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August 4, 2015 / 19 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Women of the Wall’

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.

Rivka Haut, Women of the Wall Co-Founder and Agunot Advocate, Dies

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Rivka Haut, a foremost advocate for agunot, Orthodox women who have been refused a religious divorce and also a founder of the Women of the Wall founder was buried this week after she succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 71.

At the Women of the Wall prayer service on Tuesday, the worshipers recited Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, in memory of Haut.

She led a group of women in a prayer service with a Torah scroll at the Western Wall 26 years ago and later helped found Women of the Wall, which continues to hold a monthly morning prayer service at the Kotel.

Haut also was a founder of the Women’s Tefillah Network.

She was the co-author of four books, “Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue,” with Rabbi Susan Grossman; “Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site,” with Phyllis Chesler; “Shaarei Simcha: Gates of Joy,” with Adena Berkowitz; and a forthcoming book about agunot with Susan Aranoff.

Berkowitz in a Facebook post wrote of an encounter she had leaving Haut’s funeral, “I was stopped by an older woman with a sheitel. … With an ache in her voice and soul she said to me, ‘Who will now be there for all the agunot? Rivka is irreplaceable.’”

Haut had master’s degrees in English literature from Brooklyn College and in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Dr. Ella Kanner Gets New Sefer Torah

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Dr. Ella Kanner (Ph.D.) is an Orthodox member of the Women of the Wall. Her Ph.D. is in Gender Studies. Personally, I hate it when people use the word “gender” because they think it’s nicer than the simple word “sex,” but who listens?

I looked it up. The Tel Aviv University Gender Studies program combines studies from the departments of Humanities, Law, Social Sciences, and Arts and offers a comprehensive multidisciplinary study of women’s history, geographical environment and planning, representation in the arts and in culture at large, women’s position vis-à-vis cultural and political institutions, as well as other aspects of women’s lives and experiences. The program also specializes in classical and contemporary feminist theories.

I wrote a funny, condescending line here and I chose to erase it. Who am I to tell people what they should study? OK, OK, the joke had to do with failing the class and having to take remedial gender studies. Happy?

The women in the picture came together at Dr. Kanner’s house in Petah Tikvah for an official celebration of bringing a Torah scroll into her home.

Dr. Kanner describes herself as a feminist activist for women and human rights and an internet activist. She is part of the Petach Tikva Modern Orthodox community.

She once told Ynet: “And that’s what we want as women: Equality in its very simple sense. The Women of the Wall present feminine comradeship in their joint prayer. A group of women praying together – Orthodox, Reform and Conservative – out of solidarity, and of course out of the ability of each woman to pray to God in her own way.”

Years ago, she organized a photography show called “Behind the Mechitza,” images shot by women in the ladies’ section in shul, on weekdays, of course. She wanted men who saw those images to get a sense of what it was like to be an absentee participant.

For the record, my gripe with Women of the Wall begins and ends at the Kotel. And not because my opinion is that they shouldn’t pray there and dance and sing and ululate, but because the halachic authority at the place has ordered so. You can’t openly and brazenly defy the appointed legal authority at any location and call yourself a person of faith.

Away from the Kotel, I enjoyed getting a peek at Dr. Kanner and her friends enjoying the Torah. I even applaud them. The obvious joy she shows in holding the sefer Torah is exactly how I feel in shul when they give me Hagbaha (lifting the Torah before rolling it up and putting the cover back on it). I’m a huge Torah kisser. I can’t stand it when people in shul touch the Torah with their talit, or their hand, or even worse — with their siddur. A sefer Torah is meant to be hugged and kissed.

I was delighted to see that Dr. Kanner appears to know about hugging and kissing the Torah.

Bet you didn’t expect that from this angry old man.

Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Reform and Conservative Jews Upset over Plans for Robinson’s Arch

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Reform and Conservative Jewish groups are upset with a reported draft agreement that would  put the City of David Foundation in charge of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch area, where they can pray in a women’s minyan with a Torah scroll.

The tentative agreement calls for the government to transfer control of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center to the City of David Foundation, Haaretz reported. The foundation runs the extremely popular City of David tourist site in Jerusalem’s Old City and works to settle Jews in the Silwan neighborhood, across the road from the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

Avoid conflict at the widely-visited area of the Western Wall.

Israeli Conservative movement CEO Yizhar Hess told JTA that the draft agreement concerning the Davidson Center caught non-Orthodox groups by surprise.

“We were negotiating the final details of how it would be managed,” Hess said. “It was never mentioned that the City of David Foundation would be the one to actually run the place.”

Hess said that the Reform and Conservative do not take a stance on the foundation’s political leanings, which they claim are decidedly rightwing, but explained that if implemented, the draft agreement would depart from a compromise on the Western Wall outlined by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky last year. Sharansky’s outline proposed creating a pluralist council to manage the site.

No Mitzvot, No God

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

I deconstructed the latest notice from Women of the Wall (they’ve taken me off their email blast list, so I had to go to their website to find it – the things I do for you…). The headline was “Double Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel- No Protests and No Torah.” The word “Mitzvah” was mentioned 3 times, each time as part of the term Bat Mitzvah. The word “Mitzvot” was not mentioned, nor was the word “God.”

The reason Jewish men pray, above anything else, is because we’re told to do so by our Rabbinic tradition. We may not do it very well, we may be late to shul or skip the service altogether and daven at home, or skip davening at home – but when we do, it’s because we were commanded.

The mitzvot are the system of our liberation from our egos. We substitute God’s will for our will, as best we can. With that in mind, take a look at the WOW text from Friday:

Two Israeli girls celebrated their bat mitzvah with Women of the Wall on Friday. “Unfortunately, after months of studying, learning the Torah reading and its blessings, the young girls were denied the right afforded to their male counterparts, the right to read from a Torah scroll at their bat mitzvah.”

The language of civil rights seems so foreign in the religious context. Look at this sentence: “For twenty-five years Women of the Wall has struggled for religious freedom and women’s rights at the Western Wall.” Once a month, for a quarter century, these warrior women struggle at the Wall. It’s kind of comical to have a regularly scheduled struggle. And to be saying with an open face that it’s about “freedom” and “rights.”

Freedom from what? From the oppression of having to obey the rabbi in charge at the Kotel?

Seriously, whom do Women of the Wall serve?

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride / You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side / You may be working in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair / You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed / You’re gonna have to serve somebody / Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord / But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.


WOW and Splinter Group O-WOW Fighting over Kotel Deal

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Remember the scene in Life of Brian, where the different splinter groups of the Judean Liberation Movement run into each other and start a brawl? Well, you’re in for a treat.

A group of Women of the Wall supporters, mostly from the United States, have split off over the negotiations between WOW and the Israeli government. The women have named their splinter organization Original Women of the Wall, or O-WOW, and plan to hold their own services at the Wall.

According to Aliza Lipkin, blogging for Times of Israel, O-Wow consists of some founding members that have not lost sight of the original concept, which is to pray as they please by the Western Wall. The compromise of moving to an egalitarian section that has been offered in exchange for WoW’s list of demands surely misses the point. They want to pray at the Kotel, where they have been the past 25 years and to be acknowledged as having the right to pray there. And so two steps forward three steps back.

Now, if we could stage a brawl involving everybody: the Women of the Wall, the Women against the Women of the Wall, Haredim who hate the Women of the wall, seminary girls bused in to mess with the Women of the Wall, and, possibly, the players and coaches of the Miami Dolphins – we could worship God like He hasn’t been worshipped since the deluge.

Incidentally, I’ve been saying for a long time that all the WOWs should get the entire Kotel, which is, basically, the supporting wall of the real thing, the Temple Mount up above – and let the rest of the Jews move up a rung to God’s real place. But nobody listens to me.

Meanwhile, according to Haaretz, Women of the Wall is close to approving an agreement with the Israeli government to move the group’s monthly prayer service to a new egalitarian area.

The agreement comes after months of negotiations between the organization and an Israeli government committee.

In October, the Women of the Wall presented 16 conditions under which the group would move its monthly prayer service to an egalitarian section of the Western Wall’s plaza now under construction.

The conditions pertain to the section’s size, appearance, management, accessibility, budget and name. Taken together, the conditions mandate that the new section be treated as equal to the existing Western Wall plaza.

Women of the Wall chairwoman Anat Hoffman said in a letter sent to key supporters of the organization that a special government committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit had agreed to most of the conditions, reported Haaretz, which obtained a copy of the letter.

The letter reportedly said the committee’s recommendations would be submitted to the Cabinet for approval in the coming weeks and that the egalitarian area would be ready in “a year or more,” Haaretz reported.

The site will have a mobile, temporary mechitzah for the monthly prayer services since some of the members are Orthodox and do not pray with men, according to the letter.

The committee also reportedly agreed to allow group members to jointly oversee administration of the egalitarian space, according to Haaretz.

Hoffman said in the letter that the group will continue to work to gain permission to bring its own Torah scroll to the site once the negotiations are completed. She also said, according to Haaretz, that the group will continue to pray in the women’s section “until the full implementation of the report’s agreed-upon recommendations.”

JTA content was used in this report.

Netanyahu Tells Reform Jews that ‘Peace Is not One-Way Street

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial 2013 conference in a video address Sunday, “Peace is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street” in his efforts for a peaceful solution to the Iranian and Palestinian Authority issues.

He also praised recent efforts to find a compromise solution to interdenominational conflict at the Western Wall and thanked the Reform movement for its efforts to strengthen Jewish identity and American Jews’ connection to Israel.

In large part, the speech repeated the principal points of Netanyahu’s address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last month in Jerusalem. Netanyahu began by reiterating his frequent message that the best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is through maintaining economic sanctions alongside the threat of military attack.

Netanyahu said that Iran’s repression of civil rights at home, as well as its support for terror abroad; belie the friendly diplomatic posture its leaders have struck recently. “It talks the talk, but it walks the walk of death every day,” he said.

Addressing ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Prime Minister repeated his call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also emphasized the need for an agreement that will ensure Israel’s security.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/netanyahu-tells-reform-jews-that-peace-is-not-one-way-street/2013/12/15/

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