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.
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….
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 Pruce, Director of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 email@example.com
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!
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.
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.
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!
Join us for Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, June 29, 2014 with a special double bat mitzvah, and welcoming the ARZA Torahteinu Torah scroll at the gates of the Kotel
Watch the video: Let My Torah Go
TAKE ACTION NOW: Write a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu
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
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
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.
by Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked, Beit Emanuel Progressive Synagogue, Johannesburg, South Africa
Reprinted from a Letter to the Jewish Report April 24, 2014
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.
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.
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.
May 1, 2014
Rabbi Rick Jacobs and 50 Jewish Leaders Join Women of the Wall at the Kotel
Women of the Wall Dedicate Prayer to Independence and Freedom; Look to Rabinowitz and the Israeli Government to Uphold Women’s Right to Read Torah at the Western Wall
Women of the Wall dedicate Rosh Hodesh Iyar prayers at the Western Wall to independence, freedom and the one-year anniversary of the Sobel Decision, in which the Israeli courts confirmed the inclusion of women’s prayer in the ‘local custom’ of the holy site. Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall Chair, “There is no greater symbol of liberty and sovereignty than to celebrate the first anniversary of the Sobel Decision, an historic milestone in the journey to a pluralist, equal Kotel. This enlightened decision set a precedent for freedom of expression and women’s rights in the public sphere in Israel.”
On Rosh Hodesh Iyar, May 1, 2014, at 7AM Women of the Wall gathered for their monthly prayer, 200 strong, joined by Rabbi Rick Jacobs and the leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism, all long-time supporters of Women of the Wall’s struggle. Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ: “We come to the Kotel to pray with Women of the Wall in solidarity and in support of their important struggle. The reason that Women of the Wall have been praying together for more than 25 years with support from all over the world because this issue is critical to the status of women, in Israel and in the Jewish world. It is crucial that the Western Wall be a space that allows all Jews, men and women, to express their connections to God.”
Together the large group celebrated the bat mitzvah of Millie Cymet, who read from a humash, a book, instead of a Torah scroll.
Anat Hoffman, on behalf of Women of the Wall in Israel and all over the world, wrote a letter to Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz yesterday requesting to bring a very special Torah scroll into the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, June 29, 2014. In two months time Women of the Wall will welcome a Torah Scroll, generously donated by Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego, at the gates of the Western Wall, with three 12 year old girls, who hope to read from the Torah that day in a ceremony for their bat mitzvah. The special scroll will arrive in Israel as the culmination of Torateinu ARZA, an initiative of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) after a journey throughout North American. Between February and June 2014 the Torah scroll will be hosted in 40 North American communities, where Jews will gather to discuss the pressing issues currently unfolding in Israel, through the lens of Torah values. Its first stop in Israel is the Kotel, to join Women of the Wall and the struggle for full, free prayer for Women at the holy site.
Women are refused access to Torah scrolls at the Kotel- forbidden to enter with a Torah and banned from using one of the hundreds of scrolls held for public use at the Kotel- by Rabbi Rabinowitz, in his capacity as Administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Sites. In the past, all requests to access Torah scrolls at the Kotel for women’s Torah reading have been denied by Rabinowitz.
On June 29, 2014 Women of the Wall plans to read from this Torah scroll which has been touched by so many Jews who believe in equal rights for women, at a bat mitzvah ceremony in the women’s section of the Kotel. The Jewish world is looking to the government of Israel to uphold women’s freedom of religion and expression in this public, holy space we all share. Hoffman adds, “Women of the Wall- a group of Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal and Conservative women- are the first to strike down the mehitzot, partitions, between the Jewish denominations and between Israeli and Diaspora Jews. Thanks to the vision of these women, who chose to join together to pray and to fight, women’s free prayer is leading the way for a new reality in Israel.”
For 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, Director of Public Relations +972 (0)546898351 firstname.lastname@example.org
an original poem by Judith Zirin-Hyman
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
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.
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
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.
March 10, 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.
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
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.