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NRT to welcome Anat Hoffman as Krasne Scholar in Residence

The New Reform Temple will welcome Anat Hoffman as its annual Krasne Scholar in Residence this spring. Hoffman is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), as well as a founding member and chairwoman of Women of the Wall (WOW).

Her life and career have been informed by a profound commitment to social action, justice and the Jewish principle of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

• Friday, May 17: Hoffman will speak at 8 p.m. during the Friday night service on the topic “From the Back of the Bus to the Top of the Agenda.”

• Saturday, May 18: Following a light breakfast at 9:15 a.m., Hoffman will lead Torah Study at 10 a.m.

• Sunday, May 19: Anat Hoffman will address the Jewish community at the Jewish Community Center at 7 p.m.

As executive director of IRAC since 2002, Hoffman leads an organization that was founded to advance religious pluralism in Israeli society and to serve as the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.

Prior to joining IRAC, she held a seat on the Jerusalem City Council for 14 years. While standing in opposition to the policies of the city’s right-wing and ultra-Orthodox administration, she carved out a niche for herself as a tireless warrior for justice and equality.

As chairwoman of WOW, she leads an organization whose mission is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”

In recent years, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have demanded increased standards of modesty for women in the public sphere. This has resulted in segregation between men and women in public transportation, the exclusion of women from public ceremonies and events, discrimination against girls wishing to celebrate Bat Mitzvahs at the Wall, and the silencing of women singers on the radio and at Army ceremonies.

Hoffman has fought to see that the powerful Orthodox bloc in the city council does not dictate lifestyle choices for the secular population of Jerusalem. Significantly, in a city split by religious differences, she has fought tirelessly for religious pluralism. She has also fought for adequate municipal services for the more than 200,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Hoffman became a lightning rod in the struggle for the rights of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel when, on Oct. 16, 2012, she was arrested at the Wall while conducting a prayer service in honor of Hadassah’s centennial birthday.

She was born in Jerusalem and was an Israeli swimming champion while in her teens. After serving in the Israeli Army, she received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and then pursued graduate studies at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

In recent years, Hoffman has become a sought-after lecturer, addressing audiences in Israel and in the United States on subjects close to her heart: social justice, religious pluralism, Jewish-Arab coexistence, and equal rights for women and minorities. Hoffman has also served on the boards of the Israel Women’s Network, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and many other Israeli organizations for social change.

The Krasne Scholar in Residence Program sheds light on important modern Jewish issues through formal and informal presentations of intellectual and educational value. As scholar in residence, Hoffman will look at some of the landmark victories over segregation and exclusion and explore the challenges that still remain.

The Kansas City Jewish community is invited to attend this program. Those who plan to attend the breakfast on Saturday are asked to RSVP to NRT at 816-523-7809 by Monday, May 13.