Reflections from our Supporters

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

By Mark S. Anshan

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

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

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

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

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

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