kotel plaza 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Only 40 people were present at the recent bar mitzva of Zach Emanuel and his
cousin, Noah Emanuel, late last month in Jerusalem. If it had not been a modest
and intimate event and if the family had not requested privacy, newspaper
readers and television viewers would have been exposed to one of the most moving
bar mitzva ceremonies they had ever seen.
The site chosen for the event,
known by many as the Masorti Kotel, was the archeological park adjacent to the
more familiar Western Wall. This is the southern continuation of the Wall, next
to which is a Herodian street that used to serve Jewish pilgrims. It is a narrow
street in which time froze in 70 CE.
The remains of the shop entrances,
which once adorned the noisy street, now stand silent. A pile of
from the Wall – pushed from above in the commotion before the
still lies in a heap. And silence. You look at the stones and sense the
spiritual strength of this city. If you try hard, you can hear the
shouting of the pilgrims coming from among the stones. There is no other
like it in Jerusalem.
The ceremony was officiated over by two people:
Rabbi Jack Moline, of the Conservative Congregation Agudas Achim in
the synagogue of the Rahm Emanuel family, and Rabbi Kenneth Chasen, of
Reform Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where the family of Rahm’s
is a member. The two cousins were well prepared for their bnai mitzva.
Torah reading was impeccable. Each also prepared a dvar Torah
. In his, Zach
spoke about his Jewish identity. His parents cried.
It is not routine for
a person with a post as important as that of Rahm Emanuel to take a
vacation for a private trip. But it seems he felt that he owed it to his
children and that he owed it to himself. Apart from three short,
meetings, he toured the country in shorts, from north to south. And the
was in Jerusalem.
The family stood together, prayed together. There was
the sexes] . Some women donned a tallit. There
was an abundance of Judaism, an abundance of Zionism and an abundance of
IT IS sad that one cannot pray in the same way at the main Western
Wall Plaza. For a decade now, the Masorti Movement has been facilitating
at the Masorti Kotel.
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This is a forced arrangement. The majority of the
world’s Jews pray without a mehitza, but when they come to Jerusalem, to
most symbolic site for Jewish prayer, they are forbidden from praying
The Kotel, whose holiness has enthused Jews from all over the world, has
transformed into a haredi synagogue.
The Masorti Movement has never
relinquished its right to pray at the Kotel, but has agreed, in
with great pain, to hold its prayers at the archeological park.
year, more than 20,000 men and women, from Israel and all over the
at the site. But the State of Israel has never fulfilled its obligation
suitable arrangements at the site. Prayer services are only possible a
a day, and the Masorti Movement, not the Ministry of Religious Services
the Kotel, incurs all of the expenses and provides the sifrei Torah,
books, reading tables and attendants, because it seems only the Orthodox
respected position in the Jewish state.The writer is executive director
and CEO of the Masorti Movement in Israel.
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