Women Of the Wall Mobilizing Israeli Women to Take a Stand!

Women Of the Wall Mobilizing Israeli Women to Take a Stand!

Talking to Lesley Sachs about Women Of the Wall is like listening to a history professor give a well-thought out lecture to her university students. Lesley speaks chronologically and authoritatively about the foundation and sustainability of “Nashot Hakotel (Women Of the Wall in Hebrew)” in Israel.

As the director and a longtime supporter of WOW, Lesley now assists the organization in its public relations, outreach and development. Lesley‘s passion and life-long work has always focused on women’s rights and religious pluralism. She worked for 10 years in the Israel Women’s Network, served as Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and Vice President of the World Union For Progressive Judaism.

“The most exciting thing that we have done recently has been the creation of a special siddur, Prayers for Rosh Hodesh. For decades, women would come to pray with us and bring a variety of their own prayer books. This meant that not everyone could follow and be on the same page. This customized siddur places us all on the same page, figuratively and literally. It has made a tremendous difference in the quality of our prayers. We encourage everyone to buy one on site.” The purchase will of course go towards supporting Women Of the Wall’s mission and also enable women across the world to pray together and in solidarity with WOW and even be on the same page.

Lesley admitted that the main supporters are outside of Israel. “We receive support from the reform and conservative movement, but our success will be defined by the new generation of Israeli women.”

To that end WOW has renewed its focus on mobilizing Israeli women from all over the country. “We are actively engaged in attracting the Israeli population of women through social media and online networking. We want to link their thinking about segregation of women at the Kotel to segregation in other areas of Israeli society. Everything we do affects the future of women’s religious freedom throughout Israel. We are only one part of the public sphere in terms of discrimination of women. Segregation of women is not only an issue at the Kotel; it is seeping into other parts of public life where women’s voices should be heard.”

Read moreWomen Of the Wall Mobilizing Israeli Women to Take a Stand!

Women dancing at the Western Wall

Ta’ali: Rosh Hodesh Av Reflections / Rabbi Tamara Miller

By: Rabbi Tamara Miller, Skilled Volunteers

Accept the prayer of your people as lovingly as it is offered. Restore worship to your sanctuary. -Rosh Chodesh Amidah

Ta’ali . . . al tif’achadi . . . zeh rak avanim. “Go up. Do not be afraid. They are only stones.” The young woman reached for my hand. I ascended the natural bimah at Robinson’s Arch.

The Women Of the Wall Rosh Chodesh Av morning prayer service began at 7:00 a.m. One-hundred women created a semi-circle in the back of the women’s section at the Western Wall. Our female voices added a sweet soprano sound to the kotel plaza.

Nevertheless, we were under special security. A young policewoman scanned and recorded the proceedings, while another policeman weaved in and out of the crowd, admonishing several young Israeli women to adjust their tallitot: One of our women was detained last month because she wore a masculine type prayer shawl in a “manly” way.

One woman, holding her prayer shawl under her arm, stood on the side.

“Would you like to put on your tallit?”

“No,“ she replied. “I don’t want to be arrested before Shabbat. I wouldn’t get home in time.”

Read moreTa’ali: Rosh Hodesh Av Reflections / Rabbi Tamara Miller

SPEAKING OUT:  Progress, Not Perfection

SPEAKING OUT: Progress, Not Perfection

By Sara Heckelman, Administrator
Congregation Beth Israel Judea, San Francisco
July/August 2012 Bulletin

As many of you know, my parents Rabbi Joe and Tzipi Heckelman z’l founded the Conservative (Masorti) synagogue in Tsfat, one of Israel’s holy cities.  They spent 26 years building and serving a community of native Israelis and immigrants. My father, a learned and respected rabbi here in the US, was never recognized by the State of Israel as a rabbi, could not perform a wedding recognized by the State, and never received a shekel of support from the government.  This has been the situation for every non-Orthodox rabbi in Israel since the creation of the State.On May 29 of this year, progress was made.  Following a seven-year court battle by Rabbi Miri Gold (a woman) of the Reform Movement, a ruling was issued by the High Court of Justice to pay the wages of non-Orthodox rabbis serving in regional councils, just as it does for Orthodox rabbis. 

Read moreSPEAKING OUT: Progress, Not Perfection

Privileged to support WOW, by Mark S. Anshan

Privileged to support WOW, by Mark S. Anshan

Rosh Hodesh Tamuz
Rosh Hodesh Tamuz

On June 21 I had the privilege of being with the Women Of the Wall as they held scharit services at the Wall for Rosh Hodesh. Each month women from all denominations come together to pray. This is an important organization that is fighting for religious freedom and equality in Israel. The rabbi in charge of the holy places and the Wall has continued to assert directives that make it difficult, if not impossible, for women to pray freely at the Wall as they choose. The latest conflicts involve the wearing of tallit and carrying the Torah.

Read morePrivileged to support WOW, by Mark S. Anshan

Reflections on Rosh Hodesh Tamuz, by cantorial student Jen Rueben

Reflections on Rosh Hodesh Tamuz, by cantorial student Jen Rueben

Rosh Hodesh Tamuz services
Rosh Hodesh Tamuz services at the Western Wall

I had the incredible privilege of praying with the Women of the Wall for their Rosh Chodesh Tamuz service this past week. What an experience to usher in my year of cantorial study in Israel!

The morning started out peacefully. We watched the sun rise over the Kotel as we prayed. I was touched that some men stood behind the divider in the back and prayed with us. A few dirty looks were sent our way and a couple of people plugged their ears as they passed to keep from hearing our singing. Despite this, for the first time, I was able to pray at the Kotel with my tallit wrapping my shoulders. I was able to add my voice to the prayers of my heart in this place that is so holy to my people.

Read moreReflections on Rosh Hodesh Tamuz, by cantorial student Jen Rueben

South African Freedom Day, WOW Supporter Charlotte Fischer

This week in South Africa we have celebrated Freedom Day, which marks 18 years since we became a democracy. In the new South Africa, our Constitution places a duty upon us to promote equality in all spheres of our lives. Gender equality is central. Nelson Mandela said, “freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”. In the last few years, we’ve seen moves the world over to restrict women’s equality in the Jewish world. In Jerusalem our sister organisation, the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), brought a case to the Supreme Court against women being segregated to the back of buses. In Modí’in this month, a woman was removed from the stage of a circus after an ultra-Orthodox audience member complained. Here in South Africa, women’s voices have been slowly removed from singing at our secular communal events.

Read moreSouth African Freedom Day, WOW Supporter Charlotte Fischer

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