Anat Hoffman

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Anat Hoffman
Anat Weiss

1954 (age 66–67)
EducationUCLA in Los Angeles (BA in Psychology, 1980)
Alma materUCLA
OccupationExecutive Director, Israel Religious Action Center
Known forSocial activism

Anat Hoffman (Hebrew: ענת הופמן‎; born 1954) is an Israeli activist and serves as Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, also known as IRAC. She is the director and founding member of Nashot HaKotel, also known as Women of the Wall. Hoffman is a former member of the Jerusalem City Council. In 2013, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz named her "Person of the Year", noting the award reflected "the prominence that she has achieved across the Jewish world over the past 12 months".[1] The Jerusalem Post listed her fifth, among its list of 50 Most Influential Jews, for forcefully and successfully bringing the issue of women's rights at the Kotel to the "forefront of the consciousness of world Jewry".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Hoffman is a Sabra born on a kibbutz near Jerusalem[3] in 1954. Her mother, Varda Blechman, was the first child born at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel (Hebrew: רָמַת רָחֵל, lit. Rachel's Heights). Her American-born father, Charles Weiss, served as a Voice of America correspondent in Israel. She attended the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. She also excelled as a competitive athlete, becoming a champion swimmer. She competed in the Maccabiah Games, winning titles in nine events.

In 1974, after she completed her service in the Israel Defense Forces, she and her husband at the time, Michael, left for the United States to study. She graduated from UCLA in 1980 with a B.A. in Psychology. While at UCLA, she was connected to Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and started the Israeli Student Organization. She was exposed to Reform Judaism and realized for the first time that Judaism was not limited to Orthodoxy.[4]

She later pursued graduate study at Bar Ilan University.


Anat Hoffman observing a WOW Torah Reading

Returning to Israel, she became an activist for religious pluralism, becoming involved in the founding of Kol Haneshema, a Reform or progressive synagogue in Jerusalem. She served on the Jerusalem City Council from 1988 to 2002, representing the Civil Rights and Peace Movement.[5]

In the late 1980s she led a campaign for consumer rights with regard to Bezeq, the Israeli telecommunications company that had a monopoly, and refused to offer customer itemized bills. Hoffman complained, on behalf of consumers, that they were paying for items they had not used. In the end, she prevailed and Bezeq issued itemized bills to customers.[6]

Anat Hoffman is chair of the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem. Additionally, prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords, Hoffman was the chairwoman of Women in Black,[7] an international women's anti-war movement with an estimated 10,000 activists around the world. The first group was formed by Israeli women in Jerusalem in 1988, following the outbreak of the First intifada.[8][9]

She was a member of the group that started Women of the Wall in December 1988. Women of the Wall is a group of women from around the world who are working to secure the right to pray in their fashion at the Western Wall, wearing prayer shawls and other religiously significant garments, singing and reading from the Torah collectively.[10] When Israel's Supreme Court ruled in favor of Women of the Wall, Orthodox leaders and rabbis protested the decision.[11] Arrested multiple times for wearing a prayer shawl at the Wall, Hoffman was defended by the Anti-Defamation League, which issued a statement saying that reports of her treatment, at the hands of Israeli police, were especially disturbing.[12]

Since 2002 Hoffman has served as Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, which was founded in 1987 as the public and legal advocacy arm of the movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel. It is dedicated to promoting equality, justice, religious freedom.[13]


  • On women airline passengers being asked to move so Orthodox Jewish men need not sit next to them: believes women should not give up their seats. Airlines should comply with non-discrimination laws. She has initiated a campaign encouraging women not to give up their seats for religious sensibilities.[14]
  • State financed religious councils in Israel: I don't believe there should be state-financed religious councils. If they are financed by the Government to provide services they should be incorporated into the municipalities. But still, if they are to exist, then they should be open and democratic and representative.[15]


  1. ^ "Women of the Wall's Anat Hoffman Is Haaretz's Person of the Year".
  2. ^ "Yair Lapid tops Post's 50 most influential Jews list - Jewish World - Jerusalem Post". The Jerusalem Post -
  3. ^ The Arab Uprising After Two Years: Voices From Both Sides The New York Times, 10 December 1989
  4. ^ "A modern-day Deborah". The Jerusalem Post -
  5. ^ "Home - Jewish Film Institute". Jewish Film Institute. Archived from the original on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
  6. ^ "The Jewish Week - Connecting the World to Jewish News, Culture, and Opinion". The Jewish Week - Connecting The World To Jewish News, Culture & Opinion.
  7. ^ Alster, Joseph (2001). The Alster Files: The Truth as I See it. Gefen Publishing House Ltd. p. 159. ISBN 9789652292643.
  8. ^ Melanie S. Rich, Kalpana Misra (2003). Jewish feminism in Israel : some contemporary perspectives. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, Published by University Press of New England. pp. 114–5. ISBN 9781584653257.
  9. ^ Avraham, Rachel (2013-11-10). "Women of the Wall Leadership Linked to Anti-Israel Groups". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 2016-06-23.
  10. ^ "Women of the Wall - נשות הכותל". Women of the Wall - נשות הכותל.
  11. ^ "Israeli High Court Rules for Women's Services at Western Wall". The New York Times. 23 May 2000.
  12. ^ "ADL Disturbed By Alleged Harsh Treatment Of Anat Hoffman". ADL.
  13. ^ "IRAC - Israel Religious Action Center - Mission".
  14. ^ When a Plane Seat Next to a Woman Is Against Orthodox Faith The New York Times, 9 April 2015
  15. ^ Battle Looms in Israel Over 'Mixed' Religious Councils, The New York Times, 2 December 1998

External links[edit]