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August 31, 2014 / 5 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shira Pruce’

Women of the Wall Relish Victory, Won’t Support Temple Mount Prayer

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The Jewish Press just received a press release from Women of the Wall, declaring (gloating, actually) that in light of the District Court decision on April 24, and after 24 years of monthly prayers at the Western Wall (Kotel), “Women of the Wall will return to the holy site to pray with Torah, tefillin (phylacteries) and tallit (prayer shawl) on Rosh Hodesh Sivan, May 10.”

The WOW add: “It is with great pride that the women, from diverse Jewish backgrounds, adopt the important ruling by Judge Moshe Sobel, and join for this joyous occasion.”

“It’s about equal rights and democracy,” WOW Director of Public Relations Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press. “The Western Wall is not an Ultra Orthodox synagogue. It’s a public space. What the judge declared is that you cannot tell women not to pray a certain way in this public space.”

Expect the Wall site is administered by an Ultra Orthodox rabbi, who is a government official.

“That does not make it an Ultra Orthodox synagogue, which would make it a private place” argues Pruce. “It’s not a private place. Does he (Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the ‘Kotel Rabbi’) oversee it? Yes. But in our petition, which has been endorsed by many organizations, including some Orthodox groups, we made it clear that the site has been mismanaged.”

The March 10 online petition, which will eventually be sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky, states, among other things:

The Torah teaches us to love one another and our neighbors. Subjecting women to verbal and physical abuse, detention and threat of prosecution for simply exercising their human right to worship fosters a generation of Jews for whom Israel and the Kotel Plaza are associated with fear and religious intolerance.

Speaking of exercising the human right to worship, this reporter mentioned the nearby other holy site, a mere 20 feet or so above WOW’s area of contention—the Temple Mount—where Jews are forbidden to pray and are removed by police sometimes when they just close their eyes and start whispering, even if they’re just doing math.

I asked Pruce if she saw a connection between the plight of the women not being allowed to pray at the Kotel and the plight of Jews in general not being allowed to pray, and often even to visit, the Temple Mount.

“There is no connection, as far as we are concerned” she answered emphatically. “There’s no comparison between the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. I understand that people want to jump on the wave of Women of the Wall, to advance other political agendas. But ours is a struggle for women’s equal rights, religious freedom—civil rights that women do not have and men do have, in a public site that Israel has and oversees and runs. Temple Mount is not even comparable. It’s not relevant, it’s apples and oranges.”

This reporter suggested it was more like comparing Granny apples to Delicious apples (which is pretty brilliant, if you read it a second time). But Pruce insisted strongly that it is apples and oranges.

“We’re talking about a completely different political reality. Our struggle is and always has been at the Western Wall. Because of what it represents to us, religiously, culturally, spiritually, and to the world at large. to the Jewish people internationally, who could not speak up about it, and who now have found their voice about it.

“Our struggle is only about the Kotel.”

Of course, the aspirations of Jews throughout the past 2500 years or so have not been to go daven outside the rear supporting wall of God’s Temple, but rather way up there, where God’s House actually used to stand – but once you acknowledge that, you probably turn off three quarters of your support on the left. And so, for the record, WOW’s position is a case of severe official myopia regarding any other group who might be blocked from prayer literally 20 feet away.

Regarding Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky’s suggestion to, essentially, erect a permanent Reform synagogue at the Robinson’s Arch part of the site, the press release says “Women of the Wall share great respect and appreciation” for “his thoughtful, good faith effort to find a resolution to the conflict at the Kotel. We recognize the significance of this plan for an egalitarian section at the Kotel and commend all those who worked tirelessly together to reach an agreement that respects the great diversity of Jews in Israel and abroad,” but…

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/wow-to-celebrate-rosh-chodesh-iyar-as-usual/2013/04/10/

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