A letter to my sister, ‘on the fence’
The rabbi and others want you, as a non-ultra-Orthodox woman, to go pray at Robinson’s Arch, and not at the Kotel, where Am Yisrael has prayed for thousands of years.
Women of the Wall member raises Torah Photo: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post
On Rosh Chodesh Kislev, November 15, 2012, Women of the Wall and
supporters will gather at the Kotel at 7 a.m. for Tfilat Shacharit, the morning
prayer service. Will you join us? If you pray with Women of the Wall, as a
Jewish woman on the women’s side of the Kotel partition, you will see a group of
women, a sisterhood, that believes in performing mitzvot, who pray every day,
some of them with tallit and tefillin and all of them with great kavannah
(purpose). They are women of different religious streams who wish to get their
kids off to school, pray in peace at the Kotel and then get to work on time. The
largest distraction at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh morning are the screaming,
criticizing, cursing haredi (ultra-Orthodox) onlookers and the police who probe
us with cameras, invasively filming close to our faces and detaining our
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the overseer of holy sites, would tell
you that you are provoking “the baseless hatred [sinat hinam]... that destroyed
Jerusalem.” But all the “baseless hatred” that Rabinowitz speaks of is created
by his own community, the haredi men and women who spit at us, and pepper us
with gender-biased and hateful slurs. This cruel “baseless hatred” is aimed at
the Women of the Wall as they modestly sing in prayer.
The rabbi’s voice
and leadership would be better spent encouraging the haredim who pray at the
Kotel to practice tolerance at the holy site.
Yes, we want to be seen and
Praying the way we do is not an activity that has to be done
covertly. We are proud of our practice and wish it to be one of the many
practices welcome at the Wall. We want girls to see us and ask themselves, “why
not? Why not take up the role in religious life that we encourage of their
brothers? Rabbi Rabinowitz would have you believe that our insistence on being
seen and heard in public is not kosher.
His book, Hilchot Hakotel,
(2009), has 531 pages with hundreds of photographs of people praying at the Wall
– but not one is recognizably a woman.
The rabbi and others want you, as
a non-ultra-Orthodox woman, to go pray at Robinson’s Arch, and not at the Kotel,
where Am Yisrael has prayed for thousands of years. If you join us, you will see
that despite the difficult circumstances, we pray as best as we can at the
Western Wall, where our mothers and grandmothers prayed, and we will not be
segregated or intimidated.
I hope you will be with Women of the Wall at
the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, and if you can’t make it, I hope you will join
us on Facebook.
The writer is the chairwoman of Women of the Wall.