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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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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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