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FEBRUARY 11, 2016

Western Wall prayer fight ends with historic compromise BY BEN SALES TELAVIV (JTA) – Israel’s government on January 31 approved a compromise to expand the non-Orthodox Jewish prayer section of the Western Wall, putting to rest the decades-long fight between Women of the Wall and Israel’s haredi Orthodox religious establishment. The deal achieves what had been an elusive goal: an interdenominational consensus on Judaism’s holiest site with official recognition. The non-Orthodox prayer section at the wall will become much larger and more accessible. But haredi control of the Orthodox section will also be solidified, though non-Orthodox leaders have long protested that monopoly. The deal, a copy of which JTA obtained ahead of the Cabinet vote, still contains a few unknowns. It is unclear how long construction will take. It does not say whether clear signage will direct visitors to the non-Orthodox section. Nor does it say exactly when Women of the Wall, an embattled women’s prayer group, will move its monthly services from the Orthodox Jewish main prayer section to the non-Orthodox one. Still, the Conservative and Reform movements can declare victory. The size of the non-Orthodox section of the Western Wall will double to nearly 10,000 square feet – half the size of the Orthodox main section just to its north. A committee of non-Orthodox leaders and government officials will manage the non-Orthodox section. And a single entrance will lead to both sections. The Western Wall’s haredi Orthodox management, called the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, also safeguarded

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on a rainy October 25, 2015. (Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images) its interests. Non-Orthodox leaders had campaigned for a share of control of the Orthodox section of the wall, but the Heritage Foundation will retain full authority over it and the larger plaza behind the prayer sections. And when the plan is implemented, Women of the Wall will move to the non-Orthodox section, one of the Heritage Foundation’s longstanding demands. “They all came to the conclusion that they must make serious compromises because they want it to remain one Kotel for one people,” Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky told JTA, using the Hebrew term for the site. “lt’s the place that must unite us more than anything else, and it turned into the most ugly war.” Plans for the non-Orthodox section’s expansion, spearheaded by Sharansky,

began in December 2012. In October of that year, police had arrested the Women of the Wall’s chairwoman, Anat Hoffman, for wearing a tallit during the group’s monthly service – an act that at the time was illegal at the site. Talks on a plan to expand the non-Orthodox section of the wall, located in an archaeological park known as Robinson’s Arch, began in April 2013. Sharansky and outgoing Israeli Cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit led the negotiations, which included representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, the Heritage Foundation and Women of the Wall. Nearly three years later, the deal enacted on January 31 calls for the creation of an “official and respected,” 9,700-square foot prayer space in the non-Orthodox section $740,349 of the Western Wall, running along a 31foot segment of the wall, that Sharansky

said will fit approximately 1,200 people. It will have a government-funded staff, Torah scrolls and other ritual objects, and be open to all forms of Jewish prayer. Sharansky estimated its construction could take up to two years. Even after it is completed, the non-Orthodox section will remain smaller than its Orthodox counterpart. The Orthodox section measures some 21,500 square feet, adjacent to a nearly 200-foot segment of the wall, and has some 27,000 visitors on an average day. The area is divided into two sections: a larger one for men and a smaller one for women. The rules prohibit women from reading from Torah scrolls in the Orthodox section. A committee composed of two Reform leaders, two Conservative leaders, two non-Orthodox women representatives, the Jewish Agency chairman and six government officials will run the nonOrthodox section. The Orthodox and non-Orthodox sections of the Western Wall will share an entrance near the Old City of Jerusalem’s Dung Gate, one story above the Western Wall plaza’s current entrance. Currently, the path to the non-Orthodox section is See “Wall” on page 9

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“Son of Saul”: For Claims Conference, Oscar nominee was a big gamble BY CNAAN LIPHSHIZ BERLIN (JTA) – Set amid a 1944 prisoner uprising at Auschwitz, “Son of Saul” stood out as a long shot when its producers first applied for funding from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The film’s director, Laszlo Nemes, had no experience with feature films; its lead actor hadn’t been on a film set in 15 years; and its script included long, silent and out-of-focus shots. But the Claims Conference, which negotiates restitution for Nazi victims, ultimately decided to help bankroll the film. It’s a gamble that now seems prescient, as “Son of Saul” is favored to win best foreign language film at the Oscars on February 28. Worldwide ticket sales for the Golden Globe-winning film are north of $2 million, already exceeding the film’s slim $1.6 million budget. “People all over the world

Geza Rohrig (left) as Saul in “Son of Saul.” (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics) are realizing we’re facing the last generation of Holocaust survivors, so we’re in a race against time to cling to the experiences of the survivors still amongst us,” Greg Schneider, the Claims Conference’s vice president, told JTA.

Since the 1993 release of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” which won the Oscar for best picture, representations of the Holocaust have emerged as an important genre in cinema in and beyond the U.S. market. Other award-winning productions, such as “Life is Beautiful” (1997), “The Pianist” (2002), “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) and last year’s “Woman in Gold,” have followed. In recent years, many filmmakers from Europe have trained their lenses on the same theme, resulting in such critically acclaimed productions as “Phoenix” (Germany, 2014), “Ida” (Poland, 2013), “Suskind” (The Netherlands, 2012) and “Sarah’s Key” (France, 2010). The Claims Conference, which since 2008 has devoted a small portion of its budget to funding educational Holocaust films, provided about $50,000 of the “Son See “Saul” on page 10


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Candle lighting February 12..................................5:14 pm February 19................................. 5:23 pm February 26..................................5:31 pm

A look at the 2016 UJA Campaign, Israelis, particularly olim, are Arab Knesset members meet and the need for outstanding tapping into a growing craft beer terrorists’ families; Hamas tunnels PLUS pledges to be made. reach deep into Israel; and more. Opinion........................................................2 industry. Story on page 2 Stories on page 11 D’var Torah................................................8 Story on page 7

Profile for Becky Schastey

February 11, 2016 edition of The Reporter  

February 11, 2016 edition of The Reporter

February 11, 2016 edition of The Reporter  

February 11, 2016 edition of The Reporter