Women of the Wall respond

Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz

My post entitled “Arrested for Wearing a Tallit” evoked quite a passionate reaction.  In response, I want to point out that “Women of the Wall” is a non denominational organization, looking to provide women with the right to pray at the kotel.  Advocating for this right does not make me Reform.   I believe that one of Morethodoxy’s principals is inclusivity— engaging all kinds of Jews—those with special needs, disabled, divorced, widowed, Shabbat observant, and those who are still on a journey. Women’s participation, within the framework of halakha, is central to the principal of inclusivity.  I understand that the circumstances surrounding Nofrat Frenkel’s arrest in complicated.  However, that does not change the fact that women should have the right to daven peacefully at the holiest site in the world. Their presence does not exclude men from praying. There is a mechitza separating men and women. No one is advocating for its removal.  So, in the spirit of inclusisvity, why can’t men and women find a way to pray harmoniously side by side?

I have included a letter calling on women to gather together in each of our communities on Thursday December 17th in solidarity with WOW.

Dear Friends,

The arrest of Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a tallit at the kotel on Rosh Hodesh Kislev compels us to raise our voices and engage our communities in joint action.  We invite you to join in a community-wide Day of Solidarity and Support for Women of the Wall (WOW), to take place on Rosh Hodesh Tevet, Thursday December 17th, the sixth day of Chanukah.  With this national grassroots initiative, we will express our support for the rights of the Women of the Wall to assemble at the Kotel and to pray there with dignity, in safety and in shared community.
As with many other women’s grass roots efforts, each community, organization and institution shall develop its own program of prayer or study and shall reach out as widely as possible to its constituencies. For some groups, this day of solidarity and support will be in the manner of WOW, including tefillah and the reading of the Torah. For others, the
program may be a “lunch and learn” text study session; or a women’s Chanukah observance.  For yet others, it might be a gathering of three or more friends in a living room or office who will dedicate their joint prayer and/or study to the Women of the Wall.  Some communities may want to add to their programs a screening of Yael Katzir’s film, Praying in Her Own Voice.
We ask that you convene a program that shows your support for this initiative.  Please share your plans and document your activities by sending an email to jackie.ellenson@gmail.com. We also ask that you send a photo of your gathering to Judith Sherman Asher, judithrafaela@mac.com.  Please caption the photo with the names of the participants, the date, location of, and information about your program.  Feel free to add a short message of support for Women of  the Wall.  This will greatly strengthen the morale of our sisters is Israel.

We hope you will join in a groundswell of support of American women for the Women of the Wall.  We encourage you to send this letter to any other women’s groups who might want to participate.   As Rosh Hodesh Tevet takes place during the week of Chanukah, the holiday of religious freedom, what better time to affirm the right of women to raise their voices in prayer at the Wall!

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson
Director, Women’s Rabbinic Network

Rivka Haut
Women’s Tefillah Network

4 Responses to Women of the Wall respond

  1. Lisa says:

    Pushing to create “facts on the ground” as Ms. Frenkel was attempting to do has been the strategy of the Women at the Wall since they started.


    Please read the above and ask yourself whether you’re really working for a respectful solution or just demanding that you get your way at the expense of others.

  2. Akiva says:

    Honestly I wouldn’t have a problem with “WOW” if not for the reality that most of their activities are blatant provocation.

  3. Gedalia Walls says:

    I challenge the author with one very serious flaw in this argument: if the WOW women had their rights violated, then what would stop some Messianic or fringe “Jewish” group to arrive and practice their own “traditional” forms of worship? Calling the WOW group “halachik” does not prevent some other group from taking sides with the French rabbis in the Ramban’s letter who (can we imagine)take issue with Rambam about whether HaShem can take on corporeal forms? Where does this slippery slope of “halakhic material” end? When we run out of variant source material to quote?

  4. Yossi says:

    “I understand that the circumstances surrounding Nofrat Frenkel’s arrest in complicated. However, that does not change the fact that women should have the right to daven peacefully at the holiest site in the world”.

    Complicated is an understatement- She’s in it for the attention, and by feeding you are becoming part of the problem.

    You imply that they do not have that right to pray, which is simply dishonest. They may do so easily, as long as they obey the mores of the place, in the same way that all men are asked to wear a kipa.

    Would you assert the right to have an Anabaptist service at St. Peters? Why empower those who are seeking only attention? If they want to really pray, they have many options: They can do so quietly there, they have the right to daven with talis and tfilin at the other part of the kotel, and they have many synagogues that allow this. Their attempt here could have no other motive than to hijack media attention. If their actual intent was Jewish spirituality, cauing Chilul Hashem would play a role in the deciusion to make an issue of this.

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