A year ago I entered the women’s side of the mechitza at the Kotel (Western Wall) and tried to place a prayer written on a small piece of paper into one of the cracks. The prayer asked Gd to create space for me at the wall and in Jewish community generally, as well as for the strength to be active in creating that space for myself and others. Instead of finding itself wedged into a crack among the folded-up prayers of thousands of other Jews, it fell. As I watched it fall, I suddenly felt out of place, aware that I was wearing shorts and polo shirt in a sea of long skirts. I felt like I was invading women’s sacred space. I felt like where I was standing was not a place that I, a genderqueer rabbinical student, belonged. Before my prayer reached the ground, I had run out of the women’s section. Pacing the Kotel Plaza, I recited the line “ashrei yoshvei beitecha (happy are those who dwell in your house)”over and over again to try and slow my heart rate. I vowed never to enter another women’s prayer space again. Since then, I have entered the women’s side of a mechitza twice, but not at the Kotel. Nor have I have questioned my decision to stay out of that space – until Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning, I prayed with Women of the Wall.
Women of the Wall is “a group of Israeli women joined by Jewish women from around the world, seek[ing] the right for Jewish women from Israel and around the world to conduct prayer services, read from a Torah scroll while wearing prayer shawls, and sing out loud at the Western Wall – Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty.”
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Becky Silverstein is a 3rd year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College. As such, she applies her love for text study, theology, and religious community towards the betterment of humanity by being a role model, educator, and organizer. She is spending the year studying in Jerusalem.