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.

November 12, 2012 22:43
2 minute read.
Women of the Wall member raises Torah

Woman raises Torah scroll 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem /The Jerusalem Post)


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Dearest Sister,
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 sisters.

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 heard.

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.

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