Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90
A Meah Shearim Street

A Jerusalem Municipality decision recently angered Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) representatives of the city, according to a report by Tzipi Malcob.

The municipality decided to name a street “HaBetula meLudmir”, or in English, “The Virgin from Ludmir”.

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As you can imagine, using the word “Virgin” in a Jerusalem street name might upset some sensitive religious sensibilities.

But before you decide that the Jerusalem Municipality is trying to upset its Hareidi citizens, here is a little background.

The Virgin of Ludmir was the name given to Chana Rachel Webermacher (1805-1888), born in the town of Ludmir, Volhynia (now the Ukraine).

Webermacher was an unusual person. At one point in her life she decided to take on many of the ritual practices usually reserved for men, such as wearing Talit and T’fillin (possibly even wearing 2 pairs of T’fillin).

Due to community pressure in Ludmir, she got married, but quickly got divorced. She may have even gotten married and quickly divorced a second time.

Webermacher gained the reputation as a holy woman, and in 1860, she made Aliyah and moved to Jerusalem.

But what made her most unusual, is that it appears that Webermacher actually held court in her Meah Shearim home, with her own Hassidim, receiving her followers, handing out blessings and presiding over a regular Shabbos Tish, just like any other Hassidic Admor.

It’s also known that Webermacher studied Kababla, taught Torah to women, and prayed with women at the Kotel and at Rachel’s Tomb.

In short, the first Hassidic feminist.

She died in 1888, and was buried on the Mount of Olives.

In order to relieve Hareidi displeasure at having the word “Virgin” in the street name, the committee decided to change the name of the street to “The Virgin of Ludmir – Chana Rachel Webermacher”.

The Hareidi representatives deemed that a respectable compromise.

What is not yet known is which Jerusalem neighborhood will welcome the Virgin.

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