While I understand their desire to open up Orthodoxy to all segments of Jewry by pushing envelopes heretofore not sanctioned by any Orthodox rabbinic leader, they are in effect aiding heterodox movements in their quest for legitimacy. Which is precisely why joining heterodox movements on religious matters was so strongly opposed by Modern Orthodoxy’s greatest and undisputed leader, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
Although I agree with much of Rabbi Avi Shafran’s article on the subject which appears in today’s Forward, I disagree with continuing to make an issue of it. As I do with all the protests including the showing of masses of traditional Jewish women showing up monthly at the Kotel specifically for the purpose of denying WoW access.
It is true that these traditional women are all there praying with sincerity and great devotion. But it is also true that many of the Women of the Wall are doing the same thing in their own nontraditional way. I mostly do not question their motives.
However, it is also true that the reason traditionalist women are there is to counter WoW. There is no way they would be there en masse like that on Rosh Chodesh if not called upon to do so in quiet protest by their rabbinic leaders. Which of course brings out the usual gang of Charedi idiots who like to cause trouble. And since the media will always focus on the trouble makers, that is what the world sees most.
Rabbi Shafran complains that the media ignored all those Charedi women who prayed peacefully at the Kotel. Which would show the world that this is what the vast majority (…by a ratio of 100:1) Jewish women really want… and that the real antagonists are the Women of the Wall, and not the Charedim.
It is true that little media attention is paid to huge number of women quietly praying in traditional ways at the Kotel. But it is not because the media is prejudiced against Charedim. At least not in this case (…if ever really – but that is another subject). It is because violence – no matter who is behind it – gets more attention than peaceful prayer.
So in the end all of these protests and counter protests fuel the controversy and gets more people involved. On both sides.
WoW is a celebrated cause all over Israel and now the United States. People have been sensitized to feminist concerns. And this is now a high profile example perceived as being anti feminist. Reform and Conservative rabbis (and a few Orthodox ones) are joining the fight to allow these women to pray as they choose. Even if it upsets the sensibilities of traditionalists who comprise the vast majority of people that pray regularly at the Kotel.
In my view all this public opposition is to blame for perpetuating the cause of WoW. It has exacerbated an issue that – had it been left alone – would have no doubt died a quiet death. If not now then later.
As I have said many times – I do not believe for a moment that it will become fashionable for women of any denomination to start wearing a Talis and Teffilin when they pray. Whether it is at the Kotel or anywhere else. Had the Orthodox world ignored them instead of organizing big prayer protests – peaceful though they may have intended them to be (and which for the most part they were) – WoW would have been ignored by the media and just about everyone else.
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About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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