Op-Ed: We Need Your Prayers this Rosh Chodesh!
Ronit Peskin, Women for the WallThe writer is co-founder and volunteer director of Women For the Wall (W4W), a grassroots movement founded in 2013, dedicated to preserving thousands of years of Jewish tradition at the Western Wall and giving a voice to the majority of women who pray there. She blogs at pennilessparenting.com.
Why is this important? What is it that we hope to accomplish?
And once the Wall was liberated from Jordan in 1967, Israeli Jews immediately requested a place for traditional prayer at the Holy site.
For 25 years, Women of the Wall have said they just want to pray in the women's section, in their own fashion. But just recently Anat Hoffman told supporters on a conference call that they ought to move, because WOW is not the right group to “change the Orthodox world.” She was referring to the “change” outlined by leaders of their American faction, two of whom described in Times of Israel how WOW hopes to instigate “a revolution” in our lives, since women (like ourselves?) aren't “able to function independently” without their help.
In addition to these words, the actions of WOW at the Kotel are confrontational. Let us remember what happened on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month of Mar Cheshvan. Thousands of women came to pray for the health of the now-departed former Rishon L'Tzion, Moreinu HaRav Ovadiah Yosefzt”l, and 50 Women of the Wall waded into the middle of them, set up a prayer leader, chazzanit, on a chair with a microphone, and disturbed everyone else's prayer.
These are not the actions of a group merely trying to pray or gain acceptance. Their message is: they don't want a space, they want to change our space, and ultimately change all of us.
The result is simple: the vast majority of women impacted by Women of the Wall feel their rights are not being fought for, but trampled upon.
In addition to the offense to so many Jewish women, we must consider the impact of their activities as they spread the notion that women can't pray freely in the Jewish state. Ms. Hoffman tours the US, telling Jewish audiences that Israel oppresses women and non-Orthodox Jews. According to the Pew Survey, Israel is one of few things that sparks interest and Jewish identity among young Jewish Americans. Should we be making them feel unwelcome here, when it's simply not true?
The bottom line is this:
1. After 25 years, WOW is unable to bring 75 Israeli women to the Kotel.
2. The American students of HUC are trying to change the way that we pray in the Jewish State.
We support everyone's right to pray in their own fashion, including those who pray in accordance with millenia of Jewish tradition.
WOW should move to Religious Minister Naftali Bennett's new Ezrat Yisrael platform without delay, without telling the government how prayers at our traditional plaza should be run. WOW cannot dictate the terms under which they will stop trying to change us, stop insulting our intelligence, our independence, and our Judaism.