She did not cross the Atlantic to make a stand.
Robyn Fryer Bodzin, a female rabbi from Fresh Meadows, said she came to the Old City of Jerusalem simply to exercise her rights to pray.
But on Monday, February 11, her peaceful worship abruptly ended when Israeli police detained her and nine other women at the Western Wall for wearing prayer shawls traditionally used by men.
“It’s archaic. It’s intolerant of a holistic society,” said Fryer Bodzin, 38.
An Israeli officer took her passport and told her she was not allowed to wear the shawl, called a tallit, at the sacred site. He said she violated regulations of the Torah and of holy places and “behaved in a way that may violate public safety.”
“There are some people in the world who don’t think women should be wearing this — that it’s male garb,” she said. “I was exercising my rights as a Jewish woman to pray, and when I pray, I wear a tallit. I’m still not sure why we were detained.”
Israeli police said the women were not charged with criminal offenses but were forbidden from the Wall for 15 days, according to reports.
Fryer Bodzin, who leads the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism (ICCJ), became the first female to head a conservative synagogue in Queens in 2009.
The self-described “hip, modern, vegan rabbi” said her indirect demonstration has not received backlash from the Jewish community, but rather applause.
“Robyn has always spoken for equality and tolerance. We’re proud of that. It’s something that we as a congregation wholeheartedly support,” said Sam Weiss, executive vice president of the ICCJ.
Weiss said Fryer Bodzin has used her wits and voice many times to fight for a variety of causes, including women and gay rights.
“She’s very young, very smart, and very lively,” he said. “We wouldn’t have picked her to lead us if she was any other person.”
Fryer Bodzin’s husband, Aaron, said he was proud of his wife for not taking off the prayer shawl.
“She is standing up for something that is important,” he said. “She has a good heart. She wasn’t going with any intent to cause any trouble.”
He called the breach in peace at the Wall “bitter irony.”
“One day down the road, we’re going to be able to look back and say, ‘Wasn’t it silly there was a time when women in Israel weren’t allowed to pray freely?’ One day, we’ll be able to say that was a silly time in our history.”