Season of Freedom עונת החירות

Happy Passover   חג שמח

מה חדש עם נשות הכותל?

 ?Whats new with Women of the Wall

החודש שהיה: ראש חודש ניסן, לכבודה של חירות!

Last month: Rosh Hodesh Nisan, in honor of freedom!

לכבוד חג הפסח והחירות: קמחא דפסחא- לבת המצווה!

The Passover Spirit: Freedom and Giving!

חודש הבא: ראש חודש אייר, בזכות העצמאות ולתפארת מדינת ישראל!

Next month: Rosh Hodesh Iyar, in honor of independence and the State of Israel!

רבקה האוט ז”ל 1935-2014

Rivka Haut 1935-2014

ראש חודש ניסן: לכבודה של חירות! הנה שנה עברה- ואכן מהפך: מעבדות לחרות וממעצר לשירה וריקודים!לתפילת ראש חודש ניסן, 1-4-14, הגיעו למעלה מ-180 משתתפות ומשתתפים מהארץ והעולם. חלקם הגדול צעירות וצעירים אשר לראשונה הצטרפו אלינו לחוויה מרוממת ומלאת השראה. התפילה ארכה כשעה וחצי ובה רקדנו, ושרנו, ופיללנו בלב לבריאות, פרנסה ובשורות טובות. כיוונו דעתינו לחדש עלינו חודש טוב, מלא חירות אישית ולאומית, חודש של אביב ופריחה , חודש של שמחה ויצירה.מי היה מאמין שאך לפני שנה, בתפילת חודש ניסן 2013, נעצרו כ-10 חברות משום שהתעטפו בטלית והתפללו בקול! והנה חלפה שנה, ולא זו אף זו שלא נעצרנו אלא שה”הפרעה” היחידה שהייתה לנו במהלך התפילה באה מכיוונן של קבוצת מתפללות דתיות נוספת, אשר רקדו, שרו והתפללו בקול רם.אשרינו, ושהחיינו, שהגענו ליום הזה שנשים רבות, נערות ובנות, באות להתפלל בשמחה ובלי מניעה בכותל המערבי.ימים של חרות לכולן!! וחג חירות שמח!

Rosh Hodesh Nisan: In honor of freedom!A year has passed and it has been revolutionary: from arrests and lack of freedom to singing and dancing! Over 180 women came to pray with us at the Kotel for Rosh Hodesh Nisan. Many of those who joined this month were young people joining us for the first time for an inspirational experience. We celebrated together through prayer, dancing and singing in the women’s  section of the Kotel. Who would have believed that such joyous women’s prayer would be possible just one year after RH Nisan 2013 when TEN women were arrested for wearing tallitot and praying out loud! Not only were there no arrests this month but the loudest noise that day was another group of religious women praying out loud and singing right next to us, thanks to our work!  We are blessed to have come to the day where so many women and girls can pray joyously and without abandon at the Kotel!This is the season of freedom! Hag Pessah Sameah! Happy Passover!

לכבוד חג הפסח והחירות: קמחא דפסחא- לבת המצווה! מבצע ‘קמחא דפסחא לבת המצווה’ יוצא לדרך: תמכו ותרמו עבור נערות בנות-מצווה שאין ידן משגת לחגוג את כניסתן למצוות כהלכה! בישראל 2014 , מרבית הבנות אינן חוגגות בת מצווה בתפילת הודיה, בעלייה לתורה , עטופות בטלית צבעונית ובוודאי לא מניחות  תפלין לראשונה – כפי שרוב הבנים בישראל כן עושים! יתירה מכך, מרבית בנות ישראל אפילו לא חושבות שהן יכולות לעשות זאת!!
אנו ,נשות הכותל, חושבות אחרת:  הצלחנו בשנה האחרונה לחגוג  עם כמה וכמה “בנות מצווה” בשיר ושמחה – וזאת רק ההתחלה.
בואו להיות שותפות ושותפים למהפכה הפמיניסטית של הדור הבא, ועיזרו לנו לשנות יחד  את המצב:  וזה יקרה בעזרתכן/ם!!הפעם, אנו פונות אליכן/ם, תורמות ותורמים יקרים, לסייע בידינו ולתרום “קמחא דפסחא” עבור בנות מצווה המבקשות לחגוג כהלכה, באופן שיוויוני, ואין להן האמצעים לרכוש טלית, ואולי גם תפילין למעוניינות בכך. עיזרו ותזכו למצוות – וכך נזכה עוד בת מצווה!

The Passover Spirit: Freedom and Giving
Kamcha De Pascha- Help Women of the WallProvide a Bat Mitzvah for Every Girl
In Israel, not every girl is given the opportunity to have a bat mitzvah.  At the Kotel, 13 year old boys are celebrated and congratulated, as they put on tefillin, and tallitot,  lead prayers and chant the Torah reading of their bat mitzvah.  Meanwhile girls are meant to pray silently, behind partitions, barely making a sound… but not anymore. Women of the Wall’s  bat mitzvah program is gaining steam. Donate now to help an Israeli girl celebrate her bat mitzvah! Share the gift of equality, empowerment, pride, a tallit, tefillin, a siddur and an unforgettable celebration with a girl in Israel who cannot afford to do so for herself,  by donating.

ראש חודש אייר: בזכות העצמאות ולתפארת מדינת ישראל!ראש חודש אייר יחול ביום חמישי, ה-1/5/14. נתכנס כהרגלנו בשעה 07:00 בעזרת הנשים לתפילה חגיגית במיוחד, המתאימה לעם חופשי ולנשים חופשיות בארצן. אורחות חשובות ובת מצווה אחת עימנו לתפילות רא חודש אייר, ובהם ההנהגה הרוחנית והחינוכית של התנועה ליהדות מתקדמת [הרפורמית] בארץ ובעולם יתפללו עימנו. חזניות מעולות תובלנה את התפילה לצד נערת בת מצווה אחת שלראשונה תשמש “שליחת הציבור” בתפילת נשות הכותל.בואו בשלום ובשמחה! להרשמה לאירוע בפייסבוק

Rosh Hodesh Iyar: In honor of independence and thefuture of the State of Israel! Rosh Hodesh Iyar will be on Thursday, May 1, 2014. We will meet at the Kotel at 7AM in the women’s section to pray and  celebrate our free nation and women’s freedom in israel. Women of the Wall will host a bat mitzvah girl and her family as well as many of the spiritual and educational leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, to pray with us. We hope to see you there! For more information, join the Facebook event

Rabbi Deborah Brin leads worship with wearing kippah and tallit and with her back to the Kotel. Above and to the left of Deborah is Rivka Haut. Near Rivka and wearing kippah and tallit is Shulamit Magnus. In front of Deborah with a light hair clasp on her dark hair and wearing a tallit is Rabbi Rayzel Raphael. Deborah led the first service and Rayzel led the first Torah service with the group that formed Women of the Wall.רבקה האוט ז”ל   1935-2014החודש הלכה לעולמה, אישה דגולה ויקרה, ממייסדות ארגון ‘נשות הכותל’ , חברתינו רבקה האוט ז”ל .רבקה , ילידת ניו יורק, פמיניסטית אורתודוקסית , הייתה זו שהגתה לראשונה את רעיון התפילה בכותל המערבי בראש חודש טבת תשמ”ח, 1/12/1988.  באותו היום, הובילה והנהיגה קבוצת נשים דתיות מהארץ ומחו”ל, מקהילות וזרמים שונים, לתפילת שחרית ראשונה כמניין ,עם ספר תורה, חלקן עטופות בטליתות, בשירה בתוך עזרת הנשים שבכותל המערבי.אירוע היסטורי נתן את ההשראה להקמת ארגון “נשות הכותל”, הפעיל מאז למעלה מ-25 שנה, ואשר גרם למהפכה במעמד האישה ובזכותן לשיוויון בתחום הפולחן והדת. במעשיה, באהבת האלוהים, האדם והתורה שבה – הנחילה לכולנו את האמונה בצדקת המאבק על זכויותיהן של נשים להתפלל יחד במניין, כהלכה בכותל המערבי. רבקה ז”ל פעלה למעלה מ-30 שנה גם למען נשים עגונות ומסורבות גט, תמכה ועודדה הקמתן של מסגרות דתיות שוויוניות המעודדות ומקדמות נשים בקהילה ובהלכה ועוד ועוד.נזכור אותה ואת פועלה הרב ונתפלל שתנוח בשלום על משכבה.יהיה זיכרה ברוך.

Rivka Haut 1935-2014This month the world lost a great women, a founder of Women of the Wall, Rivka Haut, zihrona livraha. Rivka, an Orthodox Feminist from New York, was the visionary who conceived the idea of the first women’s Torah service at the Kotel on December 1, 1988.That day she organized women from Israel and abroad, from across the Jewish denominational spectrum to pray together at the Kotel, serving as the inspiration for the creation of Women of the Wall.Her legacy will live on in the continuing struggle for women’s rights to pray together and read Torah at the Kotel and in her dedicated work to help free the chains of agunot.

At the Kotel

an original poem by Judith Zirin-Hyman

Judith wrote to us, “This is a prayer that I wrote when I visited the wall last year. I am so grateful for the work that you do and wanted to share this with you…”

At the Kotel

So many prayers: remaining testament
Alive in the flow of prayer and pain and passion poured in
Absorbing and responding
Meeting g-d; electrified, awash with love and longing
Weeping aching humanity touching vivid holiness
Human spirit and sacredness pulsating together
Energy and spirit
All color, no color, prisms, rings
Cool stone, warm hand
Love and pain interchangeable
The spectrum of all that has been and is and will be
A monument of history and being and promise
A piece of home.
Deep inside each a prayer
Here spilling freely
Wall of raw humanity; a glimpse of sacred possibility
Prayers collective, flowing together to try to touch the holy
Pouring in, taking out
The G-d of our ancestors, the godliness within, the G-d of infinite possibilities
We remember, we hold close, we thank, we beg, we come with hopefulness or hopelessness, with curiosity and reverence and respect
Pouring hearts and souls into who you have been to us and who you are to us; feeling your presence in the temple of yesterday and today
Blanketed in hope and yearning, we reach to touch you and are touched ourselves
We leave changed
We leave together
We leave a part of our own history
We leave with belief
And we leave a part of ourselves here
Knowing it becomes a part of a whole

Mourning the Loss of our Founder, Rivka Haut

Rivka Haut and R Rayzel Raphael 1988

Rivka Haut and Rabbi Rayzel Raphael 1988

Women of the Wall mourn the loss of our founder and sister, Rivka Haut. Rivka was the visionary who conceived the idea of the first women’s Torah service at the Kotel on December 1, 1988.

That day she organized women from Israel and abroad, from across the Jewish denominational spectrum to pray together at the Kotel, serving as the inspiration for the creation of Women of the Wall.

Her legacy will live on in the continuing struggle for women’s rights to pray together and read Torah at the Kotel and in her dedicated work to help free the chains of agunot.

May her memory always be a blessing.

Please feel free to share memories and leave your thoughts here. 

LISTEN HERE to Rivka Haut speaking about the first Women of the Wall prayer service, from the International JOFA Conference December 7, 2013 5th of Tevet 5774 in New York City

Rabbi Deborah Brin leads worship with wearing kippah and tallit and with her back to the Kotel. Above and to the left of Deborah is Rivka Haut. Near Rivka and wearing kippah and tallit is Shulamit Magnus. In front of Deborah with a light hair clasp on her dark hair and wearing a tallit is Rabbi Rayzel Raphael. Deborah led the first service and Rayzel led the first Torah service with the group that formed Women of the Wall.

Rabbi Deborah Brin leads worship with wearing kippah and tallit and with her back to the Kotel. Above and to the left of Deborah is Rivka Haut. Near Rivka and wearing kippah and tallit is Shulamit Magnus. In front of Deborah with a light hair clasp on her dark hair and wearing a tallit is Rabbi Rayzel Raphael. Deborah led the first service and Rayzel led the first Torah service with the group that formed Women of the Wall.

 

 

 

Because I can

By Rachel Cohen Yeshurun

Women of the Wall Board of Directors, Member

I don’t know how difficult it will be for Sephardi Jews to get their Spanish citizenship, but I can tell you a thing or two about getting British citizenship based on ancestry.  It was a long, expensive and frustrating process involving complicated instructions, endless forms and the ceremonial presentation of notarized certifications of life cycle events.

Subsequently, as I was proudly showing off my shiny new burgundy and gold passport on a visit to London, one of my cousins asked the same question that so many had asked before and indeed I had asked myself: “Why go through all that bother to get a passport that you don’t really need?”

Then my Aunt Judith, with her sharp insight honed on years of representing women battling ugly divorce cases, cut in with a terse but brilliant answer:  “Because she can!”

Yes! That was it. Because I can. When there is no reason to not do something, you don’t always need a deep and well thought out reason to charge ahead.

I now had a ready-made answer, not just for why I should get a third citizenship, but also for a whole slew of other activities that I had yet to even think about doing. I can only begin to tell you the mileage I have gotten out of those three words!

Like why get up at 5am every Rosh Hodesh to join a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall when I faced the possibility – or at times the probability – of violence or arrest?

Because I can! Because I know how to pray, because I believe in the cause, because I’m a morning person, because I live a half hour drive away from the Kotel, because my kids can get themselves out to school by themselves, because I’m strong enough to shrug off the verbal abuse… In short – because I can!

With my typical Orthodox upbringing and the social constraints involved, it did not even enter my mind until just a few years ago, that I could chant Torah or the book of Esther for a congregation. But I found out that I could – I can, and my community needs a reader.  Sometimes you are the right person, at the right time, in the right place and there is a need that you can fill. If you can, then you have to. So here I am, having just chanted the book of Esther on Purim a few days ago– for the 4th year in a row!

About a half a year ago, a friend at work introduced me to running – long distance running that is. At first, my mantra was not such a great help.  I couldn’t. Running 100 meters left me gasping for breath.  Just walking up a hill would set my heart racing. I was a couch potato and didn’t see any reason to break into a sweat.

But then I realized that I may not be able to run ten kilometres, yet, but I can train. I can get up early in the morning. I have a nice trail running trail near my home in Ma’aleh Adumim. I have an untiring four-legged running partner.  My joints and muscles still work! I have it all. And I had a goal – to form the Women of the Wall running team and lead a group of runners in the 10K race in the Jerusalem marathon.

So I started to run.  First it was for 60 seconds and then 90 seconds and over the course of a few months I have gotten up to running for over an hour! The hills are still hard and I might win the medal for the slowest runner, but as all my friends know, Women of the Wall is a cause that gets me going -in more ways than one! And now I am running the 10K in the Jerusalem Marathon and I am heading up Women of the Wall’s Marathon Team, because I can!

On March 21, 2014 at 10 AM I will stand at the starting line of the Jerusalem Marathon with my brothers and sisters. We will know that we can do this and we will know why: for a great cause, Women of the Wall and this wonderful holy city, Jerusalem!

Please stand with us by getting involved! Join Women of the Wall, cheer us on at the Marathon and donate to sponsor my run (if you can!) Here is my donations page:  http://my.jraise.com/en/rachelrunswithwow5774

Please pray for the health of my aunt Yehudit bat Zlata, a sharp wit and a great outdoorswoman, may she be granted comfort and a refua shelema.

WOW Responds: Looking to the Future

March 10, 2014

Dear Friends,

Several months ago, Women of the Wall made a difficult decision to seize the opportunity to envision and design a new future for the Western Wall. In this vision, a third section would be created, equal and fully integrated with the Kotel.

A few of our sisters object to our decision to negotiate with the government. They say that we are giving up some of our shared vision and dream. They are right. We are compromising in order to change reality at the wall today. We are staunch idealists but also flexible pragmatists at the same time.

When idealists face a complex reality they can make one of two choices: They can be flexible pragmatists or hold on to the original vision and pure ideals. Both are legitimate paths.

We believe that we have reached a historic moment in a time of unique political, legal and public opinion and realities. The board  seeks to take advantage of this opportunity from a place of power. Women of the Wall continues this brave two-pronged strategy: negotiation with the government for a prayer space at the Kotel which allows all Jews to pray freely, while continuing to pray in the women’s section and pursue all of our rights to prayer there.

As a point of clarification, Women of the Wall is (unfortunately) not the Authority responsible for future changes of norms in the women’s section. We are fighting to have all women’s prayer free and decriminalized at the Kotel. Though as always, it is the Israeli government and specifically, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz who has been appointed to manage the Kotel; and ultimately make the decisions regarding it.. This would be true whether or not we were negotiating with the government. The question here is:  Why do our sisters who wish to continue to pray in the women’s section in the event that a third section will be built, choose to censure Women of the Wall instead of challenging Rabinowitz’s authority?

These women are falsely accusing us of conducting organizational matters unlawfully or dishonestly. The Israeli authorities have awarded us a certificate of excellent conduct.

We are saddened by this public attack made by some of our founding sisters. We have always listened and valued their voices, even if in this instance  they did not agree with the Board of Director’s majority vote. The 2013 yearly General Assembly was held June 2013, as the law requires. Attendance at the General Assembly and all other meetings on the decision to negotiate which took place in October 2013, included two board members whose role it was to listen to the concerns of our supporters/founders and represent their opinions before the board. In addition, Women of the Wall held an open, international conference call in November 2013 to hear the questions and concerns about the proposed negotiation and we responded openly to all questions. Our sisters who chose to disagree with us were also given the opportunity to present their views in various forums during events surrounding our 25th Anniversary. It is disingenuous to say that this issue has not been given public debate and discussion by Women of the Wall.

Looking forward to the future,

Women of the Wall

Response to Accusations

March 9, 2014

Several months ago Women of the Wall made a difficult decision to seize the opportunity to envision and design a new future for the Western Wall. In this vision, a third section would be created, equal and fully integrated with the Kotel.

Recently, a number of women have chosen to leave the fold of Women of the Wall and pursue their right to pray in the ultra-Orthodox ruled women’s section. We respect their voices and their desire to continue to pray in the women’s section under the management of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. It remains our belief that all voices should be heard.

However, we reject the implication that Women of the Wall, the organization, the board and its supporters have acted in ways that are dishonest or dishonorable. Women of the Wall as an NGO is an open book, in perfect standing with the Israeli Registrar of NGOs, and has always acted with great integrity and adherence to the law. Our leaders and supporters make informed decisions about the strategies they chose to support. Though the “dissenters” openly disapprove of the board’s decision to negotiate with the government, they were actively involved, less than a year ago while Anat Hoffman was arrested, brutalized and kept over night in jail for this cause, in the process of achieving the Sobel decision they boast so proudly.

Debate, dissent and disagreement are integral parts of a dynamic and relevant feminist, Jewish movement like ours, however there is no legitimacy to claims that the Women of the Wall board have acted unlawfully. For 25 years we have defended the right of all women to pray at the wall, each according to her tradition, with the utmost integrity. We struggled to have our voices heard and now we have taken our place amongst the leaders re-envisioning the future of the holy site.

Regarding negotiations with Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit:

One of the central conditions Women of the Wall have put to the government as a red line together with its partners, is the complete decriminalization of women’s prayer in the women’s section. Only Women of the Wall can achieve this result and it can only be achieved through these negotiations.

If the negotiations succeed and a third section is created in agreement with Women of the Wall, the Reform Movement and the Masorti Movement, the result will be a space at the Kotel that reflects the true makeup of the majority of Israelis and Jewish people. This vision, if it becomes a reality, includes and goes far beyond that which the founding mothers of Women of the Wall set for themselves in the early days.

In the meantime, as the negotiations develop, Women of the Wall continues to pray each month in the women’ section of the Kotel. We will continue to do so until such a time that plans for the third prayer section are implemented in full and in accordance with conditions agreed upon with the government. While we continue to pray in the women’s section we remain dedicated to the struggle for women’s right to read Torah at the Kotel from a Torah scroll.

 

Rosh Hodesh Adar II: Recap

Monday, March 3, 2014

Over 150 women pray with Women of the Wall for Rosh Hodesh Adar II

Anat Hoffman on the Conflict in Negotiations with the Government and the Hypocrisy of ultra-Orthodox Leadership

This morning over 150 women gathered for a joyous and celebratory prayer service for the start of the Jewish month of Adar II at the Western Wall.

For the first time, Women of the Wall were joined by the board of WIZO Jerusalem, headed by Chair Ariela Persky, who was honored with the first blessing during the Torah service. This evening, Anat Hoffman will receive an award from WIZO Jerusalem for “leading the struggle for women’s equality and religious freedom” (18:00 at the Jerusalem Cinemateque). The prize is awarded each year to two trailblazing women, for International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, commented this morning on the hypocrisy of ultra-Orthodox leadership at the mass protest yesterday against the mandatory army draft bill: “Before the protest and throughout it, Members of Knesset Moshe Gafni and Meir Porush claimed that it would be unheard of for the State of Israel to arrest a man because of his beliefs. The very same MKs and their flocks were amongst those who celebrated when police arrested and detained women in tallitot at the Kotel, for months on end.”

In response to the latest reports of the outsourcing of the southern area of the Western Wall to the Ir David Foundation- Elad, Hoffman sent a letter to Cabinet Secretary, Avichai Mendelblit on behalf of Women of the Wall. She wrote, “We have paid a high personal and organizational price for even our willingness to negotiate with the government over moving our prayer out of the women’s section- to a third section- and we in no way see a possibility to continue without this deal being removed from the table. We do not intend to be subject to the whim of various interested parties.”

On Friday, March 7th, leaders of Women of the Wall will gather in Tel Aviv at the entrance to The Carmel Shuk. “In honor of International Women’s Day, we wanted to give women in Tel Aviv the opportunity to put on prayer shawls, tallitot, and say the blessing. For many of them this will be the first time in their lives to do so and that is very emotional and exciting. It is important to us to show the public all that we have achieved thus far, but also all of the goals that are still before us,” said Hoffman.

For 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 Pruce, Director of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

 

WOW Reponds to reports of the outsourcing of the southern Western Wall by to Elad

כ”ז אדר א תשע”ד

February 27, 2014

 

To: Adv. Avichai Mendelblit, Cabinet Secretary

Re: Reports of the outsourcing of the southern area of the Western Wall by to the Ir David Foundation- Elad

Dear Avichai,

We read with great surprise and regret that while we have been in the midst of negotiation with you and your staff, a parallel negotiation is being carried out between the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter and the Ir David Foundation, Elad over the management of the southern area of the Western Wall.  This, at the same exact time that we were being told that NGOs like Women of the Wall and our partners in these negotiations, cannot be appointed to manage this important site.

This publication presents us in a very uncomfortable light in the eyes of larger public, which motivated to come along with us towards the possibility of a historic compromise. How exactly should we deal with the question, “Did you know about this development and did you support it?”

We have paid a high price- both personal and organizational- for even our willingness to negotiate with the government over moving our prayer out of the women’s section, the area where we struggled for 25 years.

We are committed to respectful and respected women’s prayer at the Western Wall and we do not see a way to pursue this under these conditions.

We would be prepared to return to the negotiation table but only with the strong sense that the question of management will be regulated to the most minute detail so that in the future we will not be subject to the whim of various interested parties.

We require clarification and commitment on your part, that this initiative to hand over the management of the site to Ir David Foundation, Elad, is removed from the agenda.

Respectfully,

With blessing for a blessed and good month,

Anats Sig

 

 

Anat Hoffman

Chair of Women of the Wall

 

Cc: Board of Directors, Women of the Wall

 

 

 

WOW Int’l Speaker’s Bureau: Hard at Work!

Did you know?!

Women of the Wall has an active speaker’s bureau that is ready and waiting to speak to your community in the US, Canada, UK and Germany!

Speaker- Annice Benamy, NJ

Speaker- Annice Benamy, NJ

One such event will be held on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., EST at Congregation Beth El Voorhees, 8000 Main Street, Voorhees, NJ 08043. Women of the Wall Speaker’s Bureau member Annice Benamy will be there to talk about WOW and her experience with us at the Kotel.

These events are a great way to gather  your community, learn about the status of women at the Western Wall and support Women of the Wall in the process! To invite a speaker to your town, email us.

If you have been with WOW at the Kotel in the past and would like to join our speaker’s bureau, let us know.

Spotlight: Rabbi Nathalie Lastreger

SPOTLIGHT: WOMAN OF THE WALL

Nathalie Lastreger

Nathalie Lastreger

Age: 46

Citizenship: Israel

Occupation: Director of Education and Public Policy, Women of the Wall

1) Why did you come pray with WOW for Rosh Chodesh Adar I?

I came to pray with Women of the Wall in order to strengthen the community, and support my friend’s struggle. All of the women are amazing, heroic, and persistent, taking on this tradition for so many years and for such a big and important purpose. I came to breathe the sisterhood and the power of women—in honor of HaShem. Above all, I came to pray to God, who will hear our songs and praise and will bless us with a new month that will be good and will see salvation.

2) What’s one positive experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Adar I?

Rosh Chodesh Adar I is always a little lacking because it’s “additional”. Therefore, it doesn’t have a place of it’s own. This time, we decided to sing and dance especially for Adar I! This was wonderful. Besides that, we had two b’not mitzvah—this was exciting!

3) What’s one negative experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Adar I?

I didn’t have a negative experience. This time was the opposite of the past: there weren’t police, there weren’t women being annoying, there weren’t men cursing. It was quiet and pleasant. Outside of one thing that was missing—there was not a Torah and so our prayers were not complete.

4) What’s your wish for the future of the Kotel?

That we will be able to pray according to the halacha of our tradition—with a Torah scroll, in the women’s section! And that our prayers will bring together all women in Israel, from all parts of society. That Rosh Chodesh will return to being a women’s holiday. And we will have love and unity in the world.

SPOTLIGHT: WOMAN OF THE WALL Noa Mazor

SPOTLIGHT: WOMAN OF THE WALL

Noa Mazor

image001Age: 33

Citizenship: Israeli

Occupation: Rabbinical student

1) Why did you come pray with WOW for Rosh Chodesh Adar?

I came to pray with Women of the Wall on Rosh Chodesh Adar for the same reason that I have prayed with them for the past year and half: the public presence of women in every place especially in places of holiness and Jewish tradition are very important to me. The reality that existed six months ago, that the police were arresting women just for wearing tallit and ultra-Orthodox people were harassing and attacking the Women of the Wall, emphasizes the need for meaningful women’s prayer. Once I started going, I immediately felt that I belonged to the community, and I feel an obligation to pray with and support Women of the Wall each month.

2) What’s one positive experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Adar? All of the t’filah in the recent past has been wonderful. It was simply a beautiful service.

3) What’s one negative experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Adar? I didn’t have any.

4) What’s your wish for the future of the Kotel? I hope that there will be three sections in the Kotel plaza itself so that everyone will be able to pray according to his or her custom. Of course, I hope that each section will permit those who pray there to wear tefillin or read Torah if they so choose.

Terumah, Rosh Hodesh with Women of the Wall: Behind the Veil

Terumah

By Ally Resnik, HUC-JIR Student in Israel

This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, gives us a description of the details of the mishkan (tabernacle) and the beautiful materials that the Israelites must procure in order to create it. One of the many elements of the mishkan is a special curtain, known as a parochet, which sections off the Kodesh haKodashim, “Holy of Holies,” from the rest of the mishkan. In Exodus 26: 33 we read, “V’hivdilah haparochet lachem bein kodesh u’vein Kodesh haKodashim”—And this curtain shall divide for them between the holy and the Holy of Holies (also translated as “most holy”). This distinction between holy and most holy was so sacred that only the kohen gadol had permission to go past this curtain, and he could only do so once per year on Yom Kippur. Instead of focusing on the literal “Holy of Holies,” I want to focus on the concept of holiness and the obstacles that impede our ability to access it.

As an individual, I search for holiness among the mundane. I am always on the look out for nisim b’chol yom—daily miracles, and I try to be mindful of my relationship with God and that mindfulness can imbue my life with holiness. Nonetheless, when I think of holiness, I immediately think of a kehilah kedoshah—a holy community. I am fortunate to participate in many holy communities: my learning community at Hebrew Union College, my synagogue community at my home in America, and of course, Nashot haKotel here in Israel. However, I would not give any of these holy communities the elite status of being the Kodesh haKodashim of communities. They are on the simply kodesh side of the dividing parochet. Unlike the parochet described in Terumah, which is made of woven blue, purple, and scarlet linen, the metaphorical parochet keeping these communities from reaching their highest potential holiness is not so beautiful. This parochet, which separates us from utmost holiness, is made of ignorance, intolerance, and politics/arguments—not the kind l’shem shamayim (for the sake of heaven). Fortunately, this parochet does not characterize the communities themselves, but it is always hanging next to them—keeping out utmost holiness. Kodesh haKodashim remains just out of reach.

What is a parochet but merely a thin veil? It is thin, moveable, and perhaps even translucent. This gives us the opportunity to peek behind it from time to time. We can glimpse this utmost holiness by combating ignorance with education, intolerance with acceptance, and politics with peace. Rosh Chodesh with Nashot haKotel this morning was a glimpse behind the veil. There was minimal police presence and there were very few people trying to disrupt our prayer. Instead, the experience was dominated by beautiful voices raised in song and prayer. Kodesh haKodashim was not out of reach. This week we read, “V’asu li mikdash, vashachanti b’tocham”—And let them build me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among them (Exodus 27:8). May all of our holy communities be a Kodesh haKodashim—a most holy place where the Divine Presence dwells.

Double Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel

Women of the Wall celebrated Rosh Hodesh (the New Jewish Month) Adar I as well as the bat mitzvah of two girls at the Western Wall today. Over 150 women prayed in the women’s section of the public holy site with no protest, making this month the most peaceful in recent years. The prayer was joyous, with singing and dancing throughout the morning.

Two Israeli girls celebrated their bat mitzvah this morning with Women of the Wall. The young women led prayers, were lifted up on chairs with the shouts of “Mazal Tov” and blessed underneath a canopy, with their mothers watching proudly alongside them. Unfortunately, after months of studying, learning the Torah reading and its blessings, the young girls were denied the right afforded to their male counterparts, the right to read from a Torah scroll at their bat mitzvah. Boys at the Western Wall are ushered into this coming of age ceremony with great fanfare at the Western Wall and they can choose any Torah they please to read from. Women and girls are forbidden access to even one of hundreds of Torah Scrolls held for “public use” at the Western Wall, a discriminatory regulation imposed by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and strongly opposed by Women of the Wall.

In a letter sent to key supporters this week, Anat Hoffman and the board of Women of the Wall wrote about the current negotiations with Cabinet Secretary Avihai Mendelblit, calling it an “in-depth and significant process”, nearing its end in the coming months. Regarding the ban on women’s access to Torah scrolls they wrote, “We have not and will not give up the Torah and our right to read it properly during our prayers in the women’s section. However, during the negotiations we were asked to hold back and refrain from entering the Western Wall plaza with the Torah scroll. It should be noted that when the negotiations end, we will return to our steadfast pursuit of Torah reading during our Rosh Hodesh prayer, as is customary and permissible in Jewish Law.”

Women of the Wall Board Member, Dr. Ella Kaner said of this morning’s prayer, “We wish for the day when we can do all that we have done today, with the Torah scroll. Only then will our prayer be complete and whole.”

For 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 Pruce, Director of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

 

Standing with WOW and Moving Traditions

Simone Schicker, WOW Intern and HUC Rabbinic Student

(written on January 2, 2014 Rosh Hodesh Sh’vat)

Praying with WOW is always an experience – sometimes positive and sometimes negative but always meaningful. This morning was an incredibly positive experience for me, and I think for many members of WOW, because of the presence of three very special young ladies: Alexandra, Eliza and Lucy from Moving Traditions. These three young ladies won a competition that asked them to express, in writing and on video, their support for WOW. They are all members of the youth movement “Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!” and brought such wonderful energy with them to the Kotel. They were able, as was I, to experience WOW’s attempt to bring their Torah into the Kotel and to see Anat Hoffman and all of WOW at their best both interacting with security and with protesters within the women’s section.

While today was pretty calm, protesting seminary girls were being loud during our prayer and “shushing” us. The experience of praying with these young women reminded me of why I am at the Kotel with WOW in the first place. I am there so that I may pray freely, as is my custom. One of the adults traveling with the young ladies asked me how I feel about the Kotel now that I have been praying with WOW for months (since July) and I honestly answered that my feelings have changed. No longer do I wish to cry when I see the Kotel but l feel connected to the place though often ostracized by the people. It is hard to feel at home in a place where you are told, “you’re not a Jew” because of your choice to wear tallit, tfilin and/or kippot. Some female protesters against WOW ask me why I am not wearing tfilin, because I only started praying with tfilin a few months ago. I think that Anat Hoffman said it best to the young women today: many of these men and women are scared. They are scared because they see something that they do not quite understand, and there will be some who over the next few years will change their views because nothing WOW is doing is in violation of Torah law. For women, wearing religious garments is not the minhag (tradition) for many communities but it is permissible in Jewish law.

As I move forward, and as WOW moves forward, in 2014 we must remember that while we are physically standing at the Kotel, we have many supporters standing with us in their hearts both inside and outside of Israel.

Thank you to Moving Traditions for granting these lovely ladies the opportunity to stand with WOW physically, and for educating thousands of young ladies and young men about the importance of standing with Women of the Wall.

Torah Banned from Entering the Western Wall

January 2, 2014

Torah Banned from Entering the Western Wall

Discriminatory Practices Continue at the Public Holy Site

Two-hundred Women of the Wall prayed at the Kotel this morning, though they got off to a late start. This delay at the security entrance to the holy site occurred when the multi-denominational women’s prayer group requested to enter with their Torah scroll. The Torah is central in the prayer on Rosh Hodesh and it is also the focus of the Catch 22 entrapping women’s equal rights to free prayer at the Kotel. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation enforce a policy forbidding entrance to the Kotel with a Torah scroll- claiming that the Western Wall has 300 scrolls for “public use”. Women of the Wall have been repeatedly denied use of these public Torah scrolls, and therefor requested entrance with their own scrolls today, only to be denied that as well. The result of these policies is a systematic discrimination of women, prohibiting equal rights to religious practice and free expression in the Western Wall as a public holy space.

When refused entrance and with no safe space to store the Torah, leaders of Women of the Wall stood vigil outside the Western Wall with the Torah while the group prayed in the women’s section.

Women of the Wall are currently involved in negotiations with the government, through Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit, over the creation of a third, fully integrated, equal prayer section at the Kotel, which will accommodate women’s prayers. Until the plans for this section have been fully implemented at the Western Wall, the group remains dedicated to their right to pray freely, including reading from the Torah scroll, in the women’s section.

Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall, “According to the April 2013 Sobel District Court decision we have the legal right to pray with the Torah scroll. In opposition to this right, Rabbi Rabinowitz prevents women from accessing Torah at the Kotel with his discriminatory regulations.”

For 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 Pruce, Director of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 media@womenofthewall.org.il

Batya Kallus, with the  Torah

Batya Kallus, with the Torah

Women of the Wall Run the Jerusalem Marathon

Women of the Wall are running as a team!
Come run (or walk) with us on Friday, March 21st, 2014 SIGN UP BELOW
FAQs

Q: Can men run with Women of the Wall?
A: Yes!

Q: Until when can I register?
A: Late registration continues until Thursday March 6th

Q: What does the registration fee include?
A: The fees below include registration for the Jerusalem Marathon and runner’s kit (link http://goo.gl/WDqMT3) as well as a sweat resistant running shirt specially designed for Women of the Wall runners!

Q: Are we running together – all at the same pace?
A: No. You can choose to run in one of three races. We will all wear the same (super cool) shirt and meet after the race for a photo-op – but runners may run individually during the race.

Q: Can I register my child?
A: Yes. Children under the age of 18 need to have a parent fax in a written consent form in addition to filling out this online form. In this case, please be in touch with our office after completing payment: (02) 6203290

Q: I’m a tourist in Israel – can I still run?
A: Yes! But you will need to register yourself in the race here as a ‘single runner’.  After you register, send us an e-mail at tikshoret@womenofthewall.org.il or send us a Facebook message at  so we can add you to our team! Be sure to include your contact details, race choice (10K/Half/Full) and t-shirt size as detailed in the form below.

Q: I don’t run, but I can walk. Should I still register?
A: Yes, please do! You can join the 10-km race as long as you can finish it in about 2 hours.

Q: I don’t run – how can I support you?
A: Please come to cheer us on during the race or sponsor a runner. Follow us on Facebook

Q: Can I sponsor a runner?
A: Glad you asked!! Yes – please make a tax deductible donation of any amount by credit card through Israel Gives.  Don’t forget to specify in the comment box that your donation is to sponsor Women of the Wall’s marathon run.

Meet Moving Tradition’s Teens


mtMoving Traditions to send three young women to Jerusalem:

THEIR MESSAGE: U.S. teens Stand With Women of the Wall

A video contest in support of gender equality earns teens a free trip to Israel

Philadelphia, PA – Moving Traditions, a national organization that advocates for a more expansive view of gender in Jewish learning and practice, is sending three teens to Israel, where they will celebrate the Rosh Hodesh (New Moon) holiday with Women of the Wall in Jerusalem on January 2, 2014.  Inspired by Women of the Wall, a multi-denominational women’s prayer group whose mission is to achieve the right for women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel), Moving Traditions sponsored the “One Moon, One Wall, One People” contest. In the first round of the contest, Jewish teen girls and boys who participate in Moving Traditions’ programs showed their support for gender equality at the Western Wall – one of Judaism’s holiest sites – through a creative tweet-sized slogan.  Of those, 20 semi-finalists were selected to submit personal videos about women’s rights to pray at the holy site.  Impressed by the passion expressed in the videos, the judges selected three exceptional winners to send on a free trip to Israel, each to be accompanied by one parent. The three teens who won the contest are among the 3,000 girls who participate in Moving Traditions’ flagship program for middle and high school girls, Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! Almost 1,000 boys participate in Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood, Moving Traditions’ new program for teenage boys.

The three young women selected to represent Moving Traditions in Israel are Eliza Moss-Horwitz, 16, from Congregation B’nai Israel, Florence, MA, Lucy Sattler, 15 from Beth Emet The Free Synagogue Evanston, IL, and Alexandra Schwartz, 13, from Temple Sinai Stamford, CT.   On January 2, 1014 the winners will join Sally Gottesman, Board Chair and Deborah Meyer, Executive Director of Moving Traditions at the Western Wall to participate in Rosh Hodesh prayers with Women of the Wall.

About the winners:

Eliza Moss-Horwitz is a leader in her school community who says she plans to use the experience of Rosh Hodesh at the Wall to make her a better advocate.  She says that the issue is important to her because she believes strongly in gender equality.  “The Western Wall is not just for men, we are all connected to Judaism and prayer at this famous landmark. But how can women feel free to connect with their Judaism when they are being treated unlawfully and subjugated? We all deserve an equal chance to pray freely, regardless of gender.”

Lucy Sattler expressed her desire to address injustice at the Wall through a poem which says, in part, “Although it may be far away/ It is where my spirit stays/A place where women don’t have equal power/ Where when they pray, they must cower.”

Alexandra Schwartz – submitted the clever tweet “Eq-wall-ity,” which earned her an invitation to submit the video that stated, “As this old proverb from India says, ‘women hold up half the sky.’ Praying alongside each other should not be a threat, on the contrary, it enhances Judaism.”

About Moving Traditions:

Moving Traditions inspires people to live fuller lives – and to work for a better world for all – by advocating for a more expansive view of gender in Jewish learning and practice. Teen girls and boys in the organization’s programs, Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! and Shevet Achim: The Brotherhood apply a gender lens and Jewish values to the challenges of their everyday lives.  Moving Traditions has been chosen as a Standard Bearer for Slingshot 2013-14 — the 8th year in this guide to Jewish innovation — and the organization has been named in a new supplement as “one of 18 leading Jewish organizations committed to impacting the lives of women and girls.”

For more information visit www.movingtraditions.org.

To see the videos and find out more about the contest winners go to: http://movingtraditions.org/category/wow/

Moving Traditions Media Contact: Lisa Gersten, Director of Development and Communications

215-887-4511 X109 and lgersten@movingtraditions.org

About Women of the Wall:

Women of the Wall 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 collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. The Western Wall is Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty, and Women of the Wall works to make it a holy site where women can pray freely.

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

 

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SPOTLIGHT: Ella Kaner

image002

SPOTLIGHT: WOMAN OF THE WALL

Dr. Ella Kaner

Age: 48

Citizenship: Israel

Occupation: Gender Studies Professor

1) Why did you come pray with WOW for Rosh Chodesh Tevet?

I joined the group a year ago. I’m orthodox from Petah Tikvah. I’m a member of the board of Women of the Wall. I came to pray with this group because there is solidarity with women from all streams in Israel. These are my beloved sisters.

2) What’s one positive experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Tevet?

A positive experience this month was praying with North African melodies. Also, I held the tallit over the Torah service. Although, unfortunately, there isn’t a Sefer Torah for us to read from.

3) What’s one negative experience you had at Rosh Chodesh Tevet?

A hard experience (although relative to other months it was okay) were the curses, whistles, and disorder around our prayer.

4) What’s your wish for the future of the Kotel?

Love, sisterhood, peace, and friendship; for each person to be able to honor the Creator in her own way.

The Inquisition of Prayer

By Cantor Tamar Havilio

December 5th, 2013, Tevet 2, 5774

Every morning of Rosh Chodesh when WOW does not arrange a special transportation to the Kotel, I always arrive very early, on foot.  Yesterday I arrived at 7:10am and services began at 8am.  As a member of the Shlichot Tzibbur team, we always arrive early to create a prayer space at the back of the Women’s section.  I stood there and prayed for a quiet and uneventful prayer for us.  It was a good sign already that the women’s section was fairly empty.  Standing there I felt a great peace and awe.  I focused on the candles flickering on the Chanukiah on the men’s side, of course, and softly sang Maoz Tzur.  I took a few chairs and sat them at various places to create a circle for us to pray within.  Then I sat by a prayer stand  (a shtender) and placed it in the center of the chairs.  As I was “setting up” a flush of birds flew above me just like all of the prayers at the Kotel flew out of mouths and into the stones of heaven. 361A2284

Slowly, a group of ultra-orthodox teenage girls began watching me.  They were watching me set-up and take moments of silent prayer.  Then one of their teachers approached me.  We are told by all of the supporters of WOW not to confront our protesters.  But, this was a very different approach.  She asked me if I believed in the Torah and if I do, then why do I have to wear tefillin and tzitzit.  I told her that my interpretation is different from hers, but that I can respect her beliefs if she can respect mine.  Then the teenagers began asking me all sorts of questions.  Some were just not worth repeating, but one asked if I believe in God and why do I feel the need to pray out loud with my voice.  I told her that I am a cantor and that I feel this is my pure and honest way to pray to God with my full voice.  I also explained that I believe the power of silent prayer and talked about Hannah in the book of Samuel.  She looked at me and said, “Oh-you know your texts, I like you.”  I told her that I look at her with the full respect that I can of another Jew and never want to cause her harm, but this is how I pray.  She took some of the other teenagers and walked away, “let her pray,” she said.  I cannot forget this girl and her beautiful face, and her words as she walked away…let her pray.  We prayed yesterday with a Sephardic style shacharit led by an amazing woman from the piyut project and the Hallel was led by an HUC Israeli rabbinic student.  They were beautiful prayer interspersed with an occasional protestor.  All the while, I could not forget that ultra -orthodox girl who said, “Let her pray.”  I prayed all of Rosh Chodesh for peace and freedom of religion in Israel and in all lands.  It was that very moment that I understood the power of our presence at the Kotel.  I walked back from the Old City on Rosh Chodesh Tevet with hope in my feet and determination and love in my heart.

A miracle of Chanukah had just begun as the stones heard our prayer and flew to heaven.

Attacks on WOW- Vandalism and Hate Speech

IMG_7773

Vandalism, graffiti, found this morning at the home of WOW Board member Peggy Cidor, for the second time this year. Women of the Wall condemns this act of violence, vandalism and threat. The threats, hate speech found by police on Cidor’s walls this morning read: Peggy Watch Out and Women of the Wall are Villains.

The organization and leaders have recently been the victims of an onslaught of false accusations and attacks by right-wing, Orthodox journalists and other bloggers. The connection is clear- hate speech, incitement and false claims attacking WOW and their board members in the media directly cause a real, physical threat and danger to the lives of the women.

We hold those who have been disseminating lies about Women of the Wall and our leaders responsible for this rise in tensions.    

IMG_7753Photos by Noam Revkin Fenton