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Wall women grateful for mini-Torah from the UK

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A tiny Sefer Torah loaned from Britain is playing its part in a campaign by women to hold prayer services at the Western Wall.

The Women of the Wall group are officially prohibited from using a Sefer Torah by the site's rabbinical authorities.

But last month they smuggled in the Sefer for a batmitzvah - and they plan to use it again for another on Sunday, which coincides with Rosh Chodesh, the celebration of a new month.

The 28-centimetre, 200-year-old Torah was loaned to the group by John and Noeleen Cohen of London and brought to Israel by Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

The scroll had originally belonged to Mr Cohen's great-grandfather, who took it with him from Lithuania to South Africa.

Mr Cohen said that he could think of no better place for the scroll to be read than at the Kotel "by women who want and have every right, to read Torah at the Wall and, in my view, at every other place that a man can read Torah."

Shira Pruce, public relations director for Women of the Wall, said: "Each month, we ask for permission to enter with our own Torah, in this case John and Noeleen's tiny Torah from London, or to use one of the hundreds of Torah scrolls kept at the Kotel for public use.

"Unfortunately, we have never received a positive response to our many requests, a violation of religious freedoms and rights, on the basis of gender alone."

She said that "if these options are denied to us, we will continue to pursue our right to a full prayer service, including a Torah reading, as we did last month and I believe we will succeed."

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