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The night Anat Hoffman finally fell silent

Rambunctious Anat Hoffman got laryngitis on the night she had to deliver a big speech - so a colleague had to do so for her. The executive director of the Progressive IRAC, was honoured by the US-based Women of Reform Judaism with their annual Jane Evans Pursuit of Justice Award. “Unfortunately,” Anat told SA Jewish Report Online, “I came down with laryngitis the day I was receiving the award.”
by ANT KATZ | Dec 24, 2013

The night Anat was silenced

Anat Hoffman, the executive director of the Progressive Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC), was honoured by the US-based Women of Reform Judaism with their annual Jane Evans Pursuit of Justice Award. “Unfortunately,” Anat told Jewish Report Online, “I came down with laryngitis the day I was receiving the award.”

So her colleague, IRAC Director Noa Sattath, had to step in “to read my acceptance speech for me,” Anat told us. The URJ conference was held in San Diego. “It was a wonderful conference,” says Anat. Sadly, her larynx was unable to remain as enthusiastic as her spirit.

Although read for Anat at the event by Noa Sattath, the powerful (as only Anat can be) speech brought the audience to their feet afterwards.

The Speech

Anat lost her voice. Despite all the remedies and chicken soup suggested by many in this conference, she can't speak. So here is a useful tip from her: if you're destined to lose your voice sometime in the course of a 25 year struggle for equality, don't lose it in the Knesset, don’t lose it in a prison cell, don't lose it in the supreme court. Lose it when you're approaching victory, lose it at the 2013 Biennial in San Diego.

Anat Hoffman

RIGHT: Silenced but enthusiastic as always, Anat Hoffman

After flying all over the US, hugging and kissing so many people, a virus succeeded in silencing me tonight. But what a divine coincidence to teach me and all of us that I can be silenced, but everyone here can speak for me.

Everyone here knows there is more than one way to be Jewish. No one here is willing to be ignored on the struggle for this right in Israel. None of us here are willing to give up on the vision of Israel's declaration of independence as a state that ensures, "complete equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race, or sex."    

The video you just saw showed you the highlights of the struggle for equality at the Western Wall.

Now we are part of a team that is making history, together with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, my brother, whose reason, passion and courage make all of Israel's cabinet ministers look up to him and my colleague and friend Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, who is blessed by both profound ideology and superb analytic skills, and who is leading the Reform movement to a new era in religious life in Israel.

Together we are negotiating a new reality for all of us at the Wall. This is not going to be a slightly cleaned up second-rate area for the misfits.  It will be the first time that the Israeli government will offer everybody a real choice at the Kotel. I know Israelis are going to get used to the flavor of choice and they are going to demand freedom of choice in all other areas of religious life, such as marriage, divorce, conversion, and education. Once you have 31 flavors, you can’t go back.

We are changing things

For too long, the face and character of Judaism’s holiest site has been in the image of one extreme minority, but we are changing that. It is time that Israelis got to know some other faces of Judaism, like that of our very own Rabbi Miri Gold, or that of Ariella Finklestein, our orthodox 14-year-old client who personally sued the bus driver who told her to go the back of the bus in Beit Shemesh.

We must plant our values the same way we have planted trees. This will require all of us to get our hands dirty since there is no other way to plant.

Our success at the Kotel must become the engine pulling the train of religious pluralism. The next car is the end of gender segregation in Israel and the exclusion of women. We bring you news of great achievements, but we also know that the rights of women in Israel are under attack, and it is falling on us to provide the response

Other cars in the train are freedom of choice in marriage, in conversion, and the full equality and recognition of our Rabbis and institutions.

I am standing on the shoulders of our incredible institutions and of the generosity of IRAC supporters over the years. I am standing on the shoulders of women and men who care about Israel, about Judaism, and about equality. I felt this throughout the Biennial. Many asked me what they can do.

First- you have to make a decision. Are you going to wring your hands about Israel or are you going roll up your sleeves and get to work? You can't do both at the same time.

Let's roll up our sleeves

I'm asking you to do four things:

1. Read - At least once a week read something about Israel that is not about security;

2. Use your financial support to create an Israel that reflects your values;

3. Visit Israel, and make your visits count. Make time for the Israel Religious Action Centre, (less Roman ruins and more freedom rides); and

4. Refuse. Refuse to choose between your liberal values and your commitment to Israel. Let your frustration motivate you to action. Action is our middle name.

I want to thank the WRJ, led by their remarkable Executive Director Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, for their years of friendship, support, and solidarity. I am honored to accept this award with the full awareness that I am propped up on the shoulders of so many you here today. I am LITERALLY speechless from all the love you have shown here during this amazing Biennial.

Toda Raba!

3 Comments

  1. 3 Ant Katz 27 Dec

    Posted by Ant Katz: After posting the above story I sent a link to Anat and said the following “Having some fun at your expense: Hi from sunny SA to a cold Israel, Anat, I know you won’t mind my having had a bit of fun by saying ‘the famously rambunctious Anat Hoffman was silenced by laryngitis’.”

     

    Anat’s light-hearted response: “Sure go ahead make fun of the handicapped, the silenced. Enjoy watching me squirm in front of 5000 people. Just remember that when my big mouth is once again functioning, you Anthony will be first on my agenda. I will go after YOU, safe and warm in South Africa. I will bring you winter. I will make a 3-hour speech that will make Yom Kippur sermon seem short. I will explain to you in detail every aspect of Israel's conversion laws and regulations until you will want to shout "OY, enough" but no sound will come out of your throat. You will be seized by Jerusalem Laryngitis… Yours sincerely (always willing and able to visit SA). Anat."

  2. 2 Ant Katz 27 Dec

    Posted by Ant Katz: After posting the above story I sent a link to Anat and said the following “Having some fun at your expense: Hi from sunny SA to a cold Israel, Anat, I know you won’t mind my having had a bit of fun by saying ‘the famously rambunctious Anat Hoffman was silenced by laryngitis’.”

     

    Anat’s light-hearted response: “Sure go ahead make fun of the handicapped, the silenced. Enjoy watching me squirm in front of 5000 people. Just remember that when my big mouth is once again functioning, you Anthony will be first on my agenda. I will go after YOU, safe and warm in South Africa. I will bring you winter. I will make a 3-hour speech that will make Yom Kippur sermon seem short. I will explain to you in detail every aspect of Israel's conversion laws and regulations until you will want to shout "OY, enough" but no sound will come out of your throat. You will be seized by Jerusalem Laryngitis… Yours sincerely (always willing and able to visit SA). Anat."

  3. 1 Anon 27 Dec

    One would tend to be more sympathetic to a reform Jew (or Rabbi) living in Eretz Yisrael, than to a frum Jew (or Rabbi) living in the Diaspora.

    The former is fulfilling (wittingly or unwittingly) the great mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, while the latter is scorning Hashem's great gift of love to His people -the Land of Israel.

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