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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Women of the Wall’

Kotel Rabbi Gives Up and Tells Haredi Girls: Ignore Women’s Minyan

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz has requested that Haredi girls not fill the women’s section of the Kotel plaza the next time the Women of the Wall arrive to pray, perhaps on Friday.

“When Jews fight with each other at the Western Wall, there is no greater desecration of God’s name,” a statement from his office read.

A fragile compromise on multidenominational prayer has been taking shape through a committee convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and headed by Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

“Therefore we should await the decision of the committee, so that we can create order that will return calm and brotherhood to the Western Wall,” according to the rabbi’s statement.

The WoW may arrive to the area on Friday, the first of the two days marking the new Hebrew month of Cheshvan, although they have been granted their own prayer area at Robinson’s Arch, at the southern end of the Western Wall but less popular among tourists and visitors than the section at the plaza.

WoW spokeswoman Shira Pruce told The Jewish Press Wednesday that the agreement to allow women to reads the Torch and pray at a minyan at a more remote area is a solution that smacks of “separate and unequal.” She said that the women are adopting a “wait and see” policy on whether to accept the compromise since the government has not yet built the promised facilities for the women.

Regardless of where they pray on Friday, they will be without a Torah scroll, which is read during the morning prayers on the new month, because their scroll has been damaged by mold. The Jewish Press reported here on Wednesday that the Women of the Wall blame the government for the damage because there are inadequate storage facilities at Robinson’s Arch.

Haredi girls have swarmed the women’s section of the Western Wall Plaza in recent months to make it almost impossible for the smaller WoW group to organize, let alone sing out loud.

Following raucous protests from the men’s section, whistles, catcalls and even chair-throwing, Rabbi Rabinowitz has concluded, although very belatedly, that a “provocation” could upset the “sensitive security situation at the Temple Mount, which is now at its zenith.”

The JTA contributed to this report.

Women of the Wall Blame Gov’t for Their Damaged Torah Scroll

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

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?

WoW Miss their Chance for Equality at Kotel Priestly Blessing

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Tens of thousands of Jews prayed at the Western Wall Sunday, the fourth day of Sukkot, and received the traditional priestly blessing of dozens of Kohenim, but no Women of the Wall tried to join.

Kohenim are of the priestly tribe traced to the Biblical High Priest Aaron.

The Women of the Wall have campaigned vigorously the past year to pressure for the same religious standing of men to read from a Torah scroll and wear tefillin at the Western Wall. They have succeeded in winning the right to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Western Wall, known as Robinson’s Arch and not adjacent to the more widely-known section of the Wall.

So why didn’t they try to prove again that “equal” mean the “same” and presume they are Kohenim. Don’t Reform Jews deserve their blessing?

The Reform movement generally maintains a policy of “equality” and rejects the distinctions between Kohenim and other Israeli tribes, but some Reform and Conservative prayer groups allow the daughter of a Kohen to perform the Priestly Blessing.

The same prayer groups also call a daughter of a Kohen to the reading of the Torah, in place of the traditional recognition of a Kohen for the Torah portion that is chanted in Israel on the Sabbath, holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month and on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Kohenim were active in sacrifices in the Holy Temples, and Reform and Conservative thought concludes that since the Temples have been destroyed and there are no sacrifices today, the designation of a Kohen is either out of date or is not restricted to men. The Conservative movement is split with two opposing opinions on whether a daughter of a Kohen can perform the Priestly Blessing.

Most Reform and Conservative congregations omit the Priestly Blessing, which in Orthodox congregations in the Diaspora are performed only on the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. The blessing is recited toward the end of the additional Musaf prayers. Reform Jews usually don’t bother themselves with praying too much, and they delete Musaf.

Reform Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser posted on a website “More liberal communities, those that insist on thorough gender equality, do not observe the distinction of Kohanim and Levi’im at all.”

Reform Jews, with their 11th Commandment of equality, declare that all Jews are equal in their functions as Jews. All of us are the same. Everyone is a priest, everyone can wear tefillin, everyone can read from the Torah, and everyone can do pretty much as he or she pleases.

That begs one question: If all are equal, if Jewish law rejects the Torah as the living law of today, and if every Jew can understand the Torah as he wants, why is there such a thing as a Reform “rabbi”?

So much for equality.

Jordan Calls ‘Women of the Wall’ Prayer Site an ‘Attack on Islam’

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Jordan has condemned the plan for a new area at the Western Wall to accommodate the Women of the Wall organization’s demand for an area for them to pray in an “egalitarian” minyan in which they can wear tefillin and read from a Torah scroll. Orthodox Judaism considers women as “equal but not the same” as men, who have an obligation to wear tefillin and pray in a minyan.

Their campaign offended Haredim and many Orthodox Jews, but with broad support from the Diaspora and media outlets that love issues of quality and women’s rights without knowing what they are talking about, The Women of the Wall succeeded.

Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, appointed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to come up with a solution for the women without causing a religious war at the Western Wall, came up with a compromise for the women to pray as they wish at the southern section of the Wall, known as the Kotel.

The WoW were not happy with the compromise, but that is another story.

More urgent, Jordan also is not happy.

The women forgot that although the Western Wall is the city of Jerusalem, totally under Israeli sovereignty, Jordan thinks differently, despite the peace treaty with Israel.

It states that Israel “respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem…. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”

Israel has recognized Jordan as the “custodian” of the Al Aqsa mosque built over the ruins of the Holy Temples.

However, Israel did not take into consideration that Yasser Arafat would start a terrorist war to declare the Jewish Quarter of the Old City the capital of a new Arab state. Nor did it take into account that his successor Mahmoud Abbas is as much too clever politician.

Earlier this year, while Israel assumed that the PA was slowing crumbling into non-existence economically and politically, Abbas’ adviser Adnan Husseini declared that the Western Wall “is part of Islamic heritage that cannot be given up, and it must be under Muslim control.”

This past March 31, Abbas and King Abdullah reached an agreement that “His Majesty King ‘Abdullah II, as the custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites, will exert all possible efforts to preserve [these] sites, especially Al-Haram Al-Sharif [The Al-Aqsa Mosque]… and to represent their interests.” The agreement states further that King ‘Abdullah is responsible for ensuring respect for the holy places, guaranteeing the Muslims’ freedom of movement to and from the sites, ensuring their maintenance and representing their interests in the international arena.”

The catch is what is a “Muslim site?”

The Arab world has spent the past few years to translate history into fiction and declare that the Western Wall is a Muslim  site. So who are these uppity Jewish women, Orthodox, Reform or otherwise, to have the chutzpa to make a change at a supposed Muslim site without consulting with the “Custodian”?

Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs, Mohammad Momani condemned Israel’s “construction of a stage in the southern part of the Buraq Square which is adjacent to Al Aqsa-Mosque’s wall,” the Petra News Agency reported Monday.

Note that the Western Wall is now “Al Aqsa Mosque’s Wall,” the one where holy Arabs claim the  holy Mohammed tied his holy horse.

“Momani, who is also government spokesman, said the move is a blatant attack on the Muslim monuments and Waqf land which is an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, demanding Israeli occupation authorities to remove the stage and the damage it caused as soon as possible,” the news agency reported.

Furthermore, “The minister stressed Jordan’s stance in exerting political, diplomatic and legal efforts to protect and care for Muslim and Christian sanctities [sic] in Jerusalem.

“Momani warned of Jewish settlers and extremists’ continued call to storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the pretext of Jewish holidays, expressing regret over Israel’s disregard of international conventions and resolutions.”

Are the Women of the Wall listening?

Jordan’s policy is “to protect and care for Muslim and Christian ‘sanctities’ in Jerusalem.”

There is one word missing: Jewish.

The Women of the Wall never even dreamed about praying at the Kotel during the Jordanian Occupation, when Jews and Christians were prohibited from visiting holy places. Jordan has made lots of progress since then.

Now it is willing to open up holy places for Christians, and the Jews can wait for the next peace treaty.

As for the Jews “storming” the Temple Mount, that is the de rigeur term now used by the Arab press when police and Muslim escort Jews to make sure they do not commit the crime of taking a prayer book with them while ascending the Temple Mount.

The Women of the Wall have not spoken out about the discrimination against Jews trying to pray on the Temple Mount.

They have said they are focused on their own self-acclaimed rights.

The Women of the Wall, most of them Americans, do not understand with whom they are dealing. Haredim are not their enemies. Judaism is not their enemy.

Their enemies are those who demand that Jews stop being Jews.

Once they understand that, perhaps King Abdullah and Abbas will understand that while can get what they want if they deal with the Israeli government, they should never test the wrath of women.

Maybe Israel should consider sending the Women of the Wall to negotiate with Abbas.

Doing Battle with WoW

Friday, August 30th, 2013

I am truly saddened that this issue has blown up to such an extent. It appears that the fight between the Women of the Wall and their opponents has escalated.

It began as a few women who found the male modality of wearing a Talis and Teffilin the most meaningful form of prayer for themselves. They showed up at the Kotel one day on a Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is the first day of every month on the lunar calendar. That day requires special prayers and a Torah reading. Their goal was to pray there once a month in their own way – peculiar and upsetting though it may be to traditionalists.

That spawned protests… which spawned arrests of some of these women who at the time technically violated the law (since overturned by the court)… which spawned increased numbers of women joining WoW on their monthly prayer service there. That spawned a call by rabbinic leaders for Charedi women – mostly from women’s seminaries – to show up by the hundreds if not thousands, flood the Kotel Plaza, and pray there quietly.

Their overflowing numbers beat WoW to the punch there and left them no space to pray. That event also brought out the worst in some of the male Charedi protestors who acted like a bunch of wild animals – yelling, screaming, and throwing things at these women. That spawned more determination than ever for WoW to achieve their goals of equal rights to the Kotel. From the Forward:

Jewish Voices Together, founded and headed by Iris Richman, a Conservative rabbi and attorney, has organized rallies in support of Women of the Wall at various locations around the U.S. The organization comprises female rabbis of all denominations.

The title of its latest campaign is “100 blasts of the shofar/100 rabbinic voices for justice! Speak out for religious tolerance in Israel and Women of the Wall” – and its goal is to get 100 rabbis in the U.S. to devote their sermons over the upcoming Jewish holidays to women’s prayer rights in Israel. According to Richman, the effort has already surpassed that milestone, with 127 rabbis, as of this writing, agreeing to participate. Among the participants are 64 Conservative rabbis, 38 Reform and two Orthodox.

As I have said many times, I am not a fan of WoW. Although I know that many of its members are sincere in their desire to pray in this unusual way; and simply want to be left alone to do so, I cannot say the same thing for WoW’s leadership. They have consistently been quoted as having the real goal of religious tolerance, pluralism, and mostly feminism. WoW is simply a clever means so get this done. They have found a way to technically not violate Halacha and thereby recruit the left wing segments of Orthodoxy to support them. And as this new development shows, they are gaining traction.

That feminism is at the core of this issue is not mere speculation. For these leaders this is a feminist issue. The New Republic has a lengthy article pointing to WoW as the “highest example of the renewed fighting feminist spirit in Israel”. They describe this as a new alliance between left wing Orthodox feminist groups like Kolech and the Reform movement’s IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center).

(I should add that such coalitions were bred by some of the more disgusting attacks by extremist Charedim against non Charedim. Attacks that seem to be coming with more frequency these days. Reading about the multiple attacks against Nili Philipp, a Dati Leumi religious woman living in Bet Shemesh, made my blood boil. And this happened a year after 8 year old Naama Margolese was attacked by the same kind of people! This is a far bigger problem in my view that has yet to be properly addressed – but it is beyond the scope of this post.)

The more public opposition WoW gets from the right, the more support it will gain from the left. Left Wing Orthodox organizations like Yeshivat Chovevei Torah whose founder and leaders have rejected the ruling by Rav Soloveitchik about joining heterodox movements on religious issues and now enthusiastically joins them – have added Orthodox legitimacy to WoW’s ranks. So a Rabbi on the far left of Orthodoxy will feel very comfortable joining WoW in their quest for equal rights at the Kotel.

Sharansky to Reveal Full Western Wall Plan in Two Weeks

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky will release his full plan for a compromise among religious groups at the Western Wall in two weeks, Haaretz   reported.

Under Sharansky’s plan, first reported in April, an existing egalitarian section of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch would be expanded and a unified entrance would be built leading to the wall’s traditional and egalitarian sections. Robinson’s Arch would be open at all times, as opposed to now, when it is open for a few hours per day.

The expanded section for egalitarian prayer would be run by a joint commission of the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency and representatives of world Jewry. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which runs the current Western Wall Plaza, would continue to run the traditional section.

Women of the Wall ‘Corralled’ by Police, Drowned Out by Megaphones

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Women of the Wall blew a shofar at the back of the Western Wall Plaza and raised a Torah scroll at the plaza’s gate as they completed their service under a heavy police barricade.

Police wouldn’t let them bring a Torah scroll into the service, but before entering the plaza, the group sang as one woman held a scroll at the plaza’s gate.

One small step for woman holding scroll. No discernable big step for anybody.

Police acted on the side of caution, because, as they had done a month ago, thousands of seminary girls packed the plaza by the Wall and prayed quietly during Wednesday morning’s service.

None of the young women blew a shofar or pass the Torah around, but they did say Hallel, and Mussaf, quietly.

So police decided to barricade the 300 or so Women of the Wall and their male supporters at the back of the plaza, far away from the Wall, behind a heavy police barricade, a 15-foot buffer zone and two lines of police, according to the JTA report.

A WOW statement complained that they were “corralled into a small pen in the Western Wall Plaza, 150 meters from the Kotel. This, despite requests of Women of the Wall and MK Aliza Lavie, chair of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women (Lavie in a letter to Minister of Internal Security Aharonowitz), to allow women to pray freely, according to their tradition at the holy site.”

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Photo credit: Miriam Alster

Meanwhile, over at the men’s section, Haredim blew whistles and chanted insults. One Haredi guy chanted psalms into a megaphone, disrupting the WOW service.

The WOW statement accused Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, appointed administrator of the Western Wall and holy places, of leading prayers and addressing worshipers over this loudspeaker while the WOW attempted to pray together.

“The sound system is for public use,” they wrote, “and yet never in 25 years has it been used on Rosh Chodesh, until last month. Rabinowitz chose to use his status to take a biased and discriminatory stance: to drown out women’s prayer in favor of his own.”

In other words, a kind of Mutually Assured Disturbance was observed by both sides.

Women of the Wall chair Anat Hoffman said, “We will not forget that the Torah is exiled from the Western Wall, due to the discriminatory misuse of power by Rabbi Rabinowitz. Israel is the only democracy in the world that by law prohibits women from reading Torah. Unfortunately, the only people who felt at home today at the Kotel were the ultra-Orthodox worshippers and the police and Rabinowitz collaborated towards this end.”

Except, whenever this reporter asks the WOW to comment on the similarities between their case and the exile of Jews from setting foot freely, much less praying, on the Temple Mount, they clam up and declare those are totally different things. Freedom is freedom is freedom, unless you are a religious hypocrite, with whom this country has been richly blessed.

JTA noted that over the two Rosh Chodesh days, last month and today, a new status quo has developed at the Wall during the Women of the Wall attempted service: Orthodox girls arrive en masse and pray quietly next to the Wall, Police place Women of the Wall under a heavy barricade, and protesters try to interrupt them.

Two months ago, the protesters were “raucous and violent,” meaning they threw chairs at the WOW, this time things were relatively civil. And by the time WOW leader Hoffman blew the shofar, most of the protesters had already dispersed.

“More than ten women blew shofar together at the Kotel, as is traditional in the Jewish month of Elul preceding the high holy days,” reads the WOW statement. “The sounding of the ram’s horn symbolizes Women of the Wall’s perseverance and determination to see justice for women at the Western Wall, in Israel and around the World.”

Not so much justice as a little bit of civility. You don’t want to be drowned out by megaphones, please don’t do stuff that upsets folks who have been davening here since 1967. It appears the WOW are learning a hard lesson of what happens when you really awaken a Haredi lion from his/her slumber. It’s been known to bite.

Let’s hope nobody forgot to say Ya’aleh V’yavo – which you can always say later, during benching.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/women-of-the-wall-corralled-by-police-drowned-out-by-megaphones/2013/08/07/

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