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Bill to criminalize egalitarian prayer and immodest dress at the Western Wall is shelved after outcry

(JTA) — A proposed Israeli law that would sharply curtail the rights of women and non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall sparked alarm on Thursday, leading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pledge that regulations at the holy site would “remain exactly the same” as they are now. 

The bill was submitted by a lawmaker from Shas, the Sephardi haredi Orthodox party that is a member of Netanyahu’s governing coalition. It would have criminalized mixed-gender prayer at the site, as well as immodest dress and the playing of musical instruments. Women would also be forbidden from reading from a Torah scroll or blowing a shofar at the site. Women would also not be allowed to don prayer shawls or tefillin, the leather boxes and straps traditionally worn by Jews during morning prayers, and historically worn only by men.

The bill’s provisions would have also applied to the Wall’s non-Orthodox section, adjacent to the main plaza. Offenders would have faced a fine of approximately $3,000, or six months in prison. 

The legislation is the latest salvo in a decades-long battle over policy at Judaism’s holiest prayer site and who gets to determine it. Non-Orthodox groups, and American Jewish organizations, have long advocated for egalitarian and women-led prayer to be allowed at the wall. Orthodox groups have pushed for worship at the site to remain exclusively under their purview. 

An agreement approved by the Israeli government in 2016 would have expanded a non-Orthodox prayer area adjacent to the main plaza. That deal, however, was suspended the following year after backlash from haredi parties. The Israeli Supreme Court, which the current government wants to disempower, is due to discuss whether the agreement must be implemented at an upcoming hearing. 

Thursday’s bill, however, appears to be a dead letter. In a video posted to Twitter, Netanyahu said the legislation “will not be brought up at present.” 

“The status quo at the Wall, which is dear to all of the Jewish people, will remain exactly as it is today,” he said, adding that the law’s provisions outlawing immodest dress or musical instruments “are not acceptable to anyone.”

Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the son of a Conservative rabbi, tweeted that the Western Wall, known in Hebrew as the Kotel, “is a national and religious symbol that belongs to the whole Jewish people: secular and religious, left-wing and right-wing, women and men in Israel and abroad. The legislation that would change the status quo and threaten sanctions due to sleeves or instruments is unnecessary and damaging.”

Even haredi voices rose up against the proposed legislation. Kikar HaShabbat, Israel’s largest haredi news site, published an editorial saying the bill “does not befit the sanctity of the Western Wall.”

The bill would have outlawed the activities of Women of the Wall, a prayer group that meets monthly at the wall’s women’s section and that advocates for women’s rights at the site. In the past, the group’s members have been harassed by haredi activists and detained by police for their activities. On Thursday, the group sent an email blast on with the subject line, “It’s off to jail we go?” 

“If we have to sit in jail, we will sit in jail,” the email said. “Arrests did not stop us in the past, and they won’t stop us in the future. We will not give up our fight for women’s rights at the Kotel.”


The post Bill to criminalize egalitarian prayer and immodest dress at the Western Wall is shelved after outcry appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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Jewish community holds solidarity rally November 25

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A number of speakers addressed the crowd of 800, including Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Congregation; Members of Parliament Ben Carr & Marty Morantz; Yolanda Papini-Pollock of Winnipeg Friends of Israel; Paula McPherson, former Brock Corydon teacher; and Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation.

Ben Carr

Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg

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Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed

Gustavo Zentner

Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs

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