A Bitter-Sweet Historic Moment at the Kotel for Women of the Wall: The First Women’s Chanukah Candle Lighting at the Western Wall

Women of the Wall were joined by over 100 women for Chanukah candle lighting at the Kotel, despite the opposition of Rabbi Rabinowitz, Western Wall Administrator. The 120 women lit 28 Chanukah menorahs and were joined by Members of Knesset Tamar Zandberg and Michal Rozin from the Meretz party and Rabbi Susan Silverman with her sisters actress Laura Silverman and comedian Sarah Silverman.

Together the women said the blessings and sang, praying that the light of the Chanukah candles would expel the darkness brought upon the holy place by Rabinowitz. The first-ever women’s candle lighting was held as the “official” candle lighting ceremony of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation ended in the men’s section. In the state-sponsored ceremony only men were honored and only men spoke and sang- excluding women completely. Women who wished to see the candle lighting were forced to stand on plastic chairs and peer over the partition.

On November 17, 2014, Women of the Wall sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu to request that an equivalent menorah to that which stands in the men’s section be erected in the women’s section to provide women with the same opportunity to hold candle lighting. The Prime Minister transferred the letter to Vice Minister of Religious Affairs, Eli Ben Dahan, for reply, who passed the letter on to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz decided that women will not be allowed to light the Chanukah menorah at the Kotel, nor will they be able to participate or witness the ceremonies, as they are held in the men’s section.

Security at the entrance to the Kotel confiscated Chanukah menorahs from several women as they entered, claiming that they had orders from Rabinowitz. Despite Rabinowitz’ opposition, Women of the Wall succeeded in entering with 28 menorahs, lit them and celebrated, singing and dancing festively.

Members of Knesset Zandberg and Rozin joined Women of the Wall, and not for the first time. The two feminist Members of Knesset have been with Women of the Wall throughout the struggle, always willing to join the women at the Kotel to see that their rights are upheld and to bear witness Rabinowitz’s discriminatory regulations.

MK Rozin said, “It is my pleasure to return to the Kotel once again, and to light candles on the third night of Chanukah in honor of the miracles, which we will not passively wait for but struggle and work towards; and for the wonders like Women of the Wall who continue to inspire me with their determination and their just work. The struggle for gender equality and pluralism is one we all must fight.”

MK Zandberg: “I was touched to light candles with these inspirational women. It is unfortunate that something like lighting Chanukah candles has to be a controversial struggle, but I am proud to be a partner in this fight.”

Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair said, “Rabbi Rabinowitz’s decrees are as predictable as the decrees of Antiochus. When it comes to women’s rights his answer is always the same, ‘No, No, No.’ The time has come to take the keys to the Kotel back from Rabinowitz. The Kotel belongs to us all and each of us, men and women, have the right to light Chanukah candles in this public, holy place.”

Women of the Wall activist Rabbi Susan Silverman was joined in the women’s section by her family, including Sarah Silverman, acclaimed American Jewish comedian and actress. The Silverman sisters certainly found the humor in the situation at the Kotel, from the ridiculous ban on Chanukah menorahs at the entrance, to the police officer who monitors and films Women of the Wall’s every move, like criminals. Perhaps the biggest joke of them all is that in 2014 in democratic Israel Rabbi Rabinowitz, as a public servant, acts to exclude women from all activities, ceremonies and prayers at the Western Wall.

For 26 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall. 

Press contact: Shira Pruce +972-54-6898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

Interviews, photos and video footage available upon request.

 

 

 

Light One Candle with Women of the Wall

Thanks to all who contributed and stood with Women of the Wall this Chanukah!
Photo Gallery:


Don’t see your photo here? send it by email to media@womenofthewall.org.il with your name and we will add it!

We are asking Jews around the world to light one candle for us, for Women of the Wall.images

On Thursday December 18, 2014 Women of the Wall will gather for a women’s candle lighting at the Kotel.

Each year on Chanukah, a large, majestic Chanukah menorah is erected in the men’s section of the Western Wall. Each night, a candle lighting ceremony is held and different Israeli politicians and religious leaders – all men, are honored and women are left to stand on plastic chairs barely able see the festivities and the candles.

This year, Women of the Wall requested that a large chanukiah be placed in the women’s section as well. Our request was denied by the Rabbi Rabinowitz, Kotel administrator. Therefore, we will light many small lights (in more than one sense) in the women’s section, with our personal Chanukah menorahs.

In the spirit of miracles, be a light in the face of darkness! Stand with us in our struggle against the exclusion of women at the Kotel. You can JOIN US from your home and in your synagogue.

Here’s how:

  1. On the third night of Chanukah, December 18, light one candle in honor of Women of the Wall
  2. Take a picture of yourself lighting your WOW candle, perhaps with your family
  3. Fill out the form below and upload your photo to send to Rabbi Rabinowitz, to show him you stand with Women of the Wall
  4. Donate $18 to Women of the Wall, to help us continue our work, to be a light at the Kotel, fighting for women’s rights and pluralism at the holiest place, the Kotel, a home for ALL Jews: http://my.israelgives.org/ennew/Women_of_the_Wall
  5. Share your photo with Women of the Wall on Facebook or Twitter! #lightonecandle

Invite your family and friends to join us as well!

This Chanukah, I Stand with Women of the Wall

Take a picture of yourself lighting your WOW candle, upload the photo below and click send to share with WOW and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, to show him that women light candles all over the world.
  • Information

    * indicates required field
  • Upload your photo here

Despite Opposition from Rabinowitz, Women of the Wall to hold women’s candle lighting on December 18th, 2014 at 17:00 at the Kotel

Each year on Chanukah, a large, majestic Chanukah menorah is erected in the men’s section of the Western Wall. Each night, a candle lighting ceremony is held and different Israeli men- politicians and religious leaders- are honored.

This year, on November 17, 2014, Women of the Wall sent a letter Prime Minister Netanyahu to request that an equivalent menorah be erected in the women’s section to provide women with the same opportunity to hold candle lighting and ceremonies to honor female leaders.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, Women of the Wall declared, “Chanukah is a festive opportunity for the public to gather, like a family, to share in celebrating the miracle and wonders of the survival of the Jewish people and the light in our lives. In years past, women have been forced to stand on plastic chairs, to attempt to peer over the partition in order to see the ceremony and the candle lighting in the men’s section. This does not honor or respect women or the holiness of the Kotel. We believe that you understand the importance of this place and of providing equal opportunities to women.”

The Prime Minister transferred the letter to the auspices of Vice Minister of Religious Affairs, Eli Ben Dahan, for reply, who passed the letter on to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Authority of the Western Wall and Holy Places.

Rabinowitz’s response was a negative one claiming that, “the large and fancy Menorah is erected in a place [in the men’s section] that can be seen from a far”. Rabinowitz decided that women will not be allowed to light the Chanukah menorah at the Kotel, nor will they be able to participate or witness the ceremonies, as they are held in the men’s section. (The letter is available in Hebrew upon request)

The Prime Minister, who has made many public statements to the Jewish world declaring that the Western Wall belongs to all Jews (during his address to the 2013 JFNA General Assembly, for example), declined many requests to respond or comment.

Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, stated, “In his letter, Rabbi Rabinowitz speaks of bringing together and uniting the nation, and yet his actions exclude and discriminate against women, as if women are not a part of this same nation. Since he was chosen for this public position, Rabinowitz has never invited Women of the Wall or any other woman to participate in the ceremonies or to be honored with the lighting of a candle at the Kotel on Chanukah, despite the fact that women are obligated equally to men in this mitzvah (religious act).”

Hoffman continued, “Unfortunately, Rabinowitz does not recognize the genuine intention and right that Jewish women have to heartfelt prayer at the Kotel. He has chosen to respond negatively to such a basic request, for Women of the Wall and many other women to hold a Jewish ritual at the Kotel, which is permissible and required of us according to Jewish law. We cannot accept the fact that all over Israel and the world Jewish women will be lighting candles and saying the traditional blessings, and only at the Western Wall, which has been turned into the private backyard of Sherriff Rabinowitz, this is forbidden.”

Rabinowitz’s actions, decisions and regulations remind us of times in Jewish history when the men and women of the Jewish nation were forced to hide and smuggle Jewish ritual items, like Chanukah menorahs and hold the ritual ceremonies in secret. It is unacceptable that in the free and democratic State of Israel, a rabbi would prevent women from holding a Jewish ritual, not because it is prohibited by Jewish law, but because he has been given unlimited, unmitigated authority to rule over the public, holy site.

Women of the Wall will be holding a candle-lighting ceremony for women at the Western Wall, despite Rabinowitz’s opposition. Join Women of the Wall, and bring a Chanukah menorah with candles to light in the women’s section of the Western Wall on December 18, 2014 at 17:00.

For 26 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall. 

Press contact: Shira Pruce +972-54-6898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

Interviews, photos and video footage available upon request.

 

 

Women of the Wall Welcome Tiny Torah Scroll, for the Second Month in a Row, to the Kotel Women’s Section.

In celebration of the new month of Kislev, called the “month of miracles”, Women of the Wall met in the women’s section of the Western Wall for prayer with over 70 women and another 30 male supporters standing not far away, just beyond the partition. For the second month in a row, the women, while banned from openly entering the Western Wall with a Torah scroll and refused requests to use one of the hundreds of Torah scrolls at the Wall held for “public use” were forced to smuggle a tiny, historic Torah into the holy, public site.

Despite last month’s claims by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Administration of the Western Wall and Holy Places, that “in the future, efforts will be made to ensure that this event is not repeated” (according to Arutz Sheva), the tiny Torah was successfully brought into the Kotel under the radar of security and read joyfully in celebration of the new month as well as a bat mitzvah. The second girl to celebrate a bat mitzvah at the Kotel with a Torah is Ruth Antman, a Jerusalem native, and daughter of Avigail Antman, an Orthodox feminist and a poet who herself grew up in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Antman is a member of the Women of the Wall executive board.

The small and unique Torah scroll read by the women this month was the same as was used this month, on lend to Women of the Wall by John and Noeleen Cohen from London. This 28 centimeter, 200 year old Torah belongs to John and Noeleen Cohen of London and is certified Kosher (by an Orthodox Sofer Stam). Mr. Cohen’s great-grandfather carried this Torah with him from Lithuania to South Africa in 1880, and he loaned the family heirloom to Women of the Wall. Cohen said, “The purpose of a Torah Scroll is to be read and I can think of no better place for the Scroll to be on Rosh Hodesh Heshvan than at the Kotel, in the women’s section, being read by women who want and have every right, to read Torah at the Wall and, in my view, at every other place that a man can read Torah.” The Torah will be returned to the Cohen family later this month. Women of the Wall have been honored to use this scroll, already so rich in Jewish history, to make history for women at the Kotel.

While women’s Torah reading is legally permissible according to both Jewish Law and the Israeli courts (Thanks to the April 2013 Sobell Decision), Rabinowitz’s local ordinance to ban entrance to the Kotel with a Torah acts to discriminate against women, who cannot access Torah scrolls any other way while men have hundreds at their disposal on the men’s side of the Wall. Women of the Wall looks to the government, to our nation’s leadership to see that this regulation be repealed and that women be allowed to worship freely at the Western Wall.

Women of the Wall’s prayers this morning were dedicated this morning to the triumph of light over dark, inspired by the story of Chanukah, and for peace and an end to the most recent wave of violence in Israel.

For over 25 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall. 

Contact: Shira Pruce media@womenofthewall.org.il +972-54-6898451

A Most Meaningful Heshvan

by Lexi Erdheim, HUC-JIR Rabbinic Student and Women of the Wall Intern

The month of Heshvan is distinct in the Jewish calendar because it is the only month without any holidays. It is “acharei hachagim” – after the long slew of holidays in Tishrei and is associated with getting back into the swing of things and getting back to work.   But as far as I am concerned, we began this Heshvan with something profound to celebrate – the first time women have legally and proudly chanted from a sefer torah at the Kotel in twenty six years.

Abraham Joshua Heschel famously stated when he marched for Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama that he, “felt as if he were praying with his feet.” This past Friday morning at Women of the Wall Rosh Hodesh prayers, I experienced the opposite: I felt as though I were protesting with my prayers. Usually when I pray, I include in my kavana (prayers from my heart rather than prayers on the page) thoughts and hopes for equality and justice. This Friday morning I had the privilege of realizing equality and justice through not only the intention of my prayer, but through the act of prayer itself.

This Rosh Hodesh was my first with Women of the Wall, and I was extremely fortunate to be a part of history. As Sasha chanted Torah as a bat mitzvah, I looked over to see Lesley Sachs, the executive director of Women of the Wall, overcome with joy, tears welling in her eyes. In that moment, I could only imagine her overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. I cannot even begin to comprehend how powerful it was for a woman who had been fighting for women’s right to free prayer at the Kotel of over a quarter of a century to witness a young girl chant from a sefer torah. I was overwhelmed by gratitude for the tireless work that Lesley and all of the brave women who have participated in Women of the Wall have done.

Sadly, I know that despite this momentous occasion, the battle is not over. I am reminded of a quote from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers):

“לא עליך המלאכה לגמור, ולא אתה בן חורין לבטל ממנה”

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”

(Pirkei Avot, 2:21)

As I begin my internship with Women of the Wall, I know that perhaps I will not be able to complete the work in the next few months, or over the course of my rabbinate or perhaps even my lifetime, but I look forward to the challenges, the struggles, and the triumphs that the work brings.

Women of the Wall Read from a Torah Scroll at the Western Wall

WOW hold first Kotel Bat Mitzvah in History

Women of the Wall completed the first
ever full Rosh Hodesh (new moon) prayer service and bat mitzvah in the women’s section of the Western Wall today.

image

After Women of the Wall’s Torah was banned at the entrance to the public, holy site, an alternate Torah, a tiny 200 year old Torah was brought into the Western Wall, under the radar of theauthorities. This 28 centimeter, 200 year old Torah belongs to John and Noeleen Cohen of London and is certified Kosher (by an Orthodox Sofer Stam). Mr. Cohen’s great-grandfather carried this Torah with him from Lithuania to South Africa in 1880, and he loaned the family heirloom to Women of the Wall. Cohen said, “The purpose of a Torah Scroll is to be read and I can think of no better place for the Scroll to be on Rosh Hodesh Heshvan than at the Kotel, in the women’s section, being read by women who want and have every right, to read Torah at the Wall and, in my view, at every other place that a man can read Torah.”

12 year old Sasha Lutt of Beer Sheva read from the Torah for her bat mitzvah ceremony this morning, completing the first ever full bat mitzvah at the Western Wall. Irina Lutt, the proud mother who moved to Israel from Russian when Sasha was just a baby, looked on and supported her daughter during the ceremony. 

Lesley Sachs, Executive Director of Women of the Wall, said, “This morning was historic and emotional for us all. The Torah scroll we used was probably created for just this purpose, for Jews who were banned from publicly celebrating Jewish rituals and ceremonies in the past. We read from the Torah today, in the women’s section of the Kotel, with no disturbances. So the only question remains, why does Rabinowitz, a public servant, try to deny women this right at the Kotel, a public holy site?”

The Torah is central in Judaism and binds all Jews, across denomination, religiously, spiritually, culturally and historically. To deny any Jew access to a Torah scroll, as has been done so many times before throughout Jewish history, is an affront to religious freedom. To refuse women access to Torah has no basis in halakha (Jewish law) and has no place in a public site in a democratic state.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, overseen by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, runs a lucrative and active industry of Bar Mitzvah celebrations for boys at the Western Wall. The foundation offers no such ceremony for girls, in fact Rabinowitz actively prevents any type of bat mitzvah ceremony for girls by refusing women access to Torah scrolls at the holy site. Legally, the April 2013 Jerusalem District Court ‘Sobel Decision’ guarantees Women of the Wall the right to pray freely according to their tradition, which should include Torah scrolls. Rabinowitz has put in place local regulations banning entrance to the Kotel with a Torah scroll and refusing women access to even one of the 100 scrolls held at the Western Wall for “public” use. Women of the Wall maintains their right to read Torah from a scroll at the Western Wall and celebrate bat mitzvah ceremonies at the holy, public site.

For over 25 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall. 

Photos and video will be available upon request

Contact:
Shira Pruce
Director of Public Relations
+972 (0)546898351
media@womenofthewall.org.il

Women of the Wall Launch Public Bus Campaign: “Mom, I Too Want a Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel”

Women of the Wall Launch Public Bus Campaign: “Mom, I Too Want a Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel”

On Sunday, October 12, 2014 Women of the Wall launched an ad campaign on Jerusalem public busses promoting Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for girls at the Western Wall (Kotel). The first ever of their kind, the campaign ads feature Israeli girls, ages eleven to fourteen, wearing a Tallit, traditional Jewish prayer shawl, and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. The busses will travel throughout Jerusalem encouraging girls and their families to celebrate bat mitzvah ceremonies with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall. The ads read in Hebrew: “Mom, I too want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel” and “V’zot Hatorah (Translates to “Here is the Torah”, also a pun in Hebrew as the phrase is in feminine form): Now it is my turn.”

The young women who took part in the campaign are: Ashira Abramowitz-Silverman, daughter of Yosef Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman, Devora Leff, daughter of Lauri Donahue and Rabbi Barry Leff, Sasha Lutt, daughter of Irina Lutt and Alma Weiss-Abraham daughter of Sharon Abraham-Weiss and Yoav Weiss.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, overseen by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, runs a lucrative and active industry of Bar Mitzvah celebrations for boys at the Western Wall. The foundation offers no such ceremony for girls, in fact Rabinowitz actively prevents any type of bat mitzvah ceremony for girls by refusing women access to Torah scrolls at the holy site. Legally, the April 2013 Jerusalem District Court ‘Sobel Decision’ guarantees Women of the Wall the right to pray freely according to their tradition, which should include Torah scrolls. Rabinowitz has put in place local regulations banning entrance to the Kotel with a Torah scroll and refusing women access to even one of the 100 scrolls held at the Western Wall for “public” use. Women of the Wall maintains their right to read Torah from a scroll at the Western Wall and celebrate bat mitzvah ceremonies at the holy, public site.

The Torah is central in Judaism and binds all Jews, across denomination, religiously, spiritually, culturally and historically. To deny any Jew access to a Torah scroll, as has been done so many times before throughout Jewish history, is an affront to religious freedom. To refuse women access to Torah has no basis in halakha (Jewish law) and has no place in a public site in a democratic state.

The public bus campaign is spearheading Women of the Wall’s pursuit for the Jewish new year: to read from a Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Western Wall, at Rosh Hodesh (New Month) prayers each month and in bat mitzvah ceremonies. Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall spoke at the launch, “These brave young girls and others have the right to have their bat mitzvah at the holiest site for Jews. That is one of the things we are fighting for and that is why we have launched this campaign- so that girls and mothers will call the number on the ad and find out more about how to join Women of the Wall. We will be able to tell them how to make this wonderful time in their lives into a meaningful, fulfilling bat mitzvah experience.”

Please save the date to join Women of the Wall for Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, Friday, October 24, 2014 at 7AM at the Western Wall, for the first Torah reading from a Torah scroll in the women’s section.

For photos, video and interviews contact Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations, +972-54-6898351, media@womenofthewall.org.il

Selihot and Sounds of the Shofar

סליחות

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

For the Women of the Wall

By Rabbi Tina Grimberg, Rabbi of Darchei Noam Toronto

25 years of love is 25 years of struggle,

Hard, you tried to make your way to Your Wall,

Hard you tried to reach for its rough surface,

So worn from tears and lips,

Hard, was on your neck as you looked up at doves nestling in the Wall crevice,

25 years, you were called deranged, rude, an imposter;

You, who could nurture an egg in your womb,

Was pelted with eggs,

25 years you did not bend,

25 years of prayer,

In gratitude and celebration,

We turn to You, our Holy One, on this Rosh Hodesh Elul, the month of forgiveness, thought and prayer,

Your daughters stand tall, embraced in the folds of your Shehinah;

25 years of love is 25 years of struggle….

Women of the Wall’s Prayers Conclude with Six Women Sounding Six Shofars

The call of the shofar was Women of the Wall’s response to a series of offensive stickers that decorated the partition between men and women at the Western Wall (Kotel) this morning. The stickers read: “To the female public: Refrain from singing out loud at this holy site. Instead, you may celebrate and cheer with the sound, “Lu, Lu, Lu” as is customary. Thank you, the men who are praying.”

This morning Women of the Wall concluded their prayer for the Jewish month of Elul with the only women’s Shofar-blowing at the Western Wall. While traditionally the Shofar is sounded throughout the month of Elul from this day forward through the High Holy Days in September, at the Western Wall only men do so following 47 years of ultra-Orthodox rule over the public, holy site. The women’s prayer group will return for one more call of the Shofar in September, during the Selihot prayers.

The sticker, which refers to women as spectators of prayer in stead of participants or leaders of prayer also relegates women to cheering only: “Lu Lu Lu” and forbids women from praying out loud, a battle which Women of the Wall won in the courts last year.

Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall:  “The fact that in this holy Jewish place men are allowed to pray  and sing to their hearts content and women are being told to refrain from prayer and only make the sound, “Lu, Lu, Lu”, is ridiculous. This is exactly the reason that Women of the Wall have been struggling for over 25 years- to ensure the freedoms of women who come to the Kotel to pray and to celebrate Jewish life events.

Thanks to our determination and insistence, what was once the accepted practice- for only men to sound the shofar at the Western Wall- has now changed and women are allowed to blow shofar in the women’s section of the Kotel today. This was not so a few years ago. This is yet another one of our accomplishments on the way to liberating the Kotel.”

Hoffman added, “Our next goal is to have a bat mitzvah ceremony that will include reading from a Torah scroll in the Western Wall’s women’s section.” Women are currently banned from accessing Torah scrolls at the Western Wall.

Women of the Wall will meet next for Selihot prayers and to sound the shofar in the women’s section of the Western Wall, on Saturday night September 20, 2014 at 10PM. The public is welcome to join.

For over  25 years Women of the Wall has continued to fight for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

 Contact: Shira PruceDirector of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

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!

la foto 13

la foto 11

la foto 3

 

RH Tammuz: Standing strong with the people of Israel

Standing strong with the people of Israel, ‘Women of the Wall’ is saddened and shocked by the kidnapping of Naftali, Eyal and Gil-ad six days ago. The fabric of the Jewish people is a diverse and colorful one- woven together tightly by faith. Women of the Wall have faith that the boys will be returned to their families swiftly. Until then, we pray and stand united.

On Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, June 29, 2014, Women of the Wall will gather to pray at the Kotel. Though we cannot know what the fate of our nation and the kidnapped boys will be in ten days time and we pray for a celebratory occasion, either way we invite women to gather with us at the Kotel – to pray for peace and the welfare of the State of Israel. 

We remain dedicated to women’s free prayer at the Kotel, with a Torah scroll. Now more than ever, we depend on our faith, our traditions and Torah to get us through. We continue to look to Israel’s leaders to ensure women’s rights at the Kotel. For more information and to get involved, go to www.womenofthewall.org.il/letmytorahgo

In honor of Jerusalem Day, Women of the Wall to Prime Minister Netanyahu: Let My Torah Go!

May 28, 2014

In honor of Jerusalem Day, Women of the Wall to Prime Minister Netanyahu: Let My Torah Go!

On Jerusalem Day Israel commemorates the liberation of the Western Wall and the unification of Jerusalem. It is on this day that Women of the Wall have initiated a new campaign calling on their supporters and the public to sign a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu sending a clear message: “Women are half the kingdom. Women are half the Jewish world. It is time women have access to Torah at the Kotel. Let my Torah go.”

PM Netanyahu oversees the administration of the Western Wall and as such has the ability to ensure that women are allowed to read from a Torah scroll at the holy, public site. Women’s Torah reading is permissible according to Jewish law and reading at the Kotel is permissible according to the 2013 District Court Sobel decision.

Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, “One year ago several of the Israeli paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem and the Western Wall in 1967 at the end of the Six Day War  joined Women of the Wall’s struggle. They did so because they believe that the Kotel belongs to all Jews and that all Jews should be allowed to pray freely at the Kotel according their own belief.”

She continues, ”It is sad that in the State of Israel in 2014, the week before we celebrate the Jewish people- men and women alike- receiving the ten commandments at Mount Sinai, women are refused the right to read from a Torah scroll at the Western Wall.”

Women of the Wall remain dedicated to the negotiations with the government over the creation of an equal third prayer section at the Kotel; however, such a section has yet to built and women’s rights must be upheld at the Kotel.

Please join Women of the Wall at the Western Wall on Friday May 30, 2014 for Rosh Hodesh Sivan at 7AM.

For over twenty-five years Women of the Wall has struggled for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall. As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

Press Contact: Shira PruceDirector of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351media@womenofthewall.org.il

Let My Torah Go!

In honor of Jerusalem Day, today, and the month of Sivan, when we celebrate the receipt of the Torah at Mount Sinai…  

Join Women of the Wall’s campaign:  Let My Torah Go!     

wow014

At the Kotel, men have access to 100 Torah scrolls. Don’t get us wrong, we are happy men have can read Torah but we want women to have equal rights. The Western Wall is a public, holy site which belongs to all Jews.

Women are refused the right to bring a Torah into the women’s section of the Western Wall by Kotel Administrator, Rabbi Rabinowitz.

Send a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling him that you support women’s rights to read Torah at the Kotel NOW! 

Women are half the kingdom.

Women are half the Jewish world. 

It is time women have access to Torah at the Kotel.

LET MY TORAH GO

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

WRJ Union Grams 6 WRJ Union Grams 5 WRJ Union Grams 4 WRJ Union Grams 2 WRJ Union Grams 1 WRJ Union Grams 3

A “Final” Reflection

By Simone Schicker – HUC Year in Israel Rabbinic Student and WOW Intern

The title of this blog post perfectly reflects my current feelings. In two weeks and a day I will be on a plane back to the United States (via my connection in Amsterdam). Thinking about how little time left I have in Israel both excites me and saddens me, and my experiences with WOW are a major reason for my slight reluctance to acknowledge that Rosh Hodesh Iyar was my last time praying with WOW for the foreseeable future.

I began my experience with WOW last year by accident. While I had been following WOW in the news for more than a year by then, I was not planning on applying to be an intern. It was while I was looking for the former director of Open House (who now works for IRAC), that I was called into an office and asked if I would be willing to be a liaison between my classmates and WOW. I was asked for my name and responded as I shook hands with the woman. “And you are?” I asked. She replied, “Anat Hoffman.” I froze, likely turned red and said it was very nice to meet her and left the office. I turned to my friend who was with me as we walked down the stairs and said, “I can’t believe I just did that!” He laughed and we continued on with our day. That chance encounter encouraged me to apply to be an intern with WOW.

Being an intern with WOW meant that I was up, often before the sun, in order to be at the Kotel by 7am. Even though Rosh Hodesh is on my calendar, every month it would sneak up on me. Yet, my classmates always knew that if I was late to my Hebrew class (usually), late to another class or not present for a service at the College, that I had been at the Wall and they would ask me about it when I saw them later in the day. I was lucky to have an amazing co-intern, classmate and friend, Eliana, and generally 5-7 other female classmates with me at the Kotel. It was the 25th anniversary in November that was a time to remember though, because many more of my classmates, including some of the men, decided to come and participate in services. It was such an enjoyable service, especially being able to look over to the men’s side and see my classmates standing on chairs instead of the men who were generally yelling things at us. While the yelling has toned down in recent months, Iyar we had the honor of experiencing another group of young women praying and dancing when we arrived, I will never forget the times last summer when we prayed on the Plaza, surrounded by police and their barricades. That experience will always stay with me as I continue to struggle for the rights of women in Israel – at the Kotel and throughout society.

I am incredibly grateful for the experiences and opportunities WOW has given me this year, and I hope to continue my activism from the States. This will not be the last time you hear from me on this issue or another.

Exclusion of Women on Yom Hashoa

by Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked, Beit Emanuel Progressive Synagogue, Johannesburg, South Africa

Reprinted from a Letter to the Jewish Report April 24, 2014

The leadership of the South African Jewish community should be ashamed of surrendering to the Shaked articlebullying prohibition on women singing at Yom HaShoa services.

The mind can hardly grasp the vulgarity of a ceremony which claims to represent the victims of the holocaust, male and female, while using discrimination to prevent women’s voices being heard in song of lament and hope. 

Yom HaShoa is not a classic religious event. It is a modern memorial service held by the entire community, religious and secular, conservative and progressive, to commemorate a catastrophe that occurred to our people only a generation ago. Victimising women at an event which supposedly manifests our commitment to fight all forms of discrimination “least we forget” is a mockery of the memory of the six million. 

Our master sages created a term to describe deeds that are harmful toward human dignity. They called it “Mema’et Ha’Demut”, diminishing the image or the figure. They refer of course to the image or the figure which the almighty granted to us. This is the “Pnei Adam”, the human face of the divine. 

When we oppress our fellow human beings, deny them equal access to what is sacred in our culture, we are harming the agents of God’s presence. By putting stubborn and oppressive prohibitions ahead of the spiritual needs of real human beings, we are committing a form of Avoda Zara, idolatry. 

There are many disputes among the open and close-minded camps in Judaism. None has been as stubborn and bitter as the struggle for the rights of women to raise their voices in the public sphere, especially on those occasions which evolve prayer and liturgy. Gladly, we can report that in the wider Jewish world, those unacceptable notions are being addressed by brave women who are not willing to be shut down simply because their voices are considered a temptation or a threat by some rabbis. 

Woman of the Wall, for example, who have risked arrest each Rosh Kodesh at the Kotel, are making inroads in their battle against the blackmailing Jerusalem religious establishment. They are just one example out of many. One day, and this day is not far away – discriminating loathsome approaches will find their place where they belong, in the garbage can of history, together with racism and homophobia. 

The Orthodox movement could very easily have avoided the embarrassment of picking a fight with singing women if they wished to do so. As many of you can remember, the prohibition is a new one; no-one found it necessary in previous years. If the late Chief Rabbi Harris walked out when women sang at memorials, I have not been told of it.

This discrimination is just the latest example of a fundamental deterioration in the quality of public life in the Jewish community. It is not just the attitude of the rabbinate which concerns me but that of all our people, Am Yisrael, who are willing to believe that this kind of ugly behavior represents the best in Jewish values. 

Especially disappointing is the silence of the Board of Deputies. That silence will be remembered by future generations, and already casts a dark shadow on the false claim by the Board that community events like Yom HaShoa represent not a particular faction of the Jewish community, but the whole Jewish community. 

Now what needs to be done? It is time for “Et La’asot LeHshem, heferu Toratecha”- time to act for Hashem against the violation of his commandments. Refuse to take part in Holocaust memorials which discriminate against woman. Talk to people to raise awareness of this issue. Bring to the attention of your local leadership your concerns about the ever-widening grasp of this discrimination masquerading as religion 

In the long term, the plots to exclude woman from the religious realm shall fail. It is simply wrong to discriminate, on a gender basis or on any other. Our brave sisters from “Women of the Wall” have already started to liberate the Kotel from oppressive orthodox dominance. Slowly but surely, we will do the same here.

Amen, so be it. 

Rosh Hodesh Iyar 2014 Reflections

by Randi Brenowitz

In 1988, a group of courageous women chose to start celebrating Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) at the Kotel (the Western Wall of the ancient Temple – considered the holiest site in Judaism).  The past twenty-six years has seen them embroiled in legal battles with both the secular courts and the Orthodox religious establishment in Israel.  They have been called horrible names, had chairs and trash thrown at them, been disrupted by both men and women protesting their “obscene” behavior, and last year several were arrested, strip searched, and humiliated by the local authorities.  Their horrible crime?  The desire to dress and pray as Jews at a Jewish holy site.  This is not a  new phenomenon in the world, but these local authorities are not the Romans, the Turks, the British, or the Jordanians. These Jews are being denied their rights by other Jews.  The easy thing to do would be to bow to the religious authorities and go home, but these women have chosen the harder route and they come together every month to celebrate the beginning of the new month.

Today I had the privilege of standing with them as we davened Hallel and welcomed the Hebrew month of Iyar.  I always love Hallel and to be standing in the beautiful sunshine with a group of women and looking straight at the wall was a moment I will never forget.  It wasn’t until later that I knew I had helped do something historic… at that moment it was about the service and the transportive effect of the chant.

The women have had some successes during the last 26 years.  This morning the guard at the gate only gave the woman with the siddurim a perfunctory hard time and although they had no idea that it was WOW who paved the way, there were several Orthodox girls singing and dancing when we got there. Although we were not allowed to bring an actual torah scroll into the women’s section and several people shouted at us, we were able to bring our tallitot right through the gate and we prayed without fear of arrest.  It is small progress, but today I learned once again that history is sometimes made with the small victories and that each person working toward change can, in fact, make a difference.  I won’t be so grandiose and inflate my small role in this, but every woman who goes (every month or once in her life) and participates in this act of religious civil disobedience is helping to create a holy site that is free for all forms of Jewish observance.  I am proud and humbled to have done my part.

A Holy Calling

by Eliana Fischel, HUC-JIR First Year Rabbincal Student and Women of the Wall Intern

As I begin my last month in Israel for the year, it seems fitting that the parsha includes a calendar. Parshat Emor establishes Jewish time. God tells Moses to tell the children of Israel, “These are fixed times for the Eternal, which you will proclaim as holy callings, these are the fixed times.” (Leviticus 23:2) God goes on to describe the major holidays, or fixed times, of the year and the expectations of those days. Interestingly, the first expectation has already been stated: that the children of Israel will designate the day as a “holy calling”. How? By completing the tasks God requires: sacrificing, eating unleavened bread, sounding a shofar, etc. A “holy calling” requires action. Setting them aside as fixed days is not enough. The children of Israel need to be called to act in a holy manner on these days. This work does not happen by sitting idly by, but rather by hard labor accompanied with immense intention. This year, my first in Rabbinical School at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I was lucky enough to witness what enacting a “holy calling” looks like.

For the past nine months, I’ve been working as an intern for Women of the Wall/Nashot HaKotel. Along with the Jewish calendar stated in Parshat Emor, this year was shaped, in particular, by the Rosh Chodesh calendar. There was Rosh Chodesh Av, my first at the Kotel, when we were barricaded in the welcome plaza, holding each other’s hands to not be afraid. There was Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan—the first time I witnessed women dancing at the Kotel. Rosh Chodesh Kislev—when we filled the Ezrat Nashim with women from Israel and the United States for Nashot HaKotel’s 25th Anniversary. And the list goes on to today, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, when women from another prayer group were already dancing when we arrived and Nashot HaKotel joined in, no longer in activism, just in joy.

These mornings of Roshei Chodeshim were not just “fixed times”, they were a “holy calling”. We prayed passionately. We answered words of hate with “Chodesh Tov.” We immediately welcomed strangers into our community. And our love for Judaism and equality empowered these actions.

As seen from Parshat Emor, Judaism is a religion of action. Nashot HaKotel exemplifies this commandment. The women of Nashot HaKotel have taught me what it means to not just learn Torah, but to enact Torah and for this, I am forever grateful. Chodesh Tov.