I just read a very telling op-ed by one of the founders of the Women of the Wall.
People keep on telling me “Women of the Wall are just trying to pray in peace. We have no further agendas.”
I find that hard to believe.
As if Anat Hoffman and Rachel Yeshurun and Shulamit Magnus’s statements about their goals and agendas weren’t telling enough, we now have the FOUNDER of Women of the Wall telling us straight out that the goal of Women of the Wall is….
Drum roll please…
To liberate Chareidi women from an oppressive male dominated life.
Because they are unaware that there are other ways of serving God, so Susan Aranoff and the rest of the Women of the Wall are coming to educate them about the alternative, in the hopes that they will come to see the light, and make the “right” decision, to leave Chareidi Judaism.
Since commenters here are sticklers for exact quotes, here they are:
“The haredi authorities who maintain control over women, in marriage, in synagogue, in ritual.”
“Rules enforced by a patriarchal system.”
“WOW models to all Jewish women who pray at the Kotel that women can take control over their own religious lives. When haredi women, and haredi men, and haredi children see women leading services, wearing tallitot, and even handling and reading from Torah scrolls, their world view is changed. Like it or not, the sights and sounds of women leading services may initially shock them but then, when they get used to it, it will, it has to, change their world view. Women will no longer be seen as following men when it comes to communal prayer, allowing men to lead, but as individuals who are able to function religiously, on their own, without the “help” of men.”
“This represents a revolution in haredi lives. That is why they fear and resist it. Their women will be influenced, strengthened, perhaps even demand change from their rabbis.”
“We are part of WOW’s struggle to pray at the Kotel with a Torah. To help religious women lead better lives.”
“A woman reading Torah at the Kotel represents an historic correction, a tikkun, for centuries of deprivation, of secondary status.”
In summation, she views Chareidi women as backward women who just live their lives, oppressed by the patriarchal, misogynistic, Chareidi men, and they are so uneducated that if only they were “enlightened” by people like the Women of the Wall, they’d realize the folly of their ways and what is wrong with their life, and they’ll decide to either change the Chareidi system or leave it entirely.
Since I’m one of those “backward, oppressed Chareidi women, who would change her life if only she was enlightened by WoW”, I just felt the need to tell a little about myself.
I grew up in a Modern Orthodox family, and I went to a Yeshivish (the American version of Chareidi) Bais Yaakov up until 10th grade.
I wasn’t a particularly compliant student. I struggled with conforming to the religious rules in my school, especially since they clashed with the religious rules I learned at home.
And I was going through a lot of bad stuff in my personal life that made me decide that religion wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be Modern Orthodox. I didn’t want to be Yeshivish. I didn’t want to be Jewish.
I wanted nothing to do with God.
Flat out refused.
I hated Him, with a passion.
In my own ways, some public, and some private, I rebelled against God, religion, and the religious community.
I wanted none of it.
And then, through a relationship with a really wonderful woman, I worked out what my emotional issues were with Judaism, and realized that I was ready to have an emotional, spiritual, and loving connection with God.
Since I hadn’t had a good experience in my Bais Yaakov for elementary school and high school, I decided to try out being Dati Leumi (religious Zionist).
For a year, I attended a Dati Leumi midrasha (seminary), trying to find my place in that world… but it didn’t work. I felt very uncomfortable in my skin. It wasn’t the right place for me.
After listening to my religious confusion, someone steered me towards another way of life, one that was Chareidi in the sense that it was strict in halachic observance, was a cross between the “Litvak” and “Chassidic” streams, and was accepting and open to people from various backgrounds and didn’t believe in sheltering themselves from the outside world.
It was amazing.
I found home.
I found a group that spoke to me. That showed me that I could have everything I wanted in Judaism, and have a positive relationship with God.
And I decided that, yes, this was the way I wanted to live my life. This was how I wanted to raise my kids.
And no, the decision wasn’t an easy one.
I got lots and lots of flak, from people across the board. People trying to convince me that my new found way of life was a big mistake, that I’d regret it.
“You’re becoming Chareidi? You should know that Chareidi guys beat their wives!”
“Chareidim are so backwards and repressed!”
“How can you give up being Dati Leumi? Rav Kook’s way is the only right way!”
Seriously, I had no support on this matter.
Because I wanted to pursue this way of life, I ended up needing to become financially independent at the age of 17, living on my own, supporting myself, and taking care of all my needs. Because no, I did not have support from my parents in this way of life. They didn’t want to fund a way of life they disapproved of (which is very understandable).
So I moved across the world, worked many hours a day, and learned many hours a day, how to serve God and be a good Jew.
And at the end of that year, I got engaged to and married a really wonderful man, my soul mate, Gabriel.
He, too, has a story. Its his to tell, but in short, he grew up in a Chareidi community, with parents who weren’t exactly typically Chareidi, he went through a hard time religiously, did some very “un-Chareidi” things like serving in the IDF, and then chose to join the same community as I did- the strictly religious, cross between Litvak and Chassidic, and non sheltering one- the one I term Quasi-Chareidi.
I, as a Chareidi woman, lived for 4 years in an Israeli Chareidi community. It was wonderful. The people there were amazing people. Respectful. Sweet. Kind. Chessed oriented. Loving.
The women I knew there were equal partners with their husbands, in happy marriages.
It was a great time in my life, and I would have gladly stayed there for good, if not for the fact that we found a much cheaper apartment in the community next door.
But I still consider myself part of that community, and go to the monthly “Nshei”- women’s get togethers.
My life, thank God, is an amazing one. I have had the privilege of living in wonderful communities of people who’ve dedicated their lives to God, who’ve dedicated their lives to working on their relationship with the Creator via doing the mitzvot in the Torah.
I have a husband that respects me, admires me, looks up to me, and treats me as a queen. (Seriously. I generally don’t publicize this, because I do not seek to boast or show off or make others jealous, but I bring this up now because of the claims that Chareidi women are oppressed by Chareidi men.)
I live my life following Chareidi rules, not because anyone is forcing me to. As I said, everyone was pushing me NOT to.
I live my life by these rules, because they enrich my life.
Because just as I have a marriage with my husband in which we both do things that the other requests, because we value our marriage and our relationship, I do the mitzvot because as Jews, we’re married to God, and He’s requested that we do these things, and I value our relationship too much to ignore His requests.
I find that when I live my life dedicated to pleasing God, my life is happier and there is more Divine Providence in my life; I actually see things working out much better. I’m doing these things for God, and He does things for me in kind.
That’s what a good marriage is like. Giving to the other, without demanding in return. And the other doing it as well. And then you have a satisfactory relationship, because neither is demanding things from the other, but both are getting what they want. Everyone is happy because what you got comes from a place of giving, not demands and selfishness.
Ever since I’ve embarked on this way of life, this Chareidi way of serving God, I’ve found my life more and more enriched. Each year has been better than the last.
I’ve found true contentment in my way of serving God and living my life.
I wish everyone would have that in their life.
I am happy to pass on this legacy to my kids. Who wouldn’t?
And therefore, I find these agendas of the Women of the Wall, the agendas to liberate Chareidi women from their oppressed way of life, to be ignorant at best, and highly offensive.
Women of the Wall, including Anat Hoffman, Shulamit Magnus, Rivka Haut, Susan Aranoff, Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, and any other Women of the Wall who may not have publicly supported these views but may have them as well…
Please don’t try to tell me that you know better than I do how I should live my life. The way I live my life, as you can see, was very well thought out. It was a path I chose, and fought lots of obstacles to get there. I don’t live this way of life because I haven’t witnessed alternatives. I’ve witnessed them, rejected them, and made the choice to live as I do because I find it the most meaningful type of life for me. Implying that I’m doing what I do merely because I am subjugated by men is insulting to me, insulting my intelligence, insulting the men I love, and insulting to the entire population of Chareidi women.
Please respect that the way I serve God is the way that I choose to serve Him, and it is a way of life that makes me happy, content, and fulfilled. I don’t need you to rescue me, and neither do other Chareidi women.
If your goal is merely to pray, then pray. But don’t try to “liberate” women who need no liberation.
Thank you very much, but I’m in love with my life as it is.