Sisterhood Blog

For Women of the Wall, a New Coalition of Allies

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

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The embattled Women of the Wall prayer group has a new coalition of allies, in the form of a group called Rabbis for Women of the Wall.

Women of the Wall is a group of Israeli and other Jewish women (many originally from North America) who have long fought for the right to pray as a group at the beginning of each Jewish month at Judaism’s holiest site, the Kotel, or Western Wall of the Jerusalem area where the ancient Temple once stood.

WoW has faced invective and at times physical violence from some of the Haredi men and women who worship at the Kotel. Since last November, members and the group’s leader have also been arrested while carrying a Sefer Torah.

The new group, co-chaired by Rabbi Menachem Creditor, — a Conservative rabbi who leads Congregation Netivot Shalom, — has formed in response to those incidents and the growing perception in Israel that the only Judaism is the ultra-Orthodox version, he told The Sisterhood.

The group’s statement says:

We, the undersigned Modern Orthodox, Masorti/Conservative, Progressive/Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal rabbis, declare ourselves to be Rabbis for Women of the Wall. Organizations listed below have endorsed this statement and declare themselves to be Organizations for Women of the Wall.

We stand in support and solidarity with Women of the Wall, an international confluence of Jewish women from around the world who strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear tallitot (prayer shawls), and to pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at HaKotel HaMaaravi (the Western Wall) in Jerusalem. We affirm our solidarity with Women of the Wall as part of our deep commitment to, and love for, the State of Israel and its inhabitants.”

It was sent to Israeli government leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the speaker of the Knesset, the leader of the opposition, the head of the Jewish Agency, both the mayor and chief of police of Jerusalem, and the Orthodox rabbi who is officially in charge of conduct at the Kotel.

“There’s a very muscular claiming of authenticity by the Haredi version of Judaism, which is to everyone’s detriment including, ultimately, the Haredim’s,” Creditor said. “We’re doing this now because, frankly, the relationship between Israel and global Jewry is part of what is being lost” as part of the Haredi effort.

Rabbis for Women of the Wall’s statement was sent to the officials on Wednesday. At the time of this post, the organization has yet to receive any responses.


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