Sisterhood Blog

One-Way Mirror Mechitzah Proposed at Kotel

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Silversteinb/Wikimedia Commons
A view of Women of the Wall from the Kotel Plaza.

As if things weren’t difficult enough for women who want to pray or be in any way connected with their loved ones’ bar mitzvahs at the Western Wall, Israel’s outgoing Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Yona Metzger, has proposed a mechitzah with one-way glass.

The current mechitzah at the Kotel is, I would guess, between eight and nine feet tall. A new mechitzah would presumably reach far higher. The current height makes it possible, if you are there to celebrate a bar mitzvah, to stand on one of the chairs on the women’s side and look over the top (it helps to be tall) and in this imperfect way be connected, however slightly, to the simcha. Which is exactly the problem, Rabbi Metzger says.

According to a report in the Yeshiva World News, “this he explains does compromise tznius at the Kosel. This is especially true when there is a simcha, such as a bar mitzvah when women wish to see the chosson bar mitzvah.”

I would really like to hear some prominent Orthodox rabbi somewhere, just once, say that men should work to keep their focus on their own tefillot rather than in some way blame women for being immodest — in this case, for wanting to be connected to a loved one’s bar mitzvah.

A taller mechitzah with one-way glass might prevent these easily distracted men from glimpsing a woman’s face and (shudder) possibly even fully-clothed shoulders over the top of the mechitzah. But the dimness of this glass would also make it more difficult for women to see what is happening on the men’s side. And it would certainly more fully segregate women, boxing them into a space that may serve men’s interests but certainly does nothing to enhance women’s experiences.

I’ve been in the women’s section of the synagogue at 770 Eastern Parkway, the headquarters shul for the Lubavitch movement. Though the women’s section is a balcony high up over the men’s floor, it has one-way glass allowing women to look downstairs while preventing the men from seeing in. When the women’s section is full, as on holidays, it is positively claustrophobic. To be sure the experience is somewhat different than it would be at the Kotel, where there is no roof. But it would likely create some of the same sense of being further hemmed in.

A few summers back, I attended the bar mitzvah of a friend’s son at the Kotel. Happy as I was to celebrate this milestone with them, it was an experience I hope never to repeat. We got there early, so the rabbi paid to coordinate the event could score a table close to the mechitzah, in proximity to the boy’s mother and sister. While they began the service on the men’s side, over on the women’s side we stood on chairs and craned to look over the mechitzah, apart from but hoping to at least witness the bar mitzvah. That is, until a large swarm of French women came for their own bar mitzvah and literally pushed us off our perches.

Had there been a taller mechitzah with one-way glass, we surely would have felt even more disconnected from the bar mitzvah.

The Yeshiva World News article doesn’t say how tall a mechitzah Rabbi Metzger would like. Perhaps he thinks it ought to be as high as the Kotel itself, which at the Western Wall Plaza rises approximately 62 feet according to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, whose chairman, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, is the kotel’s chief rabbi.

He controls policy there — including the policy prohibiting women from wearing tallitot or tefillin at the Kotel even it is their regular practice, and has the religious articles confiscated at the entrance to the Kotel plaza. It was at Rabbi Rabinovitch’s behest that women have been arrested in recent months for wearing tallit and leading prayers out loud.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation’s website has a section on “Bar/Bat Mitzvah.” Tellingly, perhaps, the drop down menu includes only information relating to celebrating a bar mitzvah.

The foundation’s website also says this:

The Western Wall, to which Jews everywhere turn in prayer, belongs to us all.

Would that it were really true.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: women of the wall, sisterhood, jewish women, kotel, anat hoffman

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.