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?