By Cheryl Birkner Mack, Women of the Wall Board Member
Rabbi Rabinowitz demeans Women of the Wall, not by incorrectly identifying us with Reform Judaism, but by his claims that we hold demonstrations and are responsible for the arrests of some of our members and supporters. We are a proudly pluralistic group with Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other Jewish women who assert our right to pray at the Western Wall. We come to pray once a month for less than an hour each time. This is not, as the rabbi states a provocation but a sincere and heartfelt expression of our spirituality and reverence for our people, our tradition and our God.
Rabbi Rabinowitz writes that “the Western Wall is not Orthodox”. Where else is a place for prayer divided with a physical barrier keeping men and women separate except at an Orthodox site? He also writes that “The Western Wall was there many years before we…split into streams and camps…” What he neglects to point out is that for most of those years there was no mechitza at the Wall.
Those who “turn the Western Wall… into an arena of public dispute” are those who oppose us. We come to pray and celebrate the new month. We deliberately and respectfully choose to gather at the back of the women’s section, so that those who do not approve of our practice do not have to be bothered by it. Those who are bothered choose to be bothered. We come as the rabbi writes “with…respect and brotherhood (sic)”. We only ask for the same treatment by Rabbi Rabinowitz and his supporters.
Finally Rabbi Rabinowitz claims that all Jews come to the Wall to pray. He is sadly unaware of the many who no longer come to the Wall because they feel disenfranchised and feel there is no place for them at this holy site.