On Sunday, October 12, 2014 Women of the Wall launched an ad campaign on Jerusalem public busses promoting Bat Mitzvah ceremonies for girls at the Western Wall (Kotel). The first ever of their kind, the campaign ads feature Israeli girls, ages eleven to fourteen, wearing a Tallit, traditional Jewish prayer shawl, and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall. The busses will travel throughout Jerusalem encouraging girls and their families to celebrate bat mitzvah ceremonies with Women of the Wall at the Western Wall. The ads read in Hebrew: “Mom, I too want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel” and “V’zot Hatorah (Translates to “Here is the Torah”, also a pun in Hebrew as the phrase is in feminine form): Now it is my turn.”
The young women who took part in the campaign are: Ashira Abramowitz-Silverman, daughter of Yosef Abramowitz and Rabbi Susan Silverman, Devora Leff, daughter of Lauri Donahue and Rabbi Barry Leff, Sasha Lutt, daughter of Irina Lutt and Alma Weiss-Abraham daughter of Sharon Abraham-Weiss and Yoav Weiss.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, overseen by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, runs a lucrative and active industry of Bar Mitzvah celebrations for boys at the Western Wall. The foundation offers no such ceremony for girls, in fact Rabinowitz actively prevents any type of bat mitzvah ceremony for girls by refusing women access to Torah scrolls at the holy site. Legally, the April 2013 Jerusalem District Court ‘Sobel Decision’ guarantees Women of the Wall the right to pray freely according to their tradition, which should include Torah scrolls. Rabinowitz has put in place local regulations banning entrance to the Kotel with a Torah scroll and refusing women access to even one of the 100 scrolls held at the Western Wall for “public” use. Women of the Wall maintains their right to read Torah from a scroll at the Western Wall and celebrate bat mitzvah ceremonies at the holy, public site.
The Torah is central in Judaism and binds all Jews, across denomination, religiously, spiritually, culturally and historically. To deny any Jew access to a Torah scroll, as has been done so many times before throughout Jewish history, is an affront to religious freedom. To refuse women access to Torah has no basis in halakha (Jewish law) and has no place in a public site in a democratic state.
The public bus campaign is spearheading Women of the Wall’s pursuit for the Jewish new year: to read from a Torah scroll in the women’s section of the Western Wall, at Rosh Hodesh (New Month) prayers each month and in bat mitzvah ceremonies. Lesley Sachs, Director of Women of the Wall spoke at the launch, “These brave young girls and others have the right to have their bat mitzvah at the holiest site for Jews. That is one of the things we are fighting for and that is why we have launched this campaign- so that girls and mothers will call the number on the ad and find out more about how to join Women of the Wall. We will be able to tell them how to make this wonderful time in their lives into a meaningful, fulfilling bat mitzvah experience.”
Please save the date to join Women of the Wall for Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, Friday, October 24, 2014 at 7AM at the Western Wall, for the first Torah reading from a Torah scroll in the women’s section.