Thanks for organizing this effort.

  9. fredi Bleeker Franks

    There has never been a more important time for us to join together to raise our voices. Together, we CAN make a difference. Thanks, Marla, for such an inspiring post.

  10. “Sh’ma Smackdown”? As in “affirming the oneness of God for the purposes of bitter confrontation,” maybe? Or “Listen, Israel in order to cause a humiliating defeat”? Or maybe “smackdown” here means using words of Torah in a choreographed fight for entertainment purposes?

    This is as disturbing, in its own way, as the situation at the Wall and Anat’s treatment by police.

    I’ve long been a supporter of WOW and have participated in solidarity services and other actions. I would love for the Reform Movement and/or WRJ to launch an action that promotes freedom of religious expression, solidarity with WOW, and greater understanding among Jews. I cannot participate in or promote this. PLEASE RECONSIDER.

    • Rabbi Marla J. Feldman

      In response to Virginia’s comment, I think it’s understood that WRJ would never advocate violence. Of course, the title of WRJ’s effort is alliterative and intended to add a touch of levity. That in no way diminishes the seriousness of the issue or our determination to stand with WOW. There is, in fact, a fight going on between the Orthodox authorities and WOW. To use Virginia’s language, Anat uttered words affirming the oneness of God and was ‘smacked down’ with bitter confrontation and humiliating treatment. I hope we can all join together in supporting Anat and WOW, whether through WRJ’s initiative or through the many other opportunities available to become involved.

  11. Thanks for participating! Please send your video or photo to womenofreformjudaism@gmail.com so we can share widely!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Day #5 of #tzitzitchallenge: Life on the Fringe @womenofthewall @judeareform | This is What a Rabbi Looks Like - November 19, 2012

    [...] We finished off the night with a Rosh Chodesh service, celebrating the new moon, and made a video for the WRJ Shma Smackdown. [...]

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