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December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Natan Sharansky’

Orthodox Women May Stand to Lose Under Sharansky’s Proposal

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Natan Sharansky recently put forth a proposal to renovate and extend the Western Wall plaza to include Robinsons Arch, thereby creating an egalitarian prayer space alongside the ones currently designated for men and women. As an Orthodox woman I am not egalitarian, nevertheless, I think creating space to include all the denominations comfortably at the Kotel is a positive thing, nobody should feel excluded from Jerusalem’s holiest site. Despite that, I am very disappointed with what this proposal might mean for Orthodox women.

Though Kotel access and inclusion for the progressive denominations is an important issue, Sharansky was specifically charged with coming up with a solution in response to the escalating conflict surrounding the Women of the Wall. Though some people may conflate those two issues they are in fact separate and distinct and in this case it looks like the issue of denominational access has won out over women’s rights. And what is even worse is that it is the women’s hard work which enabled this victory and yet is coming at their own expense.

As an active Orthodox feminist I have invested years of my life to advancing women’s rights within the framework of Halachah, studying at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education instead of seeking ordination from one of the liberal movements, working at the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, serving as an intern at Congregation Ramath Orah on Manhattans’ Upper West Side, founding and leading various women’s tefillah groups where women could be represented and share their voices without having to abandon their communities to do so.

I was also a huge proponent of Women of the Wall (WOW) for many years. I saw WOW as my sisters in Israel struggling for women’s Halachic rights at the Kotel, the same way I was struggling for them here in America. Not a violation of Halachha, but a fight against patriarchal social norms that prevent me, and millions of other women, from actualizing our Halachically permitted potential. Anat Hoffman, in an opinion piece she wrote in the Forward in 2010 states

Simply put, our goal is to obtain the freedom to pray and to do everything that is Halachically permitted for women on the women’s side of the mechitzah (the barrier between men and women). This includes reciting prayers together that do not require a minyan, and, yes, most of all, it includes reading from the Torah. At a minimum, we want to be allowed to pray at the Wall for one hour each month, free of injury and fear. This should not be a provocative request. If I wanted to mount a provocation at the Wall, I certainly wouldn’t do so by inviting a group of modestly dressed women — most of them devoted Orthodox Jews — to show up early in the morning to pray in a manner entirely consistent with Halacha. That some are provoked does not make us provocative. We have been waking up early to pray every Rosh Hodesh for the past 21 years — this is no fad, no political act. It is done for the sake of prayer. Over the past week a number of people have questioned the premise that an egalitarian section at the Kotel does not address the needs of progressive Orthodox women. In response I would say firstly that I should not have to leave a space or community that I am an active part of in order to assert the rights afforded to me by Halachah, as an Orthodox women in a de facto Orthodox space shouldn’t my actions be a valid part of the greater whole that determines the status quo by which we set our norms? Secondly, davening in an egalitarian space is probably not seen as a Halachically viable option for most Orthodox women for whom an allegiance to Halachah is paramount to their other needs.

Thirdly, the proposed space is not a free for all space, even if a group of women wanted to get together within that proposed space and hold a women’s tefillah group, not a minyan, I question whether they would be able to. I have enough liberal friends and have been exposed to the progressive denominations sufficiently to see that they too have a bias and I question if such a group would be welcome.

Sharansky Says Yoni Netanyahu Was an Inspiration while in Jail

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

Yoni Netanyahu, the brother of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who was killed in the Entebbe rescue, was an inspiration to Natan Sharansky while imprisoned in a Soviet jail, the former Refusenik said Sunday.

Speaking to 5,000 Masa Israel Journey participants at a Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers ceremony, Sharansky said, “While in the Soviet prison, … I thought about the three Israeli sportsmen who had visited Russia and had bravely met with us. They told us that Israel was a place of great joy.

“I later heard that one of the three was killed in the Yom Kippur war. But, mostly I thought about Yoni Netanyahu. The fact that the State of Israel was prepared to send its soldiers to rescue Jews all over the world gave me great strength. Yoni was 29 when he was killed and was 29 when I was arrested. Every time that I felt that I didn’t have the strength to keep resisting the authorities, I thought about Yoni Netanyahu and it gave me the strength to keep going.”

Yom Ha’atzmaut Draws 200 New York UJA Leaders

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

The UJA Federation of New York’s William Rosenwald Mission landed in Israel Sunday with 200 leaders who will be celebrating the country’s 65th anniversary as a modern state on Tuesday.

The delegation will examine how the New York community can help improve Israel’s quality of life, especially for children in distress, Holocaust survivors and new immigrants living under the poverty line.

Members of the Park Avenue Synagogue will visit the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem, where they will pitch in to help in renovations of a bomb shelter at an elementary school.

During their six-day visit, the leaders will meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as well as with Dalia Rabin at Yitzchak Rabin Center. hey also  will have discussions with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Jodi Ruderon, Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times.

The Most Dangerous Women in Israel

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Over the past few months, I’ve befriended Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations for Women of the Wall. In our few phone conversations so far, we’ve agreed on many issues which she deems important, and in my opinion my articles about her organization’s activities, published in a right-wing, religious, Jewish American online magazine, present those activities in a fair manner. I don’t twist what Shira tells me, and I don’t show her and her partners in struggle in a negative light, as do other religious, right wing publications, when they even bother to acknowledge them.

To anyone who hasn’t yet been exposed to stories about the Women of the Wall, I’ll summarize that it’s a group of several hundred women, about a quarter of whom are Modern Orthodox and the rest Conservative (Massorti Judaism), or Reform, whose stated goal is to pray on Rosh Chodesh (first day of the Jewish month) and on other special days, such as Purim, in the women’s section of the Western Wall, while wearing talitot and tefillin.

Rosh Chodesh is a special day for women in Jewish tradition, a gift from God for the fact that women did not debase themselves by participating in the making of the golden calf in the wilderness (to remind you, the sin of the golden calf was secondary only to the sin of the spies, and both, according to our tradition, altered, each one in its turn, the Israelite nation’s relationship with its God):

Aaron was contemplating the matter, saying: If I tell the Israelites, Give me silver and gold (to smelt and create the calf), they’d bring them over right away. What I’ll do instead is tell them, Give me your wives’ rings, and the rings of your sons and daughters, and the whole thing will be annulled. When the women heard, they refused to give their rings to their husbands, telling them: You want to create an abomination that has no power to save us. They refused to listen and so God rewarded them in this world and the next, as it says (Psalms 103:5): He satisfies your body with precious things; your youth is renewed like the eagle renews its plume. (Pirkey d’Rabbi Eliezer, C. 44).

It’s important to recall, therefore, that in the discussion of the Women of the Wall’s 25-year struggle over the right to pray every Rosh Chodesh at the second holiest Jewish site (the holiest is situated a few meters above, on Temple Mount), it’s the women who enjoy the right of ownership over the marking of Rosh Chodesh. Religious women avoid menial labor on Rosh Chodesh, and dress up. The researcher Dr. Devorah Ushpizai of Bar Ilan even points to a Biblical source for this custom, in the story about the woman from Shunem who had a son through the blessing of the prophet Elisha. Her husband asks: Why go to him today? It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath. Which means that, had that day been the new moon, the husband would have understood why his wife is going to seek out the prophet.

HALACHICALLY, THE WOMEN OF THE WALL MAY BE RIGHT

There are many examples in our traditional sources about women of valor who received the sages’ permission to keep commandments that were intended for men only. Why did they need the permission? Because for the most part, women are absolved of the commandments that are time-related. With your permission we’ll avoid here the feminist discussion and simply state that women in pre-industrial society had much more pressing obligations than to pray three times a day, which is why the halacha absolved them of praying on time, as it did wearing a talit and tefillin.

Says Maimonides (Laws of the fringes, Chapter 3):

Women, slaves and minors are absolved of the obligation of talit based on the Torah. But from the sages we learn that a minor who knows how to wrap himself in a talit must do so for the sake of teaching him the commandments. And women and slaves (who, like women, are not the masters of their time) who wish to wear a talit may do so without saying a blessing, and likewise for all the positive commandments that women are not obligated to keep, they may keep them if they wish, but without saying a blessing, and we don’t stop them.

If they want they can, if they don’t that’s fine, too.

WOW to Celebrate Rosh Chodesh Iyar as Usual

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

The Jewish Press received the following email from Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations at Women of the Wall:

I hope that you will join us and send representatives/photographers to our Rosh Hodesh Prayer tomorrow, Thursday April 11, 2013 at 7 AM at the Western Wall. We will be joined by two members of Knesset, MK Tamar Zandberg and MK Michal Rozin (Meretz). While we always hope for a peaceful prayer, the Jerusalem Police have asserted that they will enforce the law to the fullest extent.

Women of the Wall also offered a statement regarding Natan Sharansky’s proposed plans for the Western Wall, which would turn an archaeological site adjacent to the main Western Wall plaza into a permanent place for mixed worship:

“We have not yet received the recommendations from JAFI Director, Natan Sharansky, but we will be happy to respond in full when we see the final proposal. With that, we are hopeful at the possibility of a major advancement in pluralism at the Western Wall.”

The statement continues: “All plans and major changes will take time and resources to be completed. Until then, it is crucial to end the arrest and detainment of all women in acts of prayer at the Western Wall. There is no solution that will unify the Jewish people so long as women can be arrested for wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah at the Western Wall, a public holy site in Israel.”

Personally, I have no idea why we, the Jews, are arguing over the back yard of our ancient temple, when the actual Temple Mount is waiting for its rightful owners to come back and reclaim it. We have enough knowledgeable rabbinic scholars who can show us where we may set foot and where we shouldn’t. The rest is up to us. But I’m digressing.

Are Haredi Jews going to accept what is, in effect, a Reform synagogue, next to the Kotel? Is everybody realizing that with the Sharansky proposal we’ll be trading a relatively harmless monthly event for a year-round “egalitarian” prayer area, which is code for Reform?

Also, regarding Shira Pruce’s call for Israeli police to restrain themselves – I pray that they do, but I won’t hold my breath.

Sharansky to Suggest Women’s Kotel Prayers Away from Main Plaza

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky is preparing to suggest that women pray whenever they want, complete with prayer shawls and a Torah scroll, at the southern edge of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch.

The proposal was reported by the Forward, and afterwards the Jewish Agency released a fudgy statement that “Sharansky will present his recommendations to Prime Minister Netanyahu upon the chairman’s return to Israel from his visit to college campuses in the United States.”

“One Western Wall for one Jewish people,” Sharansky said, adding that he hopes his recommendations will allow “the Kotel will once again be a symbol of unity among the Jewish people, and not one of discord and strife.”

“Strife” is a police war. “Hatred,” ”jealousy” and “stiff-necked” are closer to the truth.

The Women of the Wall argue that the Haredi rabbis in charge of the Western Wall are insensitive to their needs and treat them as second-class citizens.

Although many if not most Orthodox rabbis in the United States have no problem with a women’s prayer minyan, the Chief Rabbinate as well as  and many non-Haredi Orthodox rabbis in Israeli have a problem with it, based on their application of Jewish law.

They charge that a women’s prayer minyan, complete with their own Torah reading, would offend their religious sensitivities.

An unstated but obviously huge difference is that there is no place for prayer in the Diaspora that has the holiness like the Western Wall, and there is no public area for prayer that is attended by both women and men.

The conflict will probably hit the headlines again Wednesday and Thursday, the two days that are the beginning of the Hebrew month of Iyar. The High Court has allowed the Women of the Wall to hold their own minyan at Robinson’s Arch, but the women demand they be allowed to pray at the more widely attended portion of the Western Wall.

Every Rosh Chodesh, they try to break the ban at the Western Wall and frequently are arrested. Pictures in  American media of a policeman struggling with a woman holding a Torah scroll have helped rip to the seams the fragile relationship between the Diaspora and Israel.

Sharansky has come up with a compromise that would give the women half of what they want and would spare the Western Wall rabbi and Haredi worshippers from having to pray at the Kotel while knowing a women’s minyan is taking place next to them, despite a partition, and being exposed to hearing women’s singing, which they consider a violation of Jewish law.

Anat Hoffman, leader of the WOW movement, previously has rejected what she calls a “separate but equal” solution.

Her position has been that having the right to pray in a separate minyan is only part of an overall goal, in her words, “to dismantle the Western Wall Heritage Foundation,” the Haredi Orthodox entity that oversees the Western Wall.”

After Sharansky’s proposal went public, she backed off and said she welcomes the compromise.

The idea is “very ambitious,” Hoffman said. ”You don’t always have to be right; you have to be smart — and compromise is a sign of maturity and understanding what’s at stake here.”

Neither side can get it wants without grossly offending the other, but the Haredi community cannot be expected to accept her agreement without suspicion.  If WOW want to pray as they wish, there is nothing to stop them from claiming they have the right to pray together with their husbands or male friends in a mixed minyan, which is totally prohibited in all Orthodox circles and would offend Orthodox worshippers.

But Hoffman appears to be smart enough to accept the Sharansky solution, putting the Western Wall rabbi in a position that he might as well agree gracefully rather than pitting himself against the entire political establishment outside of Haredi circles.

If he does agree, there is a good chance that the power of prayer can exceed political power.

Kotel Rabbi Promises Women Won’t Be Arrested for Saying ’Kaddish’

Friday, April 5th, 2013

The rabbi of the Western Wall has promised Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky that women will not arrested if they dare to say the mourners’ ”kaddish” prayer at the Western Wall.

The “Great Enlightenment” of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is the latest chapter in the saga of the Women of the Wall (WOW), whose movement – however suspect its motives might be – has exposed a total disconnect between Haredi rabbis’ outlook and the Jewish world at-large.

The flak over the recital of the recital of the Kaddish prayer also has showed that Jerusalem police act on the orders of Rabbi Rabinowitz.

WOW plans to pray on next week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) and on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall.

But reciting the Kaddish? That appears to be too much for the Western Wall rabbi.

Even though there is a  partition to separate men and women according to the ancient custom practiced today even by non-Haredi orthodox communities, perhaps the rabbi is  relying on the strictest of the strict prohibition of a man, God forbid, hearing a woman’s voice and therefore losing his concentration on his prayers.

Or perhaps he considers the Kaddish prayer reserved for men.

Whatever his reasoning, Jerusalem police commission Yossi Pariente wrote Anat Hoffman, chairman of WOW, “We would like to inform you that, starting on this coming Rosh Chodesh, the Israel Police will fulfill its duty to enforce the law.”

The police previously have arrested women trying to pray in a minyan of 10 people on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month. The women’s group has drawn worldwide publicity by wearing prayer shawls and trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall, in violation of a High Court order.

There is a solid foundation of rabbinic laws against the women’s monthly attraction, which understandably is seen as a provocation by Israeli Jews, even those who are not Haredi or even not orthodox.

But the altercations of the police and the scenes of a Jew being arrested for holding a Torah scroll have played into the hands of the WOW movement and have indeed been a provocation – provoking more hatred of rabbinic authority.

The motives of the Women of the Wall are more than just reciting prayers or reading from a Torah scroll. They openly campaign against what they call a “monopoly” of Orthodox Judaism, which has been around for many centuries, leaving open the question of how tolerant women and Reform Jewish leaders would be of Haredi demands if they were to be in authority.

Instead of dealing with the challenge in a 21st fashion – perhaps sitting down with the women  and learning with them the Talmudic  views that actually promote many aspects of modern feminism – the Haredi community has chosen measures that conjure up horrid visions of centuries of non-Jewish rules’ disgust of Jews and Judaism.

“Prohibiting women from saying Kaddish is a shanda (Yiddish for shameful) and brought on solely by the hegemony and short-sightedness of Rabbi Rabinowitz,” said Hoffman in response to the letter Jerusalem Police Chief Pariente. “He has, without a doubt, crossed a clear red line, as women’s right to say Kaddish is respected and accepted by the entire Jewish world, including Orthodox factions…

“To refuse mothers and mourning women the right and obligation of saying the mourner’s prayer, Kaddish, is cold-hearted. Women of the Wall will be at the Kotel and will say Kaddish, with the utmost religious intention and emotional commitment that is deserved and require of us.”

The issue has become so emotional that there is almost no room for any logical or knowledgeable input. American Jewish journalists and non-Orthodox Jewish leaders, often without any understanding of Jewish law, have jumped on the harassment of women to show Judaism as Medieval and allegedly anti-feminist.

One of the most recent examples is Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog on the Daily Beast.

He posted an article by Emily Hauser, who has made herself one of thousands of modern “commentators” on the Torah. She titled one recent article, “Moses was a jerk, & Passover wouldn’t have happened without five women.”

Hauser exploited Pariente’s letter to promote populism whereby everyone is a religious authority. The “Israel’s government is telling the world’s Jews that they know what Judaism is, and we don’t,” she wrote.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/kotel-rabbi-promises-women-wont-be-arrested-for-saying-kaddish/2013/04/05/

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