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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
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Women of the Wall Blame Gov’t for Their Damaged Torah Scroll

The Women of the Wall are unhappy again. Yes, they can read from the Torah, but now that have no scroll. It was damaged by dampness, and WoW blames the government for lack of proper storage.
The Women of the Wall will pray at the southern end of the Western Wall Friday but without their Torah scroll, which has been damaged by dampness.

The Women of the Wall will pray at the southern end of the Western Wall Friday but without their Torah scroll, which has been damaged by dampness.

Women of the Wall now are blaming the government for inadequate storage for their Torah scroll that the group said sustained damaged due to dampness, making it unfit for reading.

Women will gather at the Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall on Friday, the first of two days that mark the beginning of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, but they will pray without a Torah scroll.

After years of being banned by the police and the Western Wall rabbi from changing the status quo that preserves Orthodox Jewish tradition at the Western Wall (Kotel), authorities earlier this year finally arranged a compromise whereby the women can pray in their minyan and with a Torah scroll, but only at the Kotel’s southern section, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The women’s own Torah scroll is stored there, along with other scrolls that belong to the Conservative movement of Judaism, but it was lent out for use during the recent Jewish holidays and was found to be unfit to use because of mold.

“The Torah is being carefully cleaned and fixed by the leading authorities in Torah scroll repair and maintenance,” according to Women of the Wall spokeswoman Shira Pruce.

She placed the blame for the damage squarely on the government and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz. His “discrimination against women’s prayers and the lack of an appropriate immediate government response in the matter has cause damage to a Torah scroll, an escalation from the previous blatant disrespect, shown by Rabinowitz and Haredi protesters, of Jewish ritual items, including siddurim, prayer shawls and tefillin,” she said.

After being told about the damage to their scroll, The Women of the Wakkl notififed the Conservartive Movement to schek their scrolls to see if they aslo has been damaged, Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday.

Pruce unintentionally made a comment that raises an interesting question about whose ox is being gored.

In her argument that women should be allowed to pray in the women’s section of the main Western Wall Plaza, on the women’s side of a separation barrier, Pruce noted that men are not allowed in the Women of the Wall minyan. One primary reason is that there are many Orthodox Jewish women in the movement and they abide by the tradition that the sexes should not mingle during prayer.

Isn’t that discrimination against men? How can the Women of the Wall rightfully complain that Haredim are discriminating against them by barring them from the  more popular part of the Western Wall, while they discriminate against men who might want to join their minyan?

Pruce  answers that there is a difference. She argues that the main plaza is a public place and not a “synagogue” and that it must be open to everyone, regardless of sex.

Granted that there really is no reason to forbid the women form praying as they wish at the main part of Western Wall, except for their being a nuisance to other women who object to the whole concept of a women’s minyan and Torah reading.

Granted that Rabbi Rabinowitz should have kept quiet and let the women who object to WoW chase them our out, or simply let the Wow pray and as they wish and be done with it.

But if it is a public place open to all, and the Women of the Wall can keep men out of their minyan at Robinson’s Arch, what happens if a group of Muslims decide they want to pray to Allah at the Wall?

Or perhaps a bunch of Christians want to pray to “you know who” at the Kotel?

Or maybe some  “cultural Jewish cult” wants to express their faith in God by a belly dance?

Is it kosher to keep men out of a women-only minyan but not kosher for the authority over the Kotel to keep out women who do not respect  a centuries-old tradition?

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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15 Responses to “Women of the Wall Blame Gov’t for Their Damaged Torah Scroll”

  1. truthseekr says:

    As a Jewish woman, I object to what the WOW is saying and what they are fighting for. While it might be the fault of the media, I’ve not yet read any quotes by the WOW that indicate they want to please G-d. It seems to be about sexual equality, even the quotes I’ve heard from people who know WOW members personally. Sexual equality on their terms is not in the Torah, IMO. The Temple area is one space at which G-d made the rules and he picked men to be the Cohenim and the Levitical workship leaders. If WOW members want to act like men in other places, they should be allowed. But the Temple Mount and the Kotel are special and such roles are reserved for men.

  2. Dan Silagi says:

    I just checked with WOW. They're praying in the women's section of the Kotel, as usual, NOT at Robinson's Arch. Tzvi, your pants are on fire. You ought to win the Jayson Blair Award for 2013.

  3. "Pruce noted that men are not allowed in the Women of the Wall minyan" Sorry but this is blatantly untrue over the last few months as Women FOR The Wall have brought thousands of women to pray at The Kotel it became abundantly clear that that WoW are clearly a mixed group and freely pray without a mehitza. Its all spin. What is true is that they are not an 'egalitarian' minyan but rather a reverse minyan with only the women leading services or having the honours. As a mixed group they should have no issue with praying at the section of The Kotel known as Robinson's Arch and if they want a mechitza for their few Orthodox women then have been offered one.

  4. "Pruce answers that there is a difference. She argues that the main plaza is a public place and not a “synagogue” and that it must be open to everyone, regardless of sex."

    The main plaza is a public place and is open to everyone Jew and Gentile alike, regardless of sex. The issue here is that those who come as required to adhere to the traditions and practices of the location without disturbing everyone else and WoW are unwilling to do. This whole article is just a bunch of spin with WoW trying to get a new scroll out of some donor for their 25th anniversary next month, so they can also have a Hachnasat Sefer Torah. The only person responsible for mold on their Torah Scroll is them, but they don't take responsibility for anything.

  5. Cheryl Birkner Mack says:

    Dan is correct. the article is poorly written or researched. Jenni’s claim that WoW is a mixed group is inaccurate also. Our male supporters try to stay on one side of our group, but without a mehitza it is very hard to keep the groups separated.

  6. This article is full of inacuracies. WOW will not pray at Robinsons's Arch, we will pray in the women's section of the Western Wall, as we have for 25 years. We do legally and in accordance with the law as defined by the Jerusalem District court in April 2013. Israel is a democracy which assures us freedom from discrimination based on gender. Like it or not, the Western Wall is a public space in that Jewish democracy, funded by tax payers' money. Rabinowitz banned our Torah from the Kotel and RA is the designated alternative according to a Supreme Court decision in 2013. Our Torah was damaged in Rabinowitz's war on women's prayer. These are all documented facts, which the Jewish Press is welcome to report in the future.

  7. Myriam Obadia says:

    "zvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University." Then he needs a refresher course, because this isn't decently written article and -as several readers have pointed- replete with inaccuracies. Although I don't have a horse in that race (I pray as a traditional woman), I'll remind you that women do have the right to wear a tallit and read from the Torah (as confirmed by several Gedolim included Rashi and Maimonides), they're just dispensed from having to do so, which quite different from being forbidden to do so.

  8. Myriam Obadia says:

    "zvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University." Then he needs a refresher course, because this isn't decently written article and -as several readers have pointed- replete with inaccuracies. Although I don't have a horse in that race (I pray as a traditional woman), I'll remind you that women do have the right to wear a tallit and read from the Torah (as confirmed by several Gedolim included Rashi and Maimonides), they're just dispensed from having to do so, which quite different from being forbidden to do so.

  9. FailedOptimist says:

    truthseekr , are you forgetting about the so-called “Women’s chamber” of the temple?? And where exactly is it stipulated that the OUTSIDE of the temple compound women and men are to be separated? Because, in case you haven’t noticed; there is no temple. The Kotel is not in any way the temple, nor is anyone who goes to daven there praying on what was ever within the temple. 
    Further, how amazing that you (and other opponents of women’s tefilah, women’s taking on more mitzvot) seem to have the amazing ability to divine the internal motivations and relationships to G-d of every woman supporter of WoW or feminist halachah ever. And I thought the sages declared the age of prophecy to have passed! Yet, here you all are — from Soloveitchik to Rabinowitz — claiming to know the inner “truth” of the personal motivations and intentions of tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands over the years) of women whose approach to tefilah and Hashem doesn’t conform to Haredi anachronism and cynical, reactionary modern approaches to halachah. Amazing to have such divine prophets walking among us still!

  10. Dan Silagi says:

    What part about "public space" do you and your fellow w4w troglodytes not get, Jenni? The Kotel, contrary to your long-cherished belief, in't the fiefdom of Ayatollah Shmuel Rabinovitch. It belongs to ALL Jews, regardless of level of observance, and I personally wouldn't mind at all if a Christian visitor recited 10 "Hail Marys," either. After all, we're all praying to the same diety, aren't we?

    I personally find your arguments totally disassembling and disingenuous.

  11. yzshap says:

    The reason their Torah is damp is because the Torah should not be touched by  a woman. These laws were enacted 3350 years ago on Har Sinai. Consequently, that Torah is “trayfe”.

  12. right. remember the war veterans who escorted WOW in their prayer service back some months? they were not female.

  13. God will provide you with a new one.

  14. Tuvia Ruvain says:

    Are we all praying to the same deity? Does using the same name and the opposite meaning equal the same?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Women deserve the exact same amount of space as do men, at the Kotel. They are our sisters, our Mothers, wives, and best friends. My Mother taught me from the very beginning to love and honor women and I'm glad she did! No more alienation of any kind…ESPECIALY AT A PLACE SUCH AS THE KOTEL. HOW CAN MEN HONOR JUDAISM IF WO DON'T HNOR OUR OWN WIVES, MOTHERS AND SISTERS????

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