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

The Sivan Situation: by WOW Intern Gaby Mervis

Anat argues with a policeman

Last month, I based my blog post on a list of observations.  After this past Rosh Hodesh service, it seems only fitting to structure this post with a list of confrontations.  While I have only been to three WOW services, last week’s service was the most exciting (for better or for worse).  Being the photographer, I was consistently running from one situation to the next.  It felt like the altercations never stopped.

We started the morning with a plan.  Last month, we were told that one person could only bring in two or three siddurim, prayer books.  As our supporters use our siddurim to follow the service, this was unacceptable. Generally we have people bringing five siddurim each.  Anat decided to walk through security with 15 siddurim right in her arms, not even in a bag, in order to challenge this new arbitrary restriction.  We were ready for the security to challenge this move, but oddly enough, with cameras rolling, there seemed to be no problem bringing in all 15 of the siddurim.  Anat explained that every month the security forces seem to make up new rules that are not according to laws or legitimacy; and that it is almost like they are looking for new ways to bother us, consistent or not.

Read moreThe Sivan Situation: by WOW Intern Gaby Mervis

Thoughts on Yesterday’s Tefilot, WOW Supporter Sheryl Eretz

Thoughts on Yesterday’s Tefilot, WOW Supporter Sheryl Eretz

I am glad that Ariella Rosen wrote her blog describing what happened two days ago on Rosh Hodesh Sivan at the Kotel.  She describes so eloquently what I was feeling.  I was standing next to her and I too was wearing a long tallit.
What exactly is one supposed to do when asked to change one’s tallit during Shema?  I think we both got it right — comply respectfully at the end of the prayer. Looking back, it was obvious that this was a trap.  Why else would the police officers wait 30 minutes until exactly that part of the service to ask us to remove our tallitot if not to catch us when we could not do so?

Read moreThoughts on Yesterday’s Tefilot, WOW Supporter Sheryl Eretz

Offensive. adj ə-ˈfen(t)-siv : making attack : aggressive, WOW Supporter Sarah Pollack

Offensive. adj ə-ˈfen(t)-siv : making attack : aggressive, WOW Supporter Sarah Pollack

As my time in Israel is coming to a close – I honestly can’t believe where I’m standing right now, 15 days remaining at the University, but that’s for another post – I had a few things left that I needed to cross of my mental bucket list, which is almost as cool as Kari‘s real bucket list. After watching a documentary in class about Women of the Wall, I was reminded that it was on the supposed list. Study abroad plug: Without a doubt, the coolest part of studying abroad has been being able to learn outside of the classroom. So much of what I’ve seen, hasn’t been from a text book, also because the University of Haifa is a green campus. Nevertheless, we talk about something in class and then we’re able to see it in action.

Read moreOffensive. adj ə-ˈfen(t)-siv : making attack : aggressive, WOW Supporter Sarah Pollack

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