It has been two years since the Sobel decision that ruled that women praying out-loud in groups with tallit, tefillin and reading from a Sefer Torah are not against the laws regarding holy places. Despite the fact that the Judge recognized that the minhag of the Kotel is not exclusively ultra-Orthodox, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz who administers the holy places has steadfastly refuses to abide by the ruling.



Over the past two years, we have not been allowed by the security guards who work for Rabinowitz, to bring our Sefer Torah into the plaza. There is a selectively enforced regulation on the books that no Torahs can come into the plaza because of “security”, “theft”, “custom of the Kotel” or whatever rationale fits any given day.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Rabinowitz officially says that there are over 100 Torahs at the Kotel for public use, enough for everyone, but, the public as far as Rabinowitz is concerned includes only males. Women of the Wall wrote to him and requested the use of a Sefer Torah and we were told it is a men’s only club, that the Torahs at the Kotel were donated for men’s use only. We offered to donate our Women of the Wall Sefer Torah to be used by women in the women’s section and we were told that the Torah would be accepted but it would never be given to women to use.



Rabinowitz’s purpose is clear – he can prevent women from reading Torah at the Kotel despite court ruling with his regulation against bringing our own Sefer Torah into the plaza and his refusal to let us access and pray with the scrolls for public use.

But we insist on our right to read from a Torah.

This past year we were able to bring a tiny Torah – that was loaned to Women of the Wall – into the Kotel. We rejoiced in being able to fulfill the mitzvah of reading from a Sefer Torah on Rosh Hodesh. We danced and rejoiced with the tiny Torah as if we were back at Sinai and receiving the gift of Torah for the first time. After all, we women were there too. Sinai was not a men’s only club.

This week, on Rosh Hodesh Iyar, a Sefer Torah was passed from the men’s section cradled safely in the arms of one Jew into the arms of another through the mehitzah gate. Finally, the Torah was in our hands.  And contrary to rumors, the Torah was handled with the upmost respect and kavod. I was honored to be able to hold the Torah. With tears of joy running down my face, I danced. 

Everything that my sisters and I went through, the arrests, the court case, the riots, and the violent threats against the Wow board that followed the Sobel ruling were worth being able to hold the Torah at the Kotel.

We jubilantly processed the Torah and began to read. Suddenly, there was a commotion from the men’s side when a group of Kotel employees forcibly pushed their way through the men’s minyan praying near the mehitzah and injuring Charlie Kalech who was praying in the minyan.  In an exclusive interview with the Jerusalem Post, Kalech said: “They forcibly walked past us and told us to move. I told them if they want to get through, call the police. Why should we move for you? Who are you?”

 

Alden Solovy, another man praying in the minyan, was attacked and injured by an infuriated Haredi man who decided to force his way through the minyan into the women’s section to retrieve the Torah. He ran at us yelling, “The Torah belongs to me.” Other men also ran into the Women’s section forcing us to protect the Torah with our bodies and we were fortunate that the police managed to force the men back away from us. We were not aware at the time that Rabinowitz demanded that the police take the Torah away from us but that they refused. The police stayed to protect us for the rest of the service.


After the Torah service was over, WoW’s Board Chairwoman Anat Hoffman, brought the Torah back to the gate and handed it back to the men.  The Torah was never mistreated, no laws of Halacha were broken or even stretched.

The aftermath of Monday’s service is that when Kalech, Solovy, and two WoW witnesses went to the police station to press charges against the men who assaulted them, Kalech was detained and refused medical treatment for his head injury.

Kalech was eventually allowed to get medical treatment provided he returned to the police station. He was told he was arrested for causing public disorder at the Kotel. The same charge that was leveled against me for praying while female in a tallit that was struck down by Judge Sobel.

The Sobel ruling must be enforced. There is no reason why our Sefer Torah that is stored at the Davidson Center cannot be carried into the Kotel plaza and used in the Women’s section, or why women – as a part of the public - would not be able to access one of the many Torah scrolls for public use. Rabinowitz must not be allowed to ignore the laws of the land. He should not be allowed to incite violence at the Kotel and then blame the victims.

Rabinowitz proclaimed that everyone present on Monday when the Torah was read in the women’s section must fast because of the dishonor he claims was done to the Torah. Maybe the entire country should fast for the dishonor of allowing tyranny to reign at Judaism’s holiest site.

 

 


Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share