Praying with WOW is always an experience – sometimes positive and sometimes negative but always meaningful. This morning was an incredibly positive experience for me, and I think for many members of WOW, because of the presence of three very special young ladies: Alexandra, Eliza and Lucy from Moving Traditions. These three young ladies won a competition that asked them to express, in writing and on video, their support for WOW. They are all members of the youth movement “Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing!” and brought such wonderful energy with them to the Kotel. They were able, as was I, to experience WOW’s attempt to bring their Torah into the Kotel and to see Anat Hoffman and all of WOW at their best both interacting with security and with protesters within the women’s section.
While today was pretty calm, protesting seminary girls were being loud during our prayer and “shushing” us. The experience of praying with these young women reminded me of why I am at the Kotel with WOW in the first place. I am there so that I may pray freely, as is my custom. One of the adults traveling with the young ladies asked me how I feel about the Kotel now that I have been praying with WOW for months (since July) and I honestly answered that my feelings have changed. No longer do I wish to cry when I see the Kotel but l feel connected to the place though often ostracized by the people. It is hard to feel at home in a place where you are told, “you’re not a Jew” because of your choice to wear tallit, tfilin and/or kippot. Some female protesters against WOW ask me why I am not wearing tfilin, because I only started praying with tfilin a few months ago. I think that Anat Hoffman said it best to the young women today: many of these men and women are scared. They are scared because they see something that they do not quite understand, and there will be some who over the next few years will change their views because nothing WOW is doing is in violation of Torah law. For women, wearing religious garments is not the minhag (tradition) for many communities but it is permissible in Jewish law.
As I move forward, and as WOW moves forward, in 2014 we must remember that while we are physically standing at the Kotel, we have many supporters standing with us in their hearts both inside and outside of Israel.
Thank you to Moving Traditions for granting these lovely ladies the opportunity to stand with WOW physically, and for educating thousands of young ladies and young men about the importance of standing with Women of the Wall.
Simone Schicker, WOW Intern and HUC Rabbinic Student
(written on January 2, 2014 Rosh Hodesh Sh’vat)