Sarah Silverman accuses Jerusalem authorities of sex discrimination

Comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall

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The Independent Online

The taboo-busting US comic Sarah Silverman has accused the religious authorities in Jerusalem of discrimination against women after taking part in a protest at the city’s Western Wall.

Silverman, who has been called the world’s most controversial comedian, attended a Hanukkah menorah lighting alongside a group of Jewish feminists at one of Judaism’s holiest sites.

The ceremony was the first time that women have lit the menorah at the site. It was arranged after the rabbi in charge of the Western Wall had refused a request from pro-equality prayer group Women of the Wall to station a Hanukkah menorah in the women’s section.

Silverman, 44, told the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival: “I went to the Kotel [Western Wall] with Women of the Wall today and we lit candles and sang Hanukkah songs. I can’t believe that’s a big deal.”

The outspoken comedian, who attended the lighting with her sister Susan, a reform Rabbi, criticised what she perceived as discrimination against women at the holy site. “It’s like, fuck you! You’re perverts and so we have to wear unflattering length skirts?!” she said.

The site’s sole menorah has traditionally been lit on the men’s side of the wall. After negotiations, police allowed the Women of the Wall group to enter the women’s section with a menorah.

Anat Hoffman, leader of Women of the Wall, said: “We lit 28 menorahs placed on silver foil in the women’s section. We sang and we danced around the menorahs. This was the very first time in the history of Israel that women have lit a menorah at the wall. It was very moving.”

The Emmy Award-winning Silverman, whose routines have tackled race, rape and abortion, discussed her Jewish upbringing in New Hampshire, at the Festival. “I think Jewish people are expressive,” she said. “Our guilt is famous, while Catholic guilt is torture.”

The comic said she asked if there were any Palestinians in the audience during a recent Tel Aviv performance before it was explained to her that “it would mean spending, like, eight hours going through checkpoints”.

It also emerged that Silverman is to team up with Lucy Prebble, the acclaimed British playwright who turned the Enron scandal into a musical, for a new comedy on the HBO cable channel.

Silverman will star as a woman who is “pathologically honest” and is dealing with a midlife crisis in the show, which will be written by Prebble.

The premise, which will be tested in a 30-minute pilot episode, raised hopes that Silverman and Prebble might produce a female version of Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO’s hit comedy written by and starring Larry David.

Prebble, 33, previously penned the series The Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper. Her 2009 play Enron, an expose of American corporate greed and white collar crime, transferred to Broadway.

Prebble is currently adapting Bizet’s Carmen for a new musical version at the National Theatre, directed by Nicholas Hytner, which shifts the setting of the story from Seville to Cuba.

Ash Atalla, whose credits include The Office, will co-produce the new show.