A Letter to Women of the Wall

This summer, I spent two months in Jerusalem on Onward Israel, and I had the amazing opportunity and privilege to attend Rosh Chodesh services with Women of the Wall. I was there both on Rosh Chodesh Tamuz and Rosh Chodesh Av. I could spend pages writing about my experiences, but I will simply say this: joining WOW for services was a life-changing experience. Never before have I felt so welcomed while praying. Never before have I been in such a nurturing, positive environment even in the midst of so much tragedy happening in the region and the country. Never before have I connected on such a deep level with my own Judaism. I have always considered myself Jewish and have seen religion as having an important role in my life, but praying with WOW was the first time I have ever connected with the words written in the siddur. The services I attended with WOW were the first times in which I realized how well the traditional prayers I recite every time I pray from a siddur mirror my thankfulness for everything good in my life, as well my despair about everything that is unjust and wrong and my intense desire for the world to be a better place. For the first time, I was moved to tears because I felt the power behind the prayers not just from my own heart, but from the hearts of all of those Jews who have recited and continue to recite the same prayers every day.

I am now back in the United States and have returned to college for my third year, but I still think about WOW every day. My experiences this summer have inspired me to become even more involved in my campus’s Hillel; I am one of the leaders of the Reform Minyan, and I am working this semester to gather a group of women to pray on Rosh Chodesh in solidarity with WOW.  Since I’ve returned from Israel I have bought WOW’s Rosh Chodesh siddur, the Reform siddur Mishkan T’filah, and read Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site. These texts and the experiences I’ve had this summer have changed the way I see my own Judaism, and have motivated me to consider attending rabbinic school. Whatever career path I choose, I know I will continue to learn about Judaism and to both seek out and create environments like the one I was so lucky to be a part of this summer. I am so thankful for my experiences with Women of the Wall and cannot wait to join them again the next time I am in Israel.

Thank you,

Rachel Leiken

Support from Spain

Solidarity with Women of the Wall at Bet Shalom in Barcelona, Spain!

The service was led by all of the women in the community. 

Kol Hakavod! Yasher Koach! Todah!

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Women of Reform Judaism Send their Support

What a wonderful way to start the week! We found these great Uniongrams from some of our sisters at WRJ in West Lafayette, IN, US,- sending their support for our work and our cause!

Find more ways to support us here

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D’var Torah in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Women of the Wall

Shabbat Birkat Ha-Hodesh Kislev Women of the Wall
Paula Jacobs
Temple Israel of Natick, MA
Nov. 2, 2013
It was just one month ago on Friday morning, October 4th that I was in Jerusalem welcoming Rosh Hodesh Heshvan with the Women of the Wall at the Kotel. The group has received significant media attention lately, and I know that many of you have been following what’s happening in the American and Israeli press.
Before I describe my experience and share my thoughts, let’s review briefly some historical background.
Women of the Wall, or נשות הכותל in Hebrew, is a group of Jewish women from around the world who strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Each month they welcome the new month at the Kotel.
Twenty five years ago, in the morning of December 1, 1988, a group of approximately seventy women approached the Kotel with a Torah scroll to conduct a halakhic women’s prayer service. As no provisions for Torah reading existed in the women’s section, they brought a sefer Torah, stood together, and prayed out loud. Many wore tallitot. The service was disrupted with verbal and physical attacks from Ultra-Orthodox men and women who screamed, cursed, and issued threats.
That was then. In the years since, there’s been ongoing harassment, violence, arrests and legal appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court. Finally in 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the Women of the Wall had a legal right to pray — but at Robinson’s Arch, an archaeological site next to the Kotel.
Things were relatively quiet until four years ago on Rosh Hodesh Kislev, when the police arrested a young Israeli medical student for the “crime” of wearing a tallit at the Wall. Meanwhile, confrontations and arrests continued, while synagogues and other Jewish organizations began holding solidarity events.
Throughout 2012, the police continued to arrest and detain Women of the Wall supporters for disturbing the public peace, for which the punishment is six months in prison. At one point a decree was issued forbidding women to enter the Western Wall plaza with Jewish holy articles, tallitot, or tefillin; police confiscated these items before women could enter the plaza.
In recent years, there’s been increased pressure from synagogues and Jewish organizations in the diaspora which have organized solidarity rallies in support of Women of the Wall. In light of increased pressure, last December, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Scharansky was asked to come up with a feasible solution to satisfy all parties.
In April 2013 the Jerusalem District Court handed down its decision in Israel Police versus five members of Women of the Wall who had been arrested for allegedly disrupting the peace. Judge Moshe Sobel stated that there was no cause for arrest and that the women did not disturb the public order.
The battle continues to this day — and the Women of the Wall continue to fight for legal recognition to wear prayer shawls, read from the Torah, and pray out loud at the Western Wall. Most recently, the Women of the Wall presented a list of 16 conditions, under which they would agree to meet at the egalitarian section at Robinson’s Arch rather than at the women’s section in the main Western Wall plaza. Whether a compromise solution can be achieved remains to be seen.
That’s enough with the history lesson. I know that some of you sitting here are asking yourselves, “Why should we in America care about Women of the Wall?” That’s a good question.
Admittedly, for many years, I paid little attention to the Women of the Wall. I dismissed them as a small group of North American and British women — mostly Conservative and Reform — who were trying to make a point. My attitude was basically, “What’s the fuss? There are many wonderful egalitarian services in Jerusalem so why should I pray in a place I find uncomfortable; most Israelis couldn’t care less so why should I?” But I have come to change my position.
Now let me share my own recent personal experience and why I believe that the Women of the Wall matter to each and every one of us sitting here at Temple Israel today.
It was a beautiful Friday morning in Jerusalem. Around 5:30 AM, David and I started walking to the Kotel. The sun was just starting to rise and the Jerusalem sky was magnificent. It was a picture perfect day. I was dressed in my frum long denim skirt reserved exclusively for Jerusalem.
I was excited but my enthusiasm was tempered with trepidation. As we walked down from the Jewish Quarter, we saw a large group of IDF soldiers being briefed. We knew about the physical violence that had occurred in the past and wondered what would be in store that day.
David was carrying a tallit bag with two tallitot — one tallit hidden inside another. Why?
My cousin advised us to do so. She said that I should not carry a tallit in case police confiscated it at the security check— and if they saw two tallitot, they would come to the obvious conclusion. Although the police had stopped seizing women’s tallitot in recent months, there was no predicting what would happen on a given day.
We made it through security, although there was a tense moment when a policeman asked me whether I belonged to Nashot HaKotel. I left David at the Kotel Plaza, made my way to the women’s section, and put on my tallit. Never was I so mindful of the act of donning a tallit.
The women’s section was already crowded with hundreds and hundreds — the media actually reported thousands — of Haredi women and teenage girls who had been bussed in that day, ostensibly to offer prayers of healing for Rabbi Ovadia, the Shas leader who has since passed away.
Our group consisted of approximately 200 women of different ages and religious backgrounds. Some had participated in this group for years; for others, like myself, it was a first-time experience. Before the service began, we were told that if we were provoked, simply to respond, “Hodesh Tov.” Our prayer leader was the Hazzan from Hebrew Union College; her beautiful voice set an inspirational tone for the service.
It didn’t take long before the disruption began. No, no one threw apples, oranges, or chairs at us. If you have been following the issue or saw the Women of the Wall documentary that was shown at our community selichot service a few years ago, you know what I mean.
I was standing in the first row, eyeball to eyeball with Haredi teenage girls who were facing our group. I concentrated on my siddur. I don’t think I ever prayed so hard.
Standing there facing a sea of hostile women, suddenly prayer became an act of defiance. Although I didn’t think about it consciously at the time, afterwards I realized how much it was about protecting my rights. Although I grew up in a highly progressive Conservative congregation, not until I was an adult could I be counted for a minyan or read Torah.
The Haredi girls started squeezing us in, moving away from the Wall, talking on their cell phones, mocking us, cursing us, and taking pictures of us with their cell-phones. Then the screaming and yelling began.
The more and louder they screamed —and apparently the noise level reached a record high that day — the more fervently and louder we prayed. Simultaneously, in the men’s section, the voices got louder and louder to drown us out. I understand that the only time the loudspeaker system is used in the men’s section is when the Women of the Wall come to pray.
Someone asked me whether I was afraid. The truth is these attacks provided inspiration to pray more fervently. Despite the noise, I don’t think I ever prayed more intently or focused more on the words of the prayers. At one point, when I was kissing the tzitzit during the v’ahavta, an older Haredi woman glared at me with such venom that I thought she might punch me in the face. So I just prayed louder. Meanwhile more and more policewomen came to separate “us and them.”
What I did resent that as we recited key prayers, such as the Sh’ma and the Hallel, the verbal attacks grew louder in volume. It felt very disrespectful and I truly felt violated.
I don’t think I ever davened the Hallel with such kavanah or intention. I simply cannot describe how beautiful and meaningful the prayers were, despite the hostile atmosphere all around. As a young JTS cantorial student and I discussed, we never thought praying at the Kotel could be so meaningful.
We ended by singing the Hatikva with a powerful show of force. The police then escorted the Women of the Wall out onto bullet-proof buses as protection from physical violence. One Haredi man was arrested for spitting. So began Rosh Hodesh Heshvan.
Why am I sharing this story and why do the Women of the Wall matter to us as Conservative Jews in America?
First, I want to make this crystal clear. My intent is not to bash the Ultra-Orthodox, their beliefs, and religious practices.
Picture for a minute the Kotel. If you have visited Israel, you may be thinking about your first visit there. Many of us sitting here can remember watching on television the poignant footage of Israeli paratroopers reclaiming the Kotel during the Six-Day War. Others have seen the photos. The image of the Kotel is a powerful and evocative symbol for Jews worldwide.
Please ask yourself the following: In 1967, when the Israel Defense Forces reclaimed the Kotel was it for only certain types of Jews? We need to remind ourselves that the Kotel is a holy site to Jews all across the entire spectrum of religious beliefs and practices.
Now reflect on the ongoing violence at the Kotel. Think about this the next time you visit Israel and make the choice to pray there.
I realize that some people may argue that the right of women to wear tallitot and read from the Torah runs counter to what has become “local custom” at the Wall. However, in its April 2013 court ruling, the judge declared that the women are not violating this law. Moreover, he stated that the “local custom” is to be interpreted with National and pluralistic implications, not necessarily Orthodox Jewish customs.
The custom of the place has evolved since 1967 when we won back the Kotel. At the same time, the traditional divide in Israel between secular versus Orthodox has also evolved. Young, secular Israeli Jews are now seeking meaning in Judaism rather than Eastern religions, and are finding their places in egalitarian synagogues and minyanim.
The issue is not just about the right of women to pray at the Kotel — but is much broader in scope. There are important implications for Conservative Jews who love Israel.
The issue is about religious freedom. It’s about our right to pray as Jews as we wish. Tomorrow we mark Rosh Hodesh Kislev. In a few weeks we will celebrate Hanukkah and our religious freedom as Jews. Yet, as Conservative, egalitarian Jews,
we are unable to exercise full religious freedom at the Kotel.
The issue is about the relationship between the State of Israel and those of us in the diaspora. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and Director of the Engaging Israel Project, talks about the need for a new covenant between Israel and world Jewry based on meaning. If as American Jews we are to be meaningful partners with Israel, it’s problematic when the Kotel, which is such a powerful symbol to world Jewry, comes into conflict with these values.
It’s about mutual tolerance, respect, and civility. In their struggle for women’s rights, the Women of the Wall are opening the door for greater mutual tolerance.
Rather than “us versus them,” both the Ultra-Orthodox and the champions for religious pluralism must learn to become more tolerant of each other. It’s a great learning opportunity and one that also applies to how we relate to those whose views on Israel do not conform to our own. Instead of raising our voices, let’s learn to listen respectfully and try to understand the other side, even if we don’t agree.
Finally, here’s what I learned by davening with Women of the Wall. The rabbis taught about Yerushalahim shel ma’alah, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of our dreams, and Yerushalayim shel matah, the earthly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem as it exists on earth with its problems and where it’s less than perfect.
If we focus exclusively on Yerushalayim shel ma’alah — and continue to put on blinders when it comes to Jerusalem, then we are blatantly ignoring the harsh realities that exist in Jerusalem today as exemplified by the Kotel clashes.
On the other hand, if we focus exclusively on Yerushalayim shel matah —and just see the negative aspects of Jerusalem, then we don’t allow ourselves to envision what the Holy City of Jerusalem could be as a fulfillment of our dreams.
The Kotel is the emblematic symbol of Jerusalem where, as Jews, we have directed our prayers and yearnings for centuries. The challenge is to reconcile the two Jerusalems, the real Jerusalem as we know it today and the ideal Jerusalem of our dreams and spiritual aspirations.
We have a huge task ahead: If Jerusalem is truly to fulfill our dreams, we, as American Jews connected to Israel, are obligated to become partners with Israel, fulfilling what Hartman calls a new covenant.
We have much work ahead to make Jerusalem a better place — a holy makom that truly reflects our values and a place where we can feel God’s holy presence. Let’s each ask ourselves how we can personally work in partnership with God to achieve this goal.
As we lift our prayers towards Zion, the Holy City of Jerusalem, let us fervently pray that the Kotel not be a symbol of what divides us as Jews. May this sacred site reflect our Jewish values and become a symbol of Jewish unity and peace predicated on respect, tolerance, and civil behavior.
Only then can we truly view Jerusalem as Yerushalayim shel ma’alah — the Jerusalem that embodies our dreams — as a place where Jews of all kinds, including those of us living in the diaspora, can feel welcome and comfortably pray in peace, without fear, according to our own customs.
In the words of a slogan popular a few years back, HaKotel l’Kulanu, the Kotel belongs to us all. I hope that we may soon realize this dream.
Shabbat Shalom v’Hodesh Tov.

“I am amazed of your bravery”

Dear Woman of the Wall,

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I would like to introduce myself. My name is Isabelle. I am eleven years old. I live in New York City, in the United States.
I am studying Judaism in school. We have learned all about the branches, values, beliefs, kings, patriarchs and history about Judaism.
I myself am not Jewish, but I respect your practices and beliefs, as everyone should.
The reason I have discovered the Women of the Wall organization, is that I was working on a presentation about everything we have learned, and I am supposed to research about current events about the Jewish culture. I found a website that was talking about your 25th anniversary. I was so interested, that I researched for about your website. I read your mission statement, and everything that you could possibly read on your website. I began to be more inspired.
I told my teacher about The Women of the Wall, and she was so thrilled. Part of that was, I go to an all girls school and one of our largest encouragements is women’s empowerment.
I will now do a presentation about this organization.
I just want you to know how inspiring you are and how amazed I am of your bravery.
Congratulations on your 25th anniversary,
Isabelle Patry
(This is a picture is my school’s symbol, The Wheel. It is to represent that there is no end in Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 8.50.28 PMlearning, and the Latin “Fortiter et Recte” means bravely and rightly. The reason this is my schools motto is that women should be brave, and all peoples should be treated equally with righteousness.) 

A Prayer for my Kotel sisters

To my dear Kotel sisters, on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5774,

Although I cannot be with you to celebrate our 25th anniversary, I send out this prayer and my love to you:

May the Holy One who blessed our ancestors Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, Yaakov and Leah, Rachael, Bilhah and Zilpah, bless all of the Nashot Hakotel and our supporters with strength, courage, perseverance and divine grace.  In the merit of our ancestors who sang out to God with their full beings in a strong voice, Miriam, Channah, Devorah, Serach bat Asher, the Shulamite and the women who came out to greet King David,  in the name of Michal, Bruriah and Rashi’s daughters,  in the memory of our Bubbies, many of whom were kept behind the mechitzah and out of cheders and yeshivot and colleges, and in humble recognition of our sisters in repressive religious regimes around the world today who are not free to sing out and to worship God in joy, may all women be free to worship God, each in her own way, because the time for silencing women is over!  “Shiru l’Adonai shir chadash!”, sing out to God a new song!

Amen, may it be so.

Rabbi Sue Mauer Morningstar, Ashland, OR

Reform Movement Missions Gather in Jerusalem to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Women of the Wall

Three Reform Movement Missions Gather in Jerusalem to
Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Women of the Wall

Lay Leaders, Clergy and Teens from Reform Movement in North America
to Discuss Israeli Pluralism with Members of Knesset

Contact: Annette Powers

October 29, 2013, New York, NY – On November 3, three North American missions from the Reform Movement will commence their journey in the Holy Land to honor the 25th Anniversary of theWomen of the Wall, the group aimed at achieving social and legal recognition of women’s rights to wear prayer shawls, pray communally, and read from the Torah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The three missions include a lay and clergy mission with 80 participants (69 congregants and 11 clergy); a rabbinic mission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN) with 17 Rabbis; and a NFTY Mission with five teens. Click here to see bios of all the mission participants.

This group of 69 lay leaders, 28 clergy and five young people, will celebrate Rosh Chodesh Kislevtogether at the Kotel, engage in study with scholars at HUC-JIR, participate in a “Freedom Ride” to support desegregation on Israel’s public buses led by the Israel Religious Action Center and meet with Natan Sharansky, influential members of Knesset and senior government officials to discuss pressing issues of religious pluralism in Israel.

Delegates will also enjoy a gala celebration at Merkaz Shimshon/Beit Shmuel featuring remarks by WoW Chairwoman Anat Hoffman and former Member of Knesset Naomi Chazan. Renowned musician Julie Silver, cantors participating on the mission, and HUC Cantorial Students will provide entertainment.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nei Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield, Illinois, commented, “Ours is a mission to fight for expanding recognition of religious pluralism in Israel. But let there be no mistake. Even as we stand in passionate opposition to discriminatory treatment of women at the Kotel, we must not take for granted that we do so in a democratic country where freedoms are guaranteed. We take our case to the Knesset, the center of political power. We take our case to the press, which is free and open. We travel without fear of persecution and we step onto the stage of history where the democracy and freedom of Israel are the cornerstones of the modern state.”

In addition to the congregational missions and the CCAR/WRN mission, there will be a North American delegation from the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) who will be in Israel representing the Reform Movement at the Zionist National Council, HUC-JIR Israeli Rabbinical Ordination, and the Jewish Agency Board of Governor’s meetings.

“Joining our Israeli brothers and sisters at the Kotel to express our support for a pluralistic Israeli society is at the core of what we do and what we stand for,” said ARZA President Rabbi Joshua Weinberg. “We look forward to bringing the message back to our members and our Movement in America.”

For more information on the Women of the Wall, please visit http://womenofthewall.org.il/

Meet the Mission Leaders

Women of the Wall Mission to Support Pluralism in Israel

Clergy Biographies

Leadership Team:

Rabbi Karyn Kedar is the senior Rabbi of a Congregation BJBE, congregation of 1100 families In Deerfield Illinois, outside of Chicago. She is the author of three books on spirituality (the fourth soon to be published) and a widely recognized speaker around the country as well as appearances on television and radio.  Rabbi Kedar sits on many national forums. She has three children, Ilan currently serves as an officer in the IDF, Shiri was an officer is now studying at IDC in Herzelia and Talia after serving as a medic lives with her husband and two children on Kibbutz Gonen.

Rabbi Judy Schindler is senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El, an 1100 family congregation that is the largest synagogue in the Carolinas.  In a city of one million people, Rabbi Schindler was selected as Charlotte Women of the Year in 2011.  She is a past Co-Chair of Women’s Rabbinic Network (the national organization of Women Reform Rabbis), sits on many local and national Boards, and is active in interfaith and social issues in her region and state. She regularly brings congregants to Israel and this November will be the third congregational trip she has led in 2013.   Rabbi Schindler is the daughter of Rabbi Alexander Schindler who led the Reform Movement from 1973 to 1995.

Rabbi Debra Robbins has been a rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas for 22 years.  She has served as Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis as well as on several national committees, in addition to participating in a variety of local Jewish and communal organization. She is a participant in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and has published essays in several collections.   This will be her 20th trip to Israel; she is married to Larry S. Robins and the mother of a sixteen year old son who will participate in the EIE Program in 2014.

Cantor Jennifer Frost is the senior cantor of Congregation BJBE, a congregation of 1100 families In Deerfield Illinois, outside of Chicago. She is well regarded as this countries leading cantor, forging a path that combines traditional hazinut, Chassidic melodies and modern and contemporary music. She is featured on many recordings of innovated Jewish music. She sits on several national commissions and boards including an active leader on the board of American Conference of Cantors.

Clergy Participants and Delegation Leaders:

Rabbi Laura Geller is Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, California.  She was named one of Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America and featured in the PBS Documentary called “Jewish Americans.”  Rabbi Geller is a Rabbinic Fellow of the Hartman Institute, and a Fellow of the Corporation of Brown University from where she graduated in 1971. She was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in 1976, the third woman in the Reform Movement to become a rabbi.

Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz has served Temple Beth Sholom, a premier congregation in Miami Beach, Florida, for the past 20 years.  In 2008, she founded The Open Tent, a Jewish engagement organization, which connects thousands of young adult Jews to Jewish learning, community and each other.  Rabbi Pomerantz is passionate about the human rights issue of the Women of the Wall and speaks about it from the pulpit frequently.

Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin is the first Chinese American Rabbi. A major focus of her rabbinate is toward better inclusivity of racial and other minorities within the American Jewish community. Recently, the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco invited her to be the keynote speaker during the culminating event of the Israel-China festival.

Cantor Ilene Keys aspired to become a cantor since studying for Bat Mitzvah at one of the largest progressive synagogues in the world, Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles. Her connection to Israel was fortified by this synagogue’s strong support of Israel through Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin and as a result, Cantor Keys spent a summer in the Gadna program, Chetz V’Keshet. She has kept a very close relationship with Israel ever since, spending a year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a year at the Hebrew Union College while training to become an ordained cantor ,  Cantor Keys appears in the award winning film “Time Off” by Israeli Film Director Eytan Fox. She is a member of the American Conference of Cantors.

Cantor Jill Abramson is Senior Cantor at Westchester Reform Temple, a 1200 family Reform congregation in Scarsdale, NY.   She also serves as adjunct faculty at Hebrew Union College, in New York where she lectures on topics of professional excellence.  She brings a commitment to International social justice work and women’s issues with field work in Indonesia, Cameroon and the Middle East. Cantor Abramson serves on several committees for the American Conference of Cantors.

Rabbi/Cantor Vicki L. Axe was the first woman to serve as president of the American Conference of Cantors from 1991-1994, and is the founding Spiritual Leader of Congregation Shir Ami in Greenwich, CT.  She is a past president of the American Conference of Cantors. She has taught students at HUC-JIR and AJR, and visited many congregations as scholar-in-residence.  She received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbinical Academy of America in 2008 and is currently studying for her Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Care at HUC-JIR.  She and her husband lived and worked in Israel from 1973-1975, Together, they are the proud parents of four sons, all 20 and 30-something, two daughters-in-law, with their first grandchild on the way.

Cantor Sherry Allen is the sole clergy for Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington, TX.  Because it is a small congregation (around 90 families), it has afforded me the opportunity to get to know congregants personally.  I have been privileged to be there for some of them in crisis, which has led me to pursue a part-time career as a Hospice Chaplain as well.  A big accomplishment for me is the fact that I have educated and empowered congregants to take an active part in leading services when I am not there.  Little by little, both men and women have developed the skills to be shlichei tzibbur, and that is one of my proudest achievements.

Delegates joining from the Women’s Rabbinic Network and the Central Conference of American Rabbis:

Rabbi Carole B. Balin, Ph.D. is a Professor of Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York. Professor Balin writes and lectures on topics related to Jewish women, ranging from their experiences under the Tsars to the emergence of bat mitzvah in twentieth-century America. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post and appears as the narrator of PBS’s “The Jewish People: A Story of Survival,” which airs frequently nationwide. Professor Balin co-edited, with Wendy Zierler, Behikansi atah [In my entering now, Selected Works of Hava Shapiro (1878-1943)], published by Resling Press of Tel Aviv in 2008. The volume, which features Shapiro’s writings—including selections from the first diary ever written by a woman in Hebrew chronicling her interactions with the literary giants of the day, such as Y.L. Peretz, who was her mentor, and Reuven Branin, who was her lover, and the first feminist literary criticism in Hebrew—has been expanded and translated into English, and will be published next year by Wayne State University Press.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami, West Hollywood’s (CA) Reform Synagogue. She is the President-Elect of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. She has been named by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the Forward 50, most influential Jews in the US and by the Huffington Post as the most influential LGBT Clergy person. She is Sr. Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute and has won numerous awards for her activism. She recently celebrated her 25th anniversary in the rabbinate.

Rabbi Elyse Frishman was ordained in 1981 by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. For fourteen years, she served The Reform Temple of Suffern in Suffern, NY. Since August 1995, Rabbi Frishman has been the Rabbi for Congregation B’nai Jeshurun – The Barnert Temple, in Franklin Lakes, the oldest congregation (c. 1847) in New Jersey with a membership of 400 families. Rabbi Frishman is nationally recognized as a leader in transforming Reform Jewish worship, and as a writer and editor of liturgy. She is the editor of the new American Reform prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah.  Much of Rabbi Frishman’s local and national work has focused on spirituality and worship. Rabbi Frishman served on the URJ-CCAR Joint Commission on Religious Living and the CCAR Liturgy Committee, the Hebrew Union College Board of Alumni Overseers, and the Board of the CCAR. She served as an original Fellow for Synagogue 2000, a national, trans-denominational project transforming the culture of the synagogue from a corporate to spiritual center. Rabbi Frishman is also active in the work of the American Jewish World Service, and partners with her congregational leadership in developing a culture of social justice. Rabbi Frishman is married to Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. They have three children, Adam (30), Jonah (28) and Devra (22).

Rabbi Kim Sara Geringer was ordained in 1999, coming to the rabbinate after a first career as a psychotherapist. For 10 years she served as the Associate Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Worship, Music and Religious Living, the locus of the Reform Movement’s worship transformation initiatives, and from which she authored publications on ritual and worship. Currently, Rabbi Geringer is a member of the faculty at HUC-JIR/NY where she supervises students’ pulpit internships and teaches courses for both rabbinic and cantorial students on professional development, congregational systems theory and pastoral counselling. She is also the rabbi of Congregation Sha’aray HaYam in Manahawkin, New Jersey.

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein served for twenty years as the Director of Kolel, a unique adult education centre in Toronto, Canada which she founded. Currently she is creating a new Reform congregation called City Shul in downtown Toronto which after its first year has 200 member units including 87 kids in the school. She was graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis University in 1978 and received her Doctor of Divinity, Honorius causis, from there in 2008. She writes a monthly column for the Canadian Jewish News, and is one of seven women featured in the Canadian National Film Board documentary, “Half the Kingdom.” She is the author of ReVisions: Seeing Torah through a Feminist Lens and a textbook on Women and Judaism called Seek Her Out (URJ Press), and is editor of The Women’s Torah Commentary, The Women’s Haftarah Commentary and New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future. She is the 2005 recipient of the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators.

Rabbi Linda Joseph is the rabbi/educator of Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn VA located in the suburbs of Washington DC. She was ordained in 1994 at HUC-JIR and received a Masters in Jewish Education in 1995. Rabbi Joseph has in the past worked as the rabbi of synagogues in North America and Australia, and served as Regional Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Southeast Council overseeing all the affiliated Reform Jewish synagogues of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, part of Tennessee and the Bahamas.

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson is Director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, the international support and advocacy organization for women in the Reform rabbinate. She serves as an International Vice-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall, is a former Chair and board member of the Hadassah Foundation, a former board member of the Rodeph Sholom School in New York, and currently is on the boards of the Yedidya Center for Jewish Spiritual Direction and Friends of Kehillat Kol HaNeshamah. Jackie has held volunteer leadership positions with the Women’s Rabbinic Network and Central Conference of American Rabbis.  From 1992-2002, Jackie was the Jewish Chaplain at Harvard-Westlake School, Los Angeles, and has worked in synagogue education, adult education and hospital chaplaincy.  Jackie led a Rosh Hodesh: It’s A Girl Thing! Group for four years. at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York and is currently teaching in the field of adult spiritual formation and development. She is a graduate of the Rabbinic Enrichment program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, and serves as a spiritual director. Jackie received her A.B. in Psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University in 1977, and was ordained as a rabbi, receiving a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters, by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in 1983. Jackie is married to Rabbi David Ellenson; they have five children and one grandchild.

Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov is the Rabbi of Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY (Long Island). She has served SRT as their  rabbi since her ordination from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Cincinnati, OH) in 2008. The following year, Rabbi Losben-Ostrov also became the Director of Education, as well. While at HUC-JIR,  she wrote her Rabbinic Thesis on, “Naming the Unnamed: Biblical Characters Known only by their Roles or Relationships.”  Rabbi Losben-Ostrov graduated from Albright College (Reading, PA)  where she was in the Honors Program and received a BA in French and another BA in Political Science and Communications.  She also has a Master’s Degree in “Educational Administration” from Xavier University and a Master’s Degree from HUC-JIR in “Hebrew Letters.” Rabbi Losben-Ostrov, is very proud to have founded the Pesach Project for HUC-JIR which has now allowed hundreds of Rabbinical Students to help lead seders and educational opportunities in the Former Soviet Union. She is also very passionate about fighting AIDS and has led an annual Healing Service for over a decade to raise awareness of the AIDS crisis. Prior to working at Sinai Reform Temple Rabbi Losben-Ostrov served small Jewish communities as a “Student Rabbi” in Joplin, MO; Bowling Green, KY; Bloomsburg, PA; Pine Bluff and McGehee, AR; and La Salle, IL. She has also spent time working with Jewish youth in Reading, PA; Larchmont, NY; at Camp Harlam and as the Advisor to the NFTY-Missouri Valley Region.  Additionally, Rabbi Losben-Ostrov loves to teach about Judaism and teaches a weekly “Introduction to Judaism Class” for the Reform Movement in New York City.

Rabbi Oshrat Morag was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. She was ordained at HUC –JIR Jerusalem campus in 2008 and is currently a Doctorate candidate in the field of Feminist Theology at HUC-JIR Cincinnati campus. She resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, teaching Gender Studies in the Rabbinical Seminary of Latin America and in various synagogues. She facilitates women groups, writes poems, Midrashim, prayers and life cycle ceremonies. She is the mother of three beautiful children, excitedly expecting the forth.

Rabbi Hara Person is the Publisher and Director of the CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.  She also oversees communications for the CCAR.  Rabbi Person was ordained in 1998 from HUC-JIR, after graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College (1986) and receiving an MA in Fine Arts from New York University’s International Center of Photography (1992).   Before coming to the CCAR, Rabbi Person was the Editor in Chief of URJ Books and Music, where she was the Managing Editor of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, named the National Jewish Book Award Book of the Year in 2008.  Rabbi Person is the author of Stories of Heaven and Earth: Bible Heroes in Contemporary Children’s Literature as well as other collections.  Her essays and poems have been published in various anthologies and journals. She is also the High Holy Day rabbi of Congregation B’nai Olam, Fire Island Pines, NY, and she has been named Adjunct Rabbi at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, where she teaches adult education classes. Rabbi Person lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and is the parent of two college students.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack has served as the rabbi of Temple Israel in West Lafayette, Indiana since August, 2002. Rabbi Pollack was ordained in 1994 from HUC-JIR in Cincinnati, OH. Before beginning her tenure in West Lafayette, Indiana, Rabbi Pollack served congregations in Glencoe, Illinois and Denver, Colorado. She was part of the first cohort of STAR Rabbis Good to Great program, a year-long innovative continuing rabbinic education program offered by STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal). Rabbi Pollack and her family spent the summer of 2010 in Israel on sabbatical with the support of the Lilly Foundation Clergy Renewal and Congregational Grant. Her sabbatical time was spent in studying text at the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and learning to play the oud.  She is passionate about women’s spirituality and is a strong advocate in support of Jewish women’s causes. Rabbi Pollack serves on the executive board of the national Women’s Rabbinic Network and is a founding member and continuing faculty of the Indiana Voices of Women spirituality and leadership program. Rabbi Pollack is an active member of the Women In Ministry Ecumenical Network of the Greater Lafayette area; the Inter-Religious Network of the Greater Lafayette Area, the Community Research Institutional Review Board at Purdue University and the Professional Advisory Committee for Clinical Pastoral Education Program, IU Arnett Hospital.

Rabbi Norm Roman has been the Senior Rabbi of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, Michigan since 1986, and also serves as an Adjunct Instructor in Religious Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy.  He has been honored by both the CCAR and the URJ for his lifetime of teaching youth in NFTY and at several of the Union’s Summer Camp Institutes.  He is a Past President of the Michigan Board of Rabbis, the Great Lakes & Ohio Valley Association of Reform Rabbis, and the West Bloomfield Interfaith Clergy Forum.  The Rabbi was born in New York City, grew up in Cleveland, and served Congregations in Ohio and Santa Monica, California before moving to Michigan.  He is a composer of Jewish contemporary liturgical music, and a folksinger who has entertained both in the Jewish community nation-wide, and in Israel.  Descended from Chalutzim who helped found Zichron Yaakov and Yesod HaMaala, he is an active volunteer on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Partnership 2000 in the Central Galil, the Jordan River Village Camp for Critically-ill Children, and Yemin Orde Youth Village.  Rabbi Roman and his wife, Lynne, live in West Bloomfield, and are the parents of Sarah & Adam Rochkind, Chad Rochkind, Blake Rochkind, Justin Rochkind (z”l), Caryn Roman and Benjamin Roman.

Rabbi Karen Strok graduated Phi Beta Kappa from U.C. Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Religious Studies. She continued her education in Los Angeles at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) where she received Master’s Degrees in Hebrew Letters and Jewish Education, and rabbinic ordination in 2002. Before serving as the founding director of the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning at Stephen S. Wise Temple, Rabbi Strok taught several classes at Milken Community Middle and High School, taught ethics at the Stephen S. Wise Temple Academy and the Melton School, led “Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing,” directed the Tartak Learning Center at HUC-JIR, served as an education consultant at HUC-JIR, coordinated an alternative Hebrew program at Temple Judea, and officiated at numerous life cycle events. Rabbi Strok has been happily married to Joshua Strok for 15 years and together they share the task of parenting 12-year-old Micah and 10-year-old Avi.

Rabbi Kari Tuling serves Congregation Beth Israel in Plattsburgh, New York, where she is also President of the Interfaith Council and an Adjunct Instructor at the State University of New York, Plattsburgh. She received ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati in 2004 and earned her PhD in Jewish Thought in 2013. Recent publications include “Women Rabbis and Theology” for a forthcoming book from the CCAR Press and “On the Fringes of Tradition” for the academic on-line journal Marginalia.

Rabbi Susan Warshaw was ordained in 2007 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles) and has served as rabbi of Temple Bat Yam in Ocean City, Maryland since 2008. Previously she was director of education of Temple Micah in Washington, DC. Rabbi Warshaw is a second-career rabbi; her first career was as a classical pianist, and she holds a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. She has a special interest in Judaism and health, and worked with the Kalsman Institute of Judaism and Spirituality in Los Angeles.

Delegate joining from OHALAH, Association of Jewish Renewal Rabbis

Rabbi Pamela Frydman is the founding rabbi of Or Shalom Jewish Community in San Francisco and International Co-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall. She was in the first cohort of women rabbinic students in the Jewish Renewal movement. She was ordained in 1989 by B’nai Or Religious Fellowship, predecessor to the ALEPH Ordination Program. She was the first woman to serve as President of OHALAH, the Renewal association of rabbis and cantors. She co-founded the Rabbinic Advisory Council of Shalom Bayit, Ending Domestic Violence in Jewish homes. She is the author ofCalling on God, Sacred Jewish Teachers for Seekers of All Faiths and Reflections: A High Holy Day Machzor.

NFTY Teen Delegation

Beth Avner Rodin will be leading the NFTY Teen Delegation. Beth began her career as a Chicago-based youth advisor then became regional director of the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY). After completing her Masters in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) at Spertus, she was promoted to a national position as NFTY’s Director of Education and Special Projects, with her master’s project being used across the country as an impactful training manual for new youth workers. Beth has recently been promoted again to Associate Director of NFTY.

Deep Appreciation for WOW

by Jamie Cooperman

Jamie Cooperman is a senior at the University of California, Davis where she is majoring in International Relations and jamie pictureSpanish. Last year she completed half of her third year of study at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain and the other half at the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she was able to participate in Rosh Hodesh services with Women of the Wall.  

This past year I had the incredible opportunity of studying abroad in both Spain and Israel.  As a Jewish young adult living in North America, I never encountered hardships when it came to openly practicing my religion.  I have always been proud to be Jewish and there had never been a reason for me to be ashamed of my own identity.  When I was in both Israel and Spain, I really understood that I have been taking advantage of possessing these simple rights.

In Spain, I found that most Jews were not open or proud of being Jewish which was such a strange concept for me.  I celebrated the high holidays in the basement of a hotel that was miles away from the main attractions of Madrid and each week for Shabbat I had to go through such intense security in order to merely attend Kabbalat Shabbat services.   In the United States, it would be so easy for me to just drive to my synagogue to attend any service I desired, without feeling any sense of unease or fear of not being welcomed.  This had completely changed once I left my comfort zone of the United States.

When I started my spring semester in Jerusalem, I figured that I would definitely feel more comfortable expressing my Jewish identity as opposed to when I was in Madrid.  I had traveled to Israel before on numerous occasions, but this was the first time that I actually lived in Israel for an extended period of time.   I found that I was not able to express myself as freely as I thought I would be.  In Jerusalem especially, I found that women’s voices are stifled when it comes to religion.  I felt uncomfortable sharing my opinion when I was in some ultra-orthodox settings because I found that there was only one right opinion when it came to different aspects of Judaism.  In the United States, I was always taught that especially within Judaism, there are various opinions on different teachings and that it was my job to listen to all of these ideas and then form my own opinion.  In these settings, I felt that all that I was taught growing up was completely wrong.  I became discouraged about my new feeling toward Israeli society in Jerusalem, because this was not the Israel that I loved and thought dearly of.

I found out about Women of the Wall early on during the semester and decided to try to get involved.  Despite having to wake up before sunrise in order to make the trek from Har HaTzofim to the Old City, a group of friends and I were very excited to experience a Women of the Wall service.  The first Rosh Hodesh shacharit service that I attended restored my warm feelings about the Jewish people and about Israel as whole.  Squished together at the Kotel with hundreds of women of all ages and religious backgrounds, I finally felt the sense of belonging that I searched for during my study abroad experience.   I loved being a part of an organization in Jerusalem that enabled both women and men to voice their opinions as well as practice different forms of Judaism that was unique to each individual.  During the service, I looked all around me to find that I was absorbed in a cohesive unit of people singing, dancing, and praying.  For a quick moment I found myself looking up at the Kotel being mesmerized by what an incredible experience that I was taking part in. This is what Judaism is to me. This is what Israel really is for me.  I finally found the Israel that I was craving.  Being able to come together, despite being strangers and never having met before, I felt such a sense of belonging and sense of pride for being Jewish.

In honor of the 25th Anniversary of Women of the Wall, I would like to share my deep appreciation for this organization.  Thank you for restoring my faith in Israel, the Jewish people, and my own Jewish identity.  We are very lucky to have an organization like this that enables people to express themselves in such a way that is inviting, loving, and nurturing.  I hope others see the importance of Women of the Wall and I encourage you to support, participate, and fortify all of the efforts that this organization has done in the past 25 years and will do in the 25 years to come.


The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), as the international support and advocacy organization for women in the Reform rabbinate, has supported Women of the Wall (WOW) since it began its efforts to secure a meaningful place at the Western Wall for women’s prayer. We identify fully with WOW’s mission to achieve the social and legal recognition of the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall. For 25 years, many of our members have prayed with WOW, signed petitions on their behalf, contributed to legal efforts, and provided strategic assistance. Many of us are planning to celebrate Rosh Hodesh Kislev in Jerusalem with WOW, on November 4, 2013, for its 25th anniversary.

On October 7, 2013, WOW’s leadership announced that they “are prepared to be the catalyst and leaders of building a new, equal third section for all Jews to pray and celebrate at the Western Wall.”  We affirm our support of WOW as it makes this landmark announcement.  We stand with WOW as it insists on clarification of all aspects of the physical development of this third section of the Wall. We endorse their efforts to secure a new pluralistic model for the administration and leadership of this new, third section, which will provide a safe and sacred space for WOW and all Jews to pray with dignity and respect, autonomy and authority.  We stand with Women of the Wall, and commit to continue our efforts to insure women’s presence and religious practice at the Wall.


Media Contact: Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson, Director



B’nai B’rith Girls Stand with WOW!

Ahavah BBG #323 WOW

My name is Arielle Singer I am the Sh’licha for Ahavah BBG #323, and you had told me to send it here so that’s what I am doing. If you don’t know BBG, it stands for B’nai B’rith Girls a non-profit youth organization for Jewish High Schoolers all over the world. I am the Sh’licha which is the head of Jewish Culture, Social Action, and Community Service which also means that I got to choose our charity of this year. For this year we will be focusing on fundraising for your charity (Women of the Wall) as well as getting pictures of our members and other Jewish women in tallits and possibly praying. We had our first event last night. I attached the picture with all of the girls in a little collage that I made. Keep doing

Reflections from our Supporters

Women of the Wall Prepared to Lead Change for Third Section at Kotel

By Mark S. Anshan

Today the Women of the Wall issued a statement in which its Chair, Anat Hoffman stated “…we are prepared to be the catalyst and leaders of building a new, equal third section for all Jews to pray and celebrate at the Western Wall.” This is a bold step for WOW given that it changes the original focus of its organizational objective, i.e. permitting women the freedom to choose the manner in which they prayer at the Kotel in the current women’s section.

In the proposed equal and fully integrated third section of the Kotel, there would be an area set up for Orthodox women who wish to prayer as they choose but separately from praying with men. This is a rational and sensible compromise to a complicated issue.

The more serious immediate challenge for WOW is maintaining support within its own ranks. As noted in their statement the WOW Executive Board went through “…a comprehensive and emotionally trying decision-making process.” One can expect that there are strong differences of views among its membership and this can potentially cause problems for WOW in maintaining a strong public profile. It’s important for members of a non profit advocacy organization like WOW to understand and appreciate that the organization needs to constantly think and reflect on its objectives and strategy, taking account of changes in the political environment in which they are operating. While not compromising on the fundamental principles for which they were established, it is understandable and acceptable that an organization like WOW should review its objectives, respond to the political situation, take account of what realistically can be achieved and alter the strategic focus accordingly. In response to the movement for change at the Kotel and the mounting support for an egalitarian prayer section, the WOW Executive Board, by declaring its support for such a section and undertaking to be a leader for such innovation, has exhibited strong and positive leadership. WOW will now take a clear and decisive leadership role that can be of great assistance in achieving the overall objective for many Jews who desire the creation of an egalitarian section.

This decision will be a difficult one for some of the WOW members to understand and accept but hopefully, on thinking about the need to alter course at critical times in one’s effort to bring about change, they will come to fully support their leaders.

Mark S. Anshan is a leader in the Reform movement serving on the URJ Board of Trustees and in other roles.  He is a past Chair of ARZENU – the International Federation of Reform and Progressive Zionists.

Elul International Solidarity with WOW

Here is a list of events for international solidarity with Women of the Wall!

  • Washington, DC
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cleveland, OH
  • New York, NY
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Nashville, TN
To add to this list, please email media@womenofthewall.org.il

The Jewish community of Nashville: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 8:30 AM The Temple 5015 Harding Road

Washington, DC Friends of Women of the Wall: August 6, 4:00 pm Discussion, Hallel songs and “Tallit Solidarity Ceremony” at Ring House 1801 East Jefferson Street Rockville, MD 20852

Women of the Wall Chicagoland: August 7, 8:00 am to 9:00 am, there will be a women-led Torah service hosted by KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd., Chicago. For questions, please contact: Rabbi Amy Memis-Foler  

Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh Solidarity Group and the Park Synagogue East minyan group will host the Elul Rosh Chodesh service at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Park East Synagogue, 27500 Shaker Blvd. in Pepper Pike.

San Francisco Friend of Women of the Wall: Tuesday, August 6 at 1 PM at the Israeli Consulate


Jewish Voices Together: Wake up for Religious Tolerance in New York August 7, 8:00 AM at Brotherhood Synnagogue 28 Gramercy Park South 20th Street, Wester of 3rd Avenue

When will comfort come? A Reflection on The Ninth of Av

By Rabbi Loren Sykes, Executive Director, The Fuchsberg Center, Jerusalem

אבל מקדש שני, שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב? מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם- יומא ט ע”ב

But why was the second Temple destroyed when people were busy with Torah study, Mitzvot and Acts of Lovingkindness? Because there was needless hatred. -Babylonian Talmud Yoma 9b

“Nazi Atah!” – “You are a Nazi!” screamed the little boy.

No older than eight or nine, the boy yelled with the hostility of one who lived a full life of persecution.  His eyes burned hot with anger, his face flush with hatred.  Long black curls, payot, trembled with animosity as he continued shouting at the man on the other side of the gate.  This was not a scene from the shtetl in Europe during World War II.  He was not yelling at a German Soldier.  This was last week at the Western Wall, the Kotel, and this child was yelling at another Jew.

What provoked the little boy to yell “Nazi” at another Jew? Here is the story…

I got to the Kotel late for services on Rosh Hodesh Menachem Av, the arrival of the new month of Av.  As is regularly the case, Women of the Wall (WoW) gathered for services.  This time, thousands of young yeshiva girls came out to fill the Kotel Plaza, as they were instructed to do by their rebbeim,  so the group was forced to meet far from the Kotel, behind police barricades.

Arriving at the bottom of the steps leading to the plaza, I stood next to a group of Haredi teenagers to put on my tallit and tefillin.  I was minding my own business when a guy came from out of the “corrall,” got in the face of the Haredim, yelled something unintelligible, and pushed one of the black hat and black-suit clad youths.  A melee ensued around me with ten Haredim pounding on this guy and young kids screaming at him.  To their credit, the police rushed in and broke up the fight, taking away the WoW participant and the Haredi who hit him the most.

As they were led away, I noticed that the guy from WoW dropped his tallis bag.  I picked it up and followed the group to the police holding area.  I approached the gate and asked if the tallis bag belonged to him.  All around me, Haredi teens and children were screaming in Hebrew and Yiddish:

“Reformi – You’re not Jewish!”

“You are a blasphemer!”

“You are a Nazi!”

The last slur drew my attention away from the WoW participant behind the fence and toward the gang behind me.  There, I saw the angry, raging little boy gesticulating wildly at the WoW guy and screaming “Nazi! Nazi Atah!”  All around me, shouts of “Reformi,” “Lo Yehudi” and “Nazi” rose to a crescendo.

I looked at the little kid with the flying black curls and calmly, in my Hebrew Jewish educator voice, asked:

“Who taught you to say such horrible things?”

He stopped shouting and just stared at me, a mixture of curiosity and surprise.

“Really, who taught you to call another Jew something so horrible?”

“Hu lo Yehudi!” – He is not Jewish!” The boy retorted.

“And how do you know that?  Did you check? I said

“If he prays like that, he is Reformi, not Jewish!” He screamed.

Devastated, I wondered what kind of “religious” parent, educator, rebbe would teach a child to label another Jew a Nazi.

What kind of fear led people to inculcate their children with such hatred, labeling another Jew a “Jew-Killer?”  There is no circumstance that could ever justify the gross negligence of parents, of rabbis, of educators who teach children that any Jew who disagrees with them is equal to those who tried to destroy our people. I was even more devastated by the fact that we were celebrating the arrival of the Hebrew month of Av.

We call this month “Menachem Av,”  menachem meaning comfort.  According to tradition, The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed twice  on the 9th of Av(first in 586 b.c.e. and again in 70 c.e.).  During the month,  we pray for a future when the pain of the destruction, the pain of exile, the pain of wandering will be comforted, will be healed.  And why was The Temple destroyed? The Talmud teaches that destruction came because of “Sinat Hinam,” senseless hatred. Now, at the base of our holiest site, the foot of The Temple Mount, The Place, where the Jewish People and God interacted in the most direct way, here I see for the first time what real Sinat Hinam, real senseless hatred looks like:  A little boy, screaming in full fury, “Jew Killer” at another Jew.

“When will the redemption come?” I ask myself.

Not when every Jew observes a few Shabbatot.

Not when we all check our Mezuzot or our Tefillin to be sure that the parchments are “kasher.”

Not when we all behave according to one opinion.

Redemption will come when Jewish educators, parents and rabbis teach their children to live a life of Ahavat Hinam, of generous love toward the entirety of the Jewish People.

Salvation will come when the Jewish tradition of Makhloket, of arguing positions, is done for the Sake of Heaven, with Love and respect and generosity.

Comfort will come when one group of Jews watches another group of Jews pray and sees in that different way one of the seventy faces of Torah.

Deliverance will come when every Jew, child and adult, invests more energy in Ahavat Yisrael, in loving all of the Jewish People, than they invest in being “right.”

Achieving redemption is a big, hairy, audacious goal.

For now, maybe we should begin with the most modest of goals: teaching kids not to scream “Nazi” at those who are different from them.

With unending hope that we see Redemption, Salvation, Comfort, and Deliverance soon and in our day, I wish us all a meaningful fast, a day of reflection and self-assessment, and a day for renewing commitment to achieving complete repair of our world.


Devarim 5773 – Women of the Wall and Sinat Hinam

By Rabbi Steven Morgen, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, July 12, 2013

For nearly 25 years a group of women from all denominations – Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and even Modern Orthodox – have gathered at the Western Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem to pray every Rosh Hodesh, the first day of each month in the Hebrew calendar. As you know, the Western Wall has been the holiest site in Jewish tradition since the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. Prior to the Temple’s destruction, of course, the holiest site was the Temple itself which stood on the platform supported by the “Western Wall”, along with similarly constructed walls on the North, East and South, together forming a box around the Temple Mount and providing a foundation for the enormous plaza on which the Temple was built.[1]

The “Women of the Wall” – as they have called themselves – have sought to conduct their own Rosh Hodesh prayer service every month, many choosing to wear a tallit, and/or tefillin. And, some of the women wear a kippah. The women sing the prayers for the morning service out loud. On Rosh Hodesh, the Torah scrolls are taken out, unrolled and read. These women bring a Torah scroll with them and open it at the appropriate time in the service and chant the customary Torah passages using the traditional melody or Trope.

Over the course of these 25 years, they have often found it difficult to pray. Ultra-Orthodox women – and men – come over to harass them, to call them names (like “Nazis”), even to spit on them (or to throw things at them: “stink bombs”, rocks, or chairs, for instance). From time to time they have had police protection. On other occasions the police have arrested some of them for “disturbing the peace” or “violating the sanctity of the Western Wall plaza.”[2] However, recently, the Israeli Court of Jerusalem ruled that their worship does not “disturb the peace” and that “local custom” for Jewish worship in the plaza should be pluralistic and inclusive.[3]

Well, as we announced last Shabbat morning, the month of Av began on Monday, and so that morning, the Women of the Wall met again at the Western Wall plaza to welcome the new month.  This time, the women were escorted by the police to a barricaded area in the southern part of the plaza where the Western Wall itself could not even be seen. Thousands of ultra-orthodox women and yeshiva girls had arrived much earlier to fill the “women’s area” of the plaza so that the Women of the Wall would not be able to get close to the Wall itself. However, there was ample space further back in the plaza overlooking the Wall, but the police did not allow the Women of the Wall to pray there.[4]

Meanwhile, a large group of ultra-Orthodox women, girls, and even men, gathered around the barricade to jeer, scream, blow whistles to drown out the prayers, and even to throw eggs at those who were trying to pray. When the worshippers came to the part of the service for the prayer for the State of Israel, and when they sang Hatikva at the end, there were tears in their eyes as they sang the words “lihiyot am hofshi b’artzenu” (“to be a free nation in our land”). The barricades, the jeering, and the egg-throwing mob made the words very much more a prayer than a reality. It is ironic that in the Jewish State, Jews are not able to pray in a more tolerant and respectful environment.

The former head of the office of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, Rabbi Dov Halbertal, wrote afterward that the next thing these women will seek to do is to pray naked at the Kotel. After all, he argued, Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden, and what could be holier than that? How is praying naked any different than praying in a tallit and tefillin? he asked.[5]

Well, since he asked …

Let’s begin with some background. The Sages of the Talmud ruled that women are exempt from having to fulfill commandments to do something at a fixed time. It is not clear why they are exempt. The usual reason given is that in the culture of 2000 years ago, women were the primary care givers for the children in the family, and had responsibilities to cook the family meals and to clean the house. Therefore, it was deemed too burdensome to require women to drop these important tasks in order to fulfill another mitzvah that had to be done at a particular time. Sometimes these commandments are called “Positive Time-Bound Commandments”.[6]

Wearing a tallit is only considered to be commanded during daylight hours. The reason is the mitzvah includes the obligation to “see” the fringes, and at night – before there was electricity – you generally could not see the fringes well because it was too dark. That is why the congregation does not wear a tallit at the evening service, be we do during the morning service.

Wearing tefillin was only considered to be an obligation on weekdays. On the Sabbath or festival, you are not supposed to wear tefillin. Why? Because the tefillin are considered an “ot” – a symbol of our relationship with God. And the Sabbath and Festivals are themselves symbols of our relationship with God (as we sing in Vishamru [Exdous 13:17] – “bayni uvayn bnay Yisrael ot hi l’olam” – “between Me and the Children of Israel it [the Sabbath] shall be an eternal symbol”). Therefore we do not “wear” a symbol on the day that is itself a symbol. That is why we are not wearing tefillin this morning.

Women are therefore exempt from wearing tallit and tefillin because they are only obligations during specific times. But the law is that they are exempt. It does not say they are prohibited from wearing them. Our movement has determined that it is not only permissible for women to wear a tallit and tefillin, but that they are encouraged to do so, especially if they find these mitzvot meaningful.[7]

Wearing a kippah is not even a mitzvah it is a minhag – a custom.[8] Some may argue that a kippah is a “man’s garment” and that there is a prohibition against women wearing men’s garments. [Deuteronomy 22:5] But I would argue that kippot are really ritual garments, like a tallit or tefillin, and therefore are neither male nor female. But in any case, there are plenty of kippot that are obviously designed for women and do not appear the least bit like a “man’s garment.”

The Talmud specifically permits women to read from the Torah, but only ruled out their actually doing so because it was thought that having a woman read from the Torah would humiliate the men in the congregation. You see, to have a woman read from the Torah apparently implied that none of the men knew how to read from the Torah, so they needed a woman to do it for them.[9] Clearly that is not an assumption we make today in our congregation, and we are delighted to have both men and women reading from the Torah.

Now you might be thinking, “Yes, Rabbi, but you are Conservative, and our movement has developed over the past few decades to fully embrace the equality of women in ritual observances. But the Orthodox do not accept these decisions. Well, Modern Orthodoxy has begun to do just that.

In response to Rabbi Dov Halbertal’s editorial, Yoseif Bloch, an Orthodox rabbi who has taught at Yeshivat HaKotel, Yeshivat Har Etzion, and Yeshivat Shivlei Hatorh, brought Orthodox sources to argue these very same points. He concludes his very brief response with these words:

“Women of the Wall has a varied membership: Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, etc. However, they have chosen to worship in a way which conforms to Jewish law. They have never indicated a desire to pray in a mixed setting, to violate halakhic standards or to desecrate the holy. So why must others do so in the name of stopping their prayers?”[10]

Many other Modern Orthodox rabbis also support the right of the Women of the Wall to worship in the Kotel Plaza.

Now, let’s consider the issue from another perspective. Since when did the ultra Orthodox authorities have the final determination about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate at the Kotel plaza? My teacher Rabbi David Golinkin has written a paper summarizing the history of the Western Wall as a place for Jewish worship.[11] In his typical encyclopedic fashion he recounts scores of historical records from travel logs, paintings, photographs and other material that all prove conclusively that for centuries there was no division at the Western Wall for men and women’s worship.

Apparently, it was at the beginning of the Ottoman rule over Palestine, in 1520, that the Western Wall became more commonly thought of as a place for Jews to worship. From that time until 1948, when the Jews were expelled from the Old City by the Jordanians, women and men prayed together at the Wall. In fact, women were frequently the majority of worshippers there. There was no permanent mehitza in place, and there are only a few occasions when it seems that a temporary mehitza was set up.

In 1967, Israel recaptured the Old City and cleared away the debris and ramshackle houses that were left by the Jordanians in the Jewish Quarter and created the huge Kotel Plaza that now exists.

“At that time, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan wanted to give the responsibility for all the religious and historical sites in Judea and Samaria [i.e. the “West Bank”] including the Kotel to the National Parks Authority. Dr. Zerah Warhaftig, the Minister of Religion, was adamantly opposed and by June 26th, the Kotel was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Religion. At the same time, the Knesset passed the “Protection of Holy Places Law 5727, 1967” which appointed the Chief Rabbis of Israel to set the rules and regulations of the Kotel. … By July 19, 1967, the Ministry of Religion had erected a mehitzah and the men’s section was four times larger than the women’s section.

In other words, the ultra-Orthodox claim that the Kotel plaza has somehow historically always been thought of as sacred ground upon which men and women must be separated in prayer, and rituals must accord with their strict interpretations of Jewish law, is ridiculous and without any basis. The Plaza was essentially created by the Jewish State when it obtained control over the area in 1967. The fact that the Ministry of Religion wrangled control over this area through political maneuvering does not mean they were given this right from the Torah, but rather by the Jewish State itself.

It is unconscionable that we Jews have returned to our homeland to fulfill our historical, religious dream of re-establishing a Jewish commonwealth, only to disenfranchise the overwhelming majority of Jews in the world from worshipping according to their custom at the holiest Jewish site in the world. For centuries Jews were forbidden from worshipping there at all by the non-Jewish governments that ruled over Palestine. When Jews were allowed to worship there, there were no mehitzahs, and no restrictions about who could worship or how they worshipped. Now that the Kotel is in Jewish hands, how can the Jewish State discriminate against the majority of world Jewry in such a heavy-handed manner?

What was particularly disturbing about the incident last Monday was that it was Rosh Hodesh Av – the first day of the month of Av. This Monday night we begin Tisha B’av – the Fast Day on which we mourn the destruction of the very Temple that stood above the Western Wall on the Temple Mount. Our Sages tell us that that Temple, The Second Temple, was destroyed because of Sinat Hinam – Causeless Hatred.  They spell out in some detail what they specifically mean by that label. Jews in the days of Roman Rule were constantly fighting among themselves. There were then – as there are now – different sects of Jewish observance and belief: Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, and Hellenists, to name a few. They all hated each other and fought with each other – and not only with words. Some Zealots, called Siccari, would assassinate Jews who wanted to find a way to peacefully live under Roman rule. This hatred, bickering and violence, our Sages say, is what led to our own downfall.

It is particularly alarming, then, that such hatred among Jews was so apparent on Rosh Hodesh Av when a group of women – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist – came to worship at Judaism’s holiest site. Have we learned nothing in 2000 years?

On Monday night as we mourn the Temple’s destruction, I will be including in my prayers a special prayer that in our days we will find a way to overcome our petty hatreds and our intolerance of different opinions. The strength of Judaism has always been in listening to opposing arguments, keeping an open mind, finding compromise in a dispute, and being willing to adapt to new situations. May we find a way to do so at Judaism’s holiest site – at the Kotel.

Shabbat shalom.

[1] In this illustration (http://www.templemountnews.com/layout.html), the entire perimeter of the structure pictured is the “box”. The Temple is in the middle (a little to the left side) of the plaza that is surrounded by the box. The Temple itself is the tall structure with the golden gate entrance. Surrounding the Temple is the inner Temple courtyard with various administrative buildings. In the diagram, the “left” side of the box is the Western retaining wall, the “right” side of the box is the Eastern retaining wall (which also served as the outer wall of the city itself). The front-left wall is the Southern retaining wall which had two gates (a triple-gate and a double-gate) through which visitors would enter (and exit) the Temple Mount to offer their sacrifices. What is called today the “Western Wall” is the small section of the Western retaining wall (in the back left side of the diagram) near the bridge that is illustrated leading to a gate structure there. I wanted to clarify all of this because there is so often mis-information about what the Western Wall actually is. It is NOT part of the Temple itself. And it is NOT the only part of the retaining wall that is still intact today. In fact, the entire retaining wall is still intact. What is called the Western Wall was that part of the Western retaining wall that was still visible in the Ottoman Period (i.e. not covered by debris and “fill”) and therefore visible to visitors. Since it was relatively close in proximity to where the Temple would have stood, it was considered the holiest site at which Jews could come to pray (since they were prohibited from going up to the Mount itself).

[2] See http://womenofthewall.org.il/news/ for historical articles about the various times the Women of the Wall have come to pray at the Kotel.

[6] See this wonderful summary of the development of this area of Halakhah (Jewish law): http://www.myjewishlearning.com/practices/Ritual/Jewish_Practices/Mitzvot/Classical_Understandings/woman_timebound.shtml?p=2  And, this article from a more “right wing” Orthodox perspective: http://halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Mitzvot_Aseh_SheHazman_Grama. And, for a more chauvinistic rationale for exempting women from Positive Time Bound Commandments (PTBC), see http://scheinerman.net/judaism/Holidays/women-texts.html where Rav Scheinerman simply states that the wife must obey her husband, and if he asks her to do something at a time when she would otherwise have to do a PTBC, she is trapped: either she disobeys her husband (God forbid!), or she disobeys God (God forbid!). So God, as it were, exempted women from this potential conflict.

[7] For a thorough discussion of the halakhah about women wearing tefillin, see my teacher’s excellent article: David Golinkin, “May Women Wear Tefillin?” at Conservative Judaism, Fall 1997, http://web.archive.org/web/20041207101038/www.rabbinicalassembly.org/cjmag/97fa/womtef.html Included in this article is a disputation of the argument that tallit and tefillin are “men’s garments”.  What the issue really comes down to is “yehora” – it is considered by some authorities  to be “haughty” for women to wear tefillin and tallit. That is, they appear to be “putting on airs” of piety. They are not sincerely moved by the mitzvah, but rather trying to prove how devout they are. Of course, as the halakhic sources themselves indicate, what constitutes “haughtiness” is very much culturally based. Sure, in a community in which no women would dream of putting on tefillin, it may seem that a woman who does so is “putting on airs”. On the other hand, once there are large numbers of women in a community putting on tefillin, they would not be seen as “putting on airs” – just putting on tefillin! And how does a community/culture ever change if the first one who attempts the change is humiliated? I am thinking of Rosa Parks, for instance …

[8] See the Wikipedia article for summary of this issue.

[9] For a summary of the issue from an Orthodox perspective, see Shlomo Brody, “May Women Read from the Torah?” in Jerusalem Post Magazine, June 14, 2012, http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Judaism/May-women-read-from-the-Torah

[10] Yoseif Bloch, “The Naked Truth,” The Times of Israel, July 10, 2013,  http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-naked-truth/

[11] David Golinkin, “Is the Entire Kotel Plaza Really a Synagogue?” Responsa in a Moment, Vol. 4, Issue No. 3, February  2010, http://www.schechter.edu/responsa.aspx?ID=48

International Solidarity in Av 2013

Thank you to all of our amazing supporters around the US! Your strong voices make a HUGE difference!

There are many ways to support us!

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Jewish Voices Together in New York

About 100 enthusiastic participants from all denominations gathered yesterday for Rosh Hodesh Av mincha, Hallel – as halachically permitted – and teaching yesterday, organized by Jewish Voices Together and hosted by B’nai Jushurun (BJ) in NY, in support of religious tolerance and WOW’s efforts at the Kotel.  Speakers and teachers included: Rabbi Felicia Sol, BJ rabbi, Batya Kallus, WOW board member,  Rabbi Chen Ben Or Tsfoni from Niggun Halev in Israel and Rabbi Iris Richman, organizer of Jewish Voices Together.  Prayer leaders were Rabbi Anne Ebersman and  Student Cantor Shoshi Rosenbaum.


Tzofim at OSRUI

URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute is a Reform Jewish summer camp in Oconomowoc, WI

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Rosh Hodesh Av minyan at B’nai Jeshurun, Pepper Pike, Ohio

photo (2)Rosh Hodesh Sing In in San Francisco



Temple Israel of Canton, Ohio



Rabbinic and Cantorial Outcry In the Aftermath of Violent Graffiti at Home of Women of the Wall Board Member

Pan Denominational Rabbinic and Cantorial Outcry In the Aftermath of Violent Graffiti
at Home of Women of the Wall Board Member

Rabbis for Women of the Wall and Cantors for Women of the Wall are informal groups of Jewish clergy from every stream of the Jewish people. We do not represent our movements, nor our respective associations, nor Women of the Wall. Our statement in support of religious pluralism and women’s rights at the Kotel, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, is at www.rabbisupportpluralism.org.

The following quotes are in response to the recent graffiti found at the home of Women of the Wall Board member Peggy Cidor.

Cantor Jack Chomsky, President of the Cantors Assembly and International Co-Chair of Cantors for Women of the Wall: “The Price Tag attacks are … desperate, cowardly and filled with hate… This is deeply unacceptable.”

Rabbi Yael Ridberg, International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “There is no excuse for such behavior. Acts of vandalism like this will not threaten the commitment of Women of the Wall supporters to ensure that the Kotel is a place of prayer for all people.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Senior Vice President of the Union of Reform Judaism and International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “All of us who lived in Israel when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated know all too well that violent words and hateful graffiti can lead down a horrible and tragic path. This is an act of violence not only against the Women at the Wall, but all of us who cherish human dignity.”

Rabbi Brad Artson, Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Vice President of American Jewish University and International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “Threatening, anonymous graffiti on the walls of a Jew who seeks the freedom to pray as a Jew – where have we seen that before? The very violence and cowardice of that graffiti is a betrayal of Torah and Jewish values and must strengthen the resolve of those who are shining God’s light of justice, inclusion and love to redouble our efforts. For the sake of Jerusalem, we will not be silent!”

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, founder of CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “I especially appreciate Ms. Peggy Cidor’s response that ‘what happened is a crisis and a crisis is the best opportunity to stop and think over what happened and to create a dialogue.” This underscores the respect for clal yisrael and the practices of others that have characterized Women of the Wall’s position for years. Ms. Cidor’s offer of dialogue is a model of how to pursue change in a highly charged situation. This response highlights that the opponents have a lot to learn from Women of the Wall, not only as to the spiritual beauty of women’s prayers, but also how to pursue an argument for the sake of Heaven.”

Rabbi Stan Levy, Congregation B’nai Horin – Children of Freedom, and International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “This … placing graffiti on the wall of the home of a woman who comes to the Western Wall to pray reminds us that senseless hatred among Jews remains today. The words of the prophet Malachi’s lament rings out in response to this attack: “Don’t we all have one Father, has not one G-d created all of us? Why do we deal treacherously with each other profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” This woman who prays at the Wall sanctifies it. The person who applied graffiti to the wall of Ms. Cidor’s home desecrated not just the wall of her home but also the Western Wall and the name of G-d.

Rabbi Yocheved Mintz, Congregation P’nai Tikvah, President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern Nevada, and International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “May those who truly pursue peace bring these perpetrators to justice and may the time come, soon and in our day, when the Kotel can return to all the Jewish people and become, once again, a place of prayer.”

Rabbi David Kalb and Rabbi Pamela Frydman, International Co-Chairs of Rabbis for Women of the Wall: “We call upon the government of Israel to take all necessary steps through the aegis of appropriate government officials to negotiate, approve and implement a fair and equitable long term and short term plan for Jews of all streams to pray at the Kotel in accordance with their custom free of threat and harassment.”

On Rosh Hodesh Sivan, We were Not Alone

May 10, 2013 in St. Louis, MO: We had over 60 people and it was just perfect – outside, at least 8 different congregations represented, men and women, young and old….beautiful!

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San Francisco and the Bay Area Friends of Women of the Wall Sing In! One of our longest standing solidarity groups!




Jewish Voices Together gathered in Madison Square Park for their Rosh Hodesh Sivan Solidarity Minyan! Here is the first aliyah, for women with WOW tallitot!! In NYC they had 250 participants, from all Jewish denominations, supporting WOW and Jewish pluralism.

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Twin Cities!

Folks from across St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota came together at Beth Jacob Congregation for an egalitarian minyan in solidarity and celebration of Women of the Wall, in partnership with Mt. Zion Temple, Shir Tikvah, and Temple of Aaron.  The minyan was joyful and energetic; some photos:
When we got to the Song of the Sea, we thought of those walls of police officers protecting you on your right and on your left.

Chicagoland WOW Solidarity Event, May 10th:

Despite cold and rainy weather, over 100 women and men turned out to support our sisters in Jerusalem. A Rosh Hodesh service was held at the Daley Center in front of a replica of the Wall created by Carol Johnson. The warm and inspirational service was led by Debbie Lewis, Carla Cenker, Ricky Lewis, Rhonda Wehner. Doris Schyman read torah.

The project to hold a Solidarity Rosh Hodesh Service started with an independent Rosh Hodesh group and spread to include outreach by the Union of Reform Judaism and its affiliate congregations, Conservative and Reconstructionist congregations and about a dozen Jewish organizations including Hillel chapters and the National Council of Jewish Women.


Hadassah Rosh Hodesh group in Parkland, FL.



My Thoughts- Rabbi Dan Goldblatt

My Thoughts as We Embark upon a New Initiative in Support of Religious Pluralism at the Kotel

by Rabbi Dan Goldblatt, Beth Chaim Congregation, Danville, California; President, OHALAH (Renewal), International Vice Chair, Rabbis for Women of the Wal

We live at a moment of great blessing in Jewish history.  There has been a great healing of old patriarchal wounds and we have women rabbis, cantors, chaplains, and liturgists.  For centuries, we were taught that Kabbalah was an expression of the divine feminine albeit articulated by men.  Today, thank G-d, we are blessed to have this coming through the beauty of women’s voices.

In our holy land of Israel, we stand together with the Women of the Wall and all those who hold dear the words that speak to our hearts from the Torah, “B’Tzelem Elohim . . . In the image of G-d, the Creator made them, male and female G-d created them. (Genesis 1:27)

We pray that the day has come when, women, created in the image of the divine, can worship, sing out, chant from Torah, and if they choose, wrap themselves in tallit, tefillin standing at the Kotel, the resonant symbol of the holy places of our tradition.

We stand with them and make an unequivocal commitment to do all that we can to ensure that Israel honor its commitment to all of Klal Yisrael in its wondrously diverse, pluralistic and egalitarian splendor.


A Prayer, Upon Concluding my Term as co-chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall

by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, in honor of my hero, Rabbi Yonina Creditor

Dear Friends,

My hope is renewed at the possibility of Jewish Pluralism in Israel given the amazing moment we marked today, as a Jerusalem District court upheld a ruling that five women who had been detained at the Western Wall for wearing prayer shawls traditionally used by men and singing were not disturbing the public order. (The police had challenged a ruling last Thursday by a magistrates’ court upon the detentions.)

Rabbis for Women of the Wall launched in October of 2010, with rabbinic leadership representing all streams of Judaism, and recent statements by Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld make it clear that Modern Orthodoxy’s support for Jewish Pluralism in Israel is growing. 

Thanks to the leadership of my fellow founding cochair Rabbi Pam Frydman and incoming cochair Rabbi David Kalb, I know the path forward will be led by resonant rabbinic power and infused with wise, loving, collaborative rabbinic vision.

It is my prayer, as I conclude my term as co-chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall, that the political power of Charedim in Israel declines and that Charedim do not become targets of Jewish hate. Pluralism is not limited to progressive streams of Judaism. The path ahead must include our whole family.

It is my prayer that the State of Israel see itself as the safe heart and nurturing home of the Global Jewish People, affirming Jewish Pluralism and Jewish family. The Diaspora is a legitimate expression of Jewish Peoplehood, and the State of Israel has an obligation to support every Jew in the world.

It is my prayer that yearning Zionists, those who love the State of Israel that is and are passionately committed to building the State of Israel that has yet to be, step up and do their part in defending our People’s Home. Jewish critique of Israel is only authentic when it is borne in and of love for our People’s Home. 

It is my prayer that women, at the Kotel, in the Galil, in Buenos Aires, in Australia, Johannesburg, and San Francisco never again experience the violence and persecution they have endured monthly for almost twenty years, all the while channeling the fire of Deborah the Warrior and the song of Miriam the Prophet. 

It is my prayer that Jews around the world continue agitating for Jewish Pluralism in Israel, so that no one – no human being – ever again have their voice silenced for being who God created them to be.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Iyyar 15, 5773 // April 25, 2013