Law enforcement officials escort Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (file photo).
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Women of the Wall prayer rights group set up a tefillin-laying booth on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem on Sunday, with several dozen women putting on the ritual prayer articles throughout the morning, generating interest as well as some argument.
The “World Wide Wrap,” as it has been dubbed, is the brainchild of the US Conservative movement’s Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs initiative to get more Jewish youth to start putting on tefillin.
Women of the Wall director Lesley Sachs said that the organization’s adoption of the initiative was part of part of its goal to encourage women to take up Jewish customs and practices which are allowed by Jewish law, even if not traditionally practiced by women.
“It’s always very exciting because a lot of women who have never even thought about putting on tefillin came and did so today,” she said. “It’s very uplifting to see more and more women coming up to lay tefillin, as well as men vocally giving us their support.”
Sachs noted that WOW requested permission to run the booth in September 2018 from the Jerusalem municipality, and was initially refused.
After involving lawyers, the group eventually secured a permit to run the booth.
Sachs said that there had been some opposition from some passersby who objected to the stall and to women laying tefillin in public.
She rejected claims that the event was “a provocation,” saying such accusations were leveled at the suffragette movement in the early 20th century, and was merely a tool to delegitimize an effort to advance change.
“There’s also an important aspect here of claiming the public domain, saying we can have a booth wherever we want, just like the Chabad movement has, and that there’s room for everyone,” Sachs added.
Women of the Wall was formed in 1988 and is chaired by Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and a former Jerusalem City Council member from the Meretz party.