On Rosh Chodesh Kislev, November 8, 2010 Women of the Wall gathered at the Kotel for the monthly women’s prayer group, commemorating the anniversary of the arrest of Nofrat Frenkel. One year ago, Nofrat Frankel was arrested for wearing a tallit at the Kotel. Thankfully, her record has been expunged since the incident. Praying alongside Nofrat at the Kotel was a large group of women from throughout Israel and the diaspora, including a tour group from Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area led by Rabbi Jonathan Singer of Temple Beth Am of Seattle, and co-founder of Rabbis for Women of the Wall Rabbi Pamela Frydman.
The group traveled from the North American West Coast to Israel specifically to support Women of the Wall and engage in dialogue with Israelis across the political and religious spectrum and speak out for pluralism. The group–joined in Jerusalem by Rabbi Sue Mauer Morningstar and Cynthia Kendall of Ashland, Oregon and
Abby Caplin and Ami Goodman of San Francisco– participated in educational sessions with Women of the Wall Chair Anat Hoffman, Director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel Rabbi Andrew Sacks, Jerusalem City Council Woman Rachel Azaria and Michal Ben Shitrit of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. The visitors left the experience more determined than ever to continue to support Women of the Wall and its important work of advocating for pluralism and women’s rights at the Kotel.
The Rosh Chodesh Kislev prayers began with a vigil outside of the Western Wall Plaza, where women took turns holding the Sefer Torah, since a recent regulation passed by Rabbi Rabinowitz, Administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, has forbidden bringing any “outside” Torah into the Kotel. Despite catcalls from those who oppose women’s participation in Torah and prayer, the women who stood at the vigil held their heads high. Women of the Wall prayed at the Western Wall, surrounded by police protection and with male supporters just on the other side of the barrier that separates men and women at the holy site. The group of over one hundred people raised their voices in song and prayer, to the chagrin of nearby Haredi men, who attempted to drown out the sounds of the women’s voices with theirs. At the conclusion of the morning prayers, the group walked, singing, from the Kotel to Robinson’s Arch and had a beautiful Torah reading that honored the visitors from the West Coast as well as a group of Young Judea year course participants and women who were beginning a new endeavor in their lives. The prayer at Robinson’s Arch included people of all ages and backgrounds, with many wearing tallit and tefillin. All in all, a peaceful Rosh Chodesh for Women of the Wall, after a tumultuous year.
Please join us at the Kotel for a Rosh Chodesh service in the future!