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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Women of the Wall’

Women of the Wall Caught in Mix of Bad Timing, Bad Taste

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

On the same day thirteen and a half year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel from Kiryat Arba was murdered in her bed by a 17-year-old Arab, and just as hundreds assembled to bury her on Thursday afternoon, the organization Women of the Wall sent out an email blast with the subject: “Demand Justice for Frannie.”

It turns out there were other girls out there whose suffering needed our attention. In the case of twelve-year-old Frannie — well, she is “traveling over 6,000 miles to join Women of the Wall for her Bat Mitzvah. Will she be able to hold a Torah scroll on her special day?”

Yes, this is what constitutes an urgent cause these days in the minds of the organizers of the WOW: will this American girl, who could have her Bat Mitzvah literally anywhere else on the planet, including all of the land of Israel (other than the Temple Mount, where Jews these days are verboten) — will she be embracing a Torah scroll in front of the supporting wall King Herod erected outside the temple he renovated circa year zero.

Women of the Wall will meet next week on July 7 at 7AM in the women’s section of the Western Wall for Rosh Hodesh Tammuz prayers and for Frannie’s Bat Mitzvah. And they declare with fierce determination: “We will ensure that Frannie has a Torah scroll to read from for her Bat Mitzvah ceremony.”

Indeed, the urgent email continues, “Despite police harassment, intimidation and detainments, we will be bringing a Torah scroll in to the Kotel. Will there be more arrests? Will another woman be arrested for the act of simply holding a precious Torah scroll?”

This is so brave and subversive. It’s also going to take place around the time the family members of Hallel Yaffa Ariel will rise from the Shiva week, so maybe they, too could come and support the courage of the WOW.

With about 300 people in all of Israel giving a hoot about Reform Judaism in general and the WOW in particular, and in light of the seriously tough times Israelis are having these days, Women of the Wall Executive Director Lesley Sachs could have probably waited a couple of days with her urgent message this time.

Happy birthday, Frannie, may you grow up to marry a Jewish guy some day if you are so inclined.

David Israel

Legal Advisor Permits Reform’s Mixed Prayer Protest at the Kotel

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Israel Patt, the legal advisor of the Ministry of Religious Services, on Thursday determined that the Kotel Rabbi cannot legally prevent the mixed afternoon prayer being planned by the Reform and Conservative in the Kotel Plaza.

The decision to hold the mixed service—in the common area leading up to the men’s and women’s section—was reached by the leadership of both movements in Israel in response to the confrontational prayer service with a mehitzah-divider that was conducted on Tuesday by Jerusalem Chief Rabbi, the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar — on the platform at the southern section of the Kotel officially reserved for mixed prayers.

The mixed prayer protest in an area that is not intended for prayer at the Kotel Plaza, had been planned originally to protest the collapse of the Netanyahu government promise to provide “egalitarian” services at the Kotel, which has been reneged on due to fierce objections from the Haredi coalition partners.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel initially requested legal advice regarding his authority to use police forces to remove the participants in a mixed service from the plaza.

In an urgent response letter he sent to Rabbi Rabinovitch, Patt insisted that “After examining the issue, after consulting the relevant legal authorities, and on the opinion of the Attorney General, we’ve reached the conclusion that under the current circumstances there is no room for you to exercise your authority to prevent mixed prayer in the upper Kotel plaza.”

The intended mixed prayer service is planned not for the “Kotel sundeck” platform erected by former Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) in 2013, which was re-divided and staked by Rabbi Amar on Tuesday, but rather in the area of the plaza which is past the security check post and before the side-by-side men’s and women’s sections.

The Movement for a Jewish State on Wednesday appealed to the Justice Minister and the Chief of Police to prevent the mixed prayer service in its planned location, calling it a violation of the law and a show of contempt for the legal authorities.

Some photos from the prayer protest can be seen here.

JNi.Media

Analysis: Jerusalem Chief Rabbi’s ‘Protest Prayer’ May Be Just What Reform Campaign Needed

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

On Tuesday morning, Jerusalem Chief Rabbi, the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar conducted a heartfelt prayer with a few dozen supporters in the remote area of the Western Wall known as the “Israelite Section,” which had been designated by the Israeli government for the mixed prayer services of Reform and Conservative visitors.

The chief rabbi’s followers erected an improvised mehitza-divider to separate men and women, in defiance of the government program. After the morning service, Rabbi Amar spoke tearfully, saying “there’s no such thing as the Reform Kotel, there’s only the Holy Kotel.”

“No one can revoke this holiness,” Rabbi Amar continued, “not the government, not the court, you can’t, it’s a hekdesh-sanctuary, it’s the Temple Mount. Not the goyim, not the UN, no power can revoke it. We stand guard and declare that our entire purpose is for the sake of God’s honor, only God’s honor, and the Shechina-emanation of God, and the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.”

Rabbi Amar’s prayer service reflected a perception on the part of many Haredi leaders that the Reform and Conservative movements are making inroads in Israel through the Supreme Court and certain government officials, and are threatening the classic status quo, whereby secular Israelis did not go to shul, but the shul they didn’t go to was Orthodox. Most Israelis are not interested in these American imports, but the fact that the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem went out of his way to condemn Reform access to the Kotel probably gave those two-minute movements a new lease on life.

For the record, the idea for the mixed prayer area by the Kotel came from an Orthodox Jewish politician, then Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who in 2013 announced the creation of a new prayer area, south of the Mugrabim Gate and north of Robinson’s Arch, an area of 4,844 sq. ft., which is a non-contiguous extension of the Kotel Plaza. It was Bennett’s attempt at solving a 28-year long dispute between the Women of the Wall, a group of largely non-Orthodox Jewish women who have been praying in the Kotel’s women’s section on the first of each Jewish month as well as on select holidays, singing and donning talit and tefillin—all acts which have been provoking ultra-Orthodox Jews since the early 1990s.

While a broad section of ultra-Orthodox public figures attacked the Bennett solution, going as far as to dub it “tzelem ba’heikhal” or a statue in God’s temple, the Women of the Wall group also rejected the minister’s peaceful solution, accusing Bennett of aligning himself with the “extremist” views of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the government-appointed Kotel Rabbi, and of Israel’s chief rabbis (of course, when one accuses the mainstream religious and political leadership of extremism, it would be difficult for her to claim the center).

The WOW also called the special fenced wooden platform Bennett provided for mixed prayers a “sundeck overlooking the Western Wall,” which, come to think of it, could be the name for a bangup real estate bonanza. And the Reform movement over in the US, where they dominate Jewish life, at least on paper, with some two million members (in largely Orthodox Israel they may be noisy but their numbers are puny), announced that the Kotel must be open and accessible to all the Jews and men and women must be treated equally there. In other words, why can’t you all be more Reform, like the rest of us.

The fact is that the Bennett solution, while acquiescing that Israelis who are Reform and Conservative have the right to use a state-owned and funded religious facility, resolves the conflict in a peaceful way, which is not something the Reform and Conservative movements want. Since the platform has been erected, it has been standing empty, first because very few Reform and Conservative Israelis have the time or inclination to regularly fight Jerusalem traffic to go pray at the Kotel when most of them hardly ever pray in their own synagogues during the week; and second because without the opportunity to provoke the Orthodox, what’s the point of schlepping all the way to Jerusalem?

Now, the pushback from the Jerusalem Chief Rabbi has revived the non-Orthodox, whose fundraising and membership largely depends on being the victims of Orthodox “repression.” And so, once again, spokespersons for both movements have condemned the aging rabbi, whose salary is provided by the taxpayers, and who attacks the principles of equality, freedom and the American way.

Perhaps the good chief rabbi of Jerusalem should have taken a hint from the fact that he and his followers were the only ones praying on the Reform “sundeck,” because no one else ever prays there on any given day, and even the Baha’i movement in Israel represents a bigger threat to Orthodox Judaism at the Kotel than do the Reform and Conservative.

The best cure for the WOW phenomenon is probably to let them have their way until they get bored with it. The most recent new month celebration of the WOW, a week ago, attracted fewer than 90 women, and the only coverage it received was a provocation by its CEO, who showed local cops at the end of the service that she had “smuggled” a Torah scroll into the women’s section. Otherwise even she couldn’t get arrested by a largely disinterested police, and couldn’t get covered by the media which is inundated with much bigger stories.

JNi.Media

Police Arrest Women of the Wall Director for Torah Scroll Violation and Catch 22

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Police arrested Lesley Sachs, Executive Director of Women of the Wall, as she was exiting the Western Wall plaza with a Torah scroll Tuesday morning. Sachs was detained for “disturbing the public order,” although, according to the WOW’s own report, the prayer service of about 80 women at the Kotel was “relatively quiet and uneventful” on Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Apparently, Police accused Sachs of smuggling a Torah scroll into the women’s section.

According to the WOW email, the incriminating Torah scroll was lent to WOW executive board chair Anat Hoffman by Peter and Lawrence Michaels from Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, California, in memory of their parents, Ann and Rudy Michaels. Hoffman, who flew from Sacramento to Israel with the Torah scroll in her arms, related that on her journey she ran into her flight’s all-female team of pilots, Captain Wendi Shaffner and First Officer Katrina Mittelstadt, who were moved by the small Torah. The email did not specify what or where they were moved to.

“Though we believe that the Torah was handed down to women and men equally at Mt. Sinai, and though women and men both sacrificed their lives and loved ones for the reunification of Jerusalem, in 2016 Women of the Wall struggle for access to Torah scrolls at the Kotel,” the WOW statement lamented. Of course, these dear women could access as many Torah scrolls as they wished anywhere else, including at the Reform section of the Kotel a few yards away, but over at the Women’s section of the Kotel it was No Torah for you, ladies, which, apparently, defied the equality promised to women at Mt. Sinai. Not the one on Fifth Ave., the one in Sinai.

The email also accused Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the state-appointed administrator of the Kotel, of creating a “Catch 22” for women: “he prohibits entrance with private Torah scrolls and refuses women access to the 100 scrolls he holds at the Kotel for public use in the men’s section.” But that’s not a catch 22, which was described by Joseph Heller in his 1961 novel by the same title via the character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist who invokes “Catch 22” to explain why any pilot requesting mental evaluation for insanity—hoping to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions—demonstrates his own sanity in making the request and thus cannot be declared insane.

Rabbi Rabinowitz simply doesn’t want women to read out loud from the Torah at the Kotel because he interprets this as a desecration of halakha. As the WOW email confirms, he has the right to interpret it this way because he is the state appointed official in charge of interpreting Kotel-related issues.

The real question, not asked by WOW, is how come Sachs was picked up at the end of the Rosh Chodesh prayer session in which she openly defied the law, and not while she smuggled it in, or while the women were reading from it?

In a final episode of Heller’s book, the Catch-22 rule is described to Yossarian, the main protagonist, by an old woman recounting an act of violence by soldiers: “Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”

Wow.

David Israel

Women Praying at the Kotel

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Video of the Day

Shas MK Begins ‘Three Week’s with ‘Senseless Hate’ against Reform Jews

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

 

Minister for Religious Affairs, Shas Knesset Member David Azoulay, ridiculed approximately 2 million Jews Tuesday with the incredible statement, “A Reform Jew, from the moment he does not follow Jewish law…. I cannot allow myself to say that he is a Jew.”

His vile libel comes on the heels of the Netanyahu government’s rollback of religious reforms passed in the previous administration and which broke the gridlock that the Hareidi establishment has held over the conversion process and the approval for private and public eating facilities to be certified as kosher.

There are tens of thousands of Reform Jews who indeed are not Jews according to Jewish law because of  intermarriage. Jewish law states that if the mother is Jewish, so is the child.

But for the time being, most Reform Jews in the United States and elsewhere are Jews by birth, regardless of whether they follow Jewish law.

MK Azoulay’s rant comes during the first week of the “three weeks” of a semi-state of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples on the Ninth of Av, which is observed at the end of the period.

Every year, rabbis preach that the sages teach that the Second Temple fell because of “senseless hate” among Jews,” and that every Jew today must express unlimited love.

And how does the Shas MK express his love? He told Army Radio today he cannot call them “Jews” and added:

These [Reform] Jews took the wrong path, and we need to make sure that every Jew returns to the lap of Judaism and [we need] to receive everyone with love and joy.To my sorrow, most of the Reform Jews in the Diaspora have erred. They are like babies who are hostages, and we want to make sure that every Jew will return  to Judaism according to Jewish law.

The most infuriating part of MK Azoulai’s remarks, worse than refusing to recognize Reform Jews as Jews, is his arrogant pretense that “we need to receive them with love and joy.”

The Hareidi establishment, of which the Shas Sephardi party is a major leader, does everything in its power to turn Jews off from Judaism.

Reform Judaism is not Judaism, and Reform rabbis are not rabbis, no more than alternative medicine is “medicine” and their practitioners are “doctors,” but to publicly say – or even privately think – that they are not Jews is nothing less than a blood libel.

Reform Jews never will be accepted with “love and joy” by the Israeli Hareidi establishment no more than MK Azoulay will accept national religious Jews with “love and joy.”

No matter how much Talmud we learn, and no matter how often we say the same prayers that Hareidim say – except for the addition of the Prayer for the State of Israel and the IDF that are absent from almost all Israeli Hareidi prayer books – it is not good enough for the their establishment.

Unlike the Agudah Hareidi movement in the United States, which practices “kiruv” – reaching out to non-Orthodox Jews to bring them closer to Judaism – the Hareidi  leaders in Israel are interested in power. They don’t accept others who do not dress like them, obey them like robots and contribute to their yeshivas.

There was an unconfirmed claim by the Women of the Wall yesterday that guards stopped a woman at The Western Wall because she was wearing a kippah.

The guards allegedly asked the woman to go with them to the police station, a request she refused.

Instead, she was escorted to a taxi stand outside the Western Wall Plaza.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Women of the Wall Smuggle Tiny Torah Scroll to Western Wall

Friday, October 24th, 2014

The Reform-led Women of the Wall group managed to sneak a miniature Torah scroll to the Western Wall Friday morning and used it celebrate the Bat Mitzvah of a girl who had to use a magnifying to read the letters.

An attempt earlier in the morning to enter the Western Wall with a regular-sized Torah scroll was stopped by officials. The Western Wall is operated as an orthodox synagogue, where women have no requirement to attend and where they have no obligation to read from the Torah.

The WoW group’s numbers have dwindled to only a few dozen in their monthly spectacle on Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of a new month that this month falls on Friday and Shabbat.

The Torah scroll that they smuggled this morning was only 11 inches high, including the handles. WoW said the scroll was ‘kosher,” meaning that it meets all requirement of Jewish law, and that it was loaned to them by someone whose ancestor had taken it from Lithuania 200 years ago.

There is no prohibition from using a Torah scroll that is so tiny that it requires a magnifying glass to read, but it is not known if the scroll has been in use in recent years. If it is not read during the year, there is no way of knowing whether there is no deterioration of even one letter, which would make it unfit for reading.

Even if the scroll is kosher, the WoW”s constant demand to read a Torah scroll at the Western Wall Plaza when rabbis already have agreed to allow the women to use a Torah scroll in another section of the same Wall but in a less visible area, makes a mockery of itself.

The women no doubt were all excited over themselves for being able to “fool” the rabbis, the ones who are real rabbis, and call Sasha Lutt, the daughter of a Russian immigrant to read from the scroll, with a magnifying glass.

They certainly were wildly singing Hallel, consisting of several Psalms recited on Rosh Chodesh, with every muscle in their mouths. They surely were dancing in celebration, but in celebration of what – that they tricked the rabbis and got some more publicity or in celebration that they were praying? That they felt so much holier than yesterday?

We will let God answer those questions, but the extravaganza does not absolve the WoW from the judgment of others, such as a counter organization called Women for the Wall.

“I find the use of a Sefer Torah as a PR prop extremely painful,” said Leah Aharoni, co-founder of the group. “The Sages have taught us not to use the Torah as a spade with which to dig, yet this is exactly what is happening here – an insensitive group co-opting religion to promote a political agenda.”

I have repeatedly written that the Women of the Wall should be allowed to make fools out of themselves. They are not innocent and harmless people, but they harm themselves more than anyone else.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-of-the-wall-smuggle-tiny-torah-scroll-to-western-wall/2014/10/24/

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