On Wednesday night, April 22, TBA hosted Lesley Sachs, Executive Director of Women of the Wall (WOW). WOW began in 1988 (I prayed with the group that year as a first year rabbinical student) when a group of women gathered to pray at the Kotel out loud to welcome the new month (Rosh Hodesh). Their voices and their presence were not welcome and thus began a long journey towards religious freedom and equality. This was an exciting week to hear Lesley speak because on Monday morning to welcome Rosh Hodesh Iyar, men who support WOW handed them a Torah from the men’s side of the Kotel to the women’s side. This was a historic day for WOW to read from a full-size Torah! They managed to bring in a tiny Torah (on loan) in October, 2013 and celebrated the first B’not Mitzvah at the Kotel then.
Lesley explained some of the ups and downs of the past years. There were times when she was arrested (over 20 times!) for the “crime” of wearing a tallis. She emphasized that thanks to great support from North American Jewry, the arrests have stopped. Former Israel Ambassador/current Member of K’nesset Michael Oren spoke with PM Netanyahu a couple of years ago and stressed that the negative publicity of the right-wing intolerance to Women of the Wall was causing a strain on relations between North American Jews and Israel.
We as liberal Jews value our rights to pray freely as Jews. There is no reason for the Kotel to be treated as an ultra-orthodox synagogue. Yet, the women’s section is only 20% of the space of the wall. The men’s side of the Kotel has 100 Torah scrolls. The women’s side has none. There are talks of making Robinson’s arch a full-fledged third location for egalitarian groups and women’s groups to pray.
Anyone who thinks about holy sites in Israel thinks of the Kotel. Whether that is the place where you find most meaning in Israel, adding a note to the Wall, or not, it’s important that all Jews have equal access. To follow WOW, go onto their Facebook page and check out their website. If you’re in Israel on a Rosh Hodesh, join them to welcome the new month at the Kotel at 7:00 AM. Take action now to support liberal Judaism in Israel and vote in the WZO election (deadline is April 30). It takes about 5 minutes and a few dollars to spend online with everyone age 18 and up eligible to vote. See Rabbi Kulwin’s message about it.