An open letter to my friend Anat Hoffman:
I remember when I got the call in early 2000. You said come celebrate with us, the Women of the Wall. The Israeli High Court will be ruling today and we hope in our favor. NCJW has been supporting us from the very beginning so come be there when we claim victory.
As the director of the Israel office, I was honored to be there representing thousands of NCJW women who believed in you and the righteousness of your cause. But the Court did not rule in your favor that day. I was devastated and puzzled. How could the Court not see what we saw? You, on the other hand were busy plotting your next battle. You never gave up and now you won. You won for all of us. You won for the Diaspora Jews who see the Western Wall as part of their holy heritage and their connection to the Land of Israel. You won for the non-Orthodox Jews, who do not want to be told how to speak with G-d. You even won for the Orthodox, who are fearful for the next generation of Jews who may not be Jewish, and now those Jews can reclaim their connection with the Holy Land. You won for the Israelis who never heard about the Women of the Wall and for those Israelis who heard about them but don’t care about them. You won for all those who believe in the right of all people, whoever they are, wherever they are, to speak with their G-d, in whatever way they care to. You won for religious freedom and pluralism. You won.
Now that you won, now that we won, now what? Is this the beginning or the end of your battle?
Knowing you, it is the beginning. But knowing how hard and how long you fought, I am hoping, as is all Am Yisrael that you don’t rest on your laurels. I like to think that this announcement by the government of Israel is G-d whispering in your ear saying…Go Anat Go. There is so much to do. You fought the establishment and won. You fought the rabbis and you won. You went up against the politicians and you won. And you won, because you are right. Now you need to continue the fight.
You called me one day and said come ride the gender-segregated buses in Jerusalem with me and bring your sisters with you. So we rode with you and the Israeli High Court ruled in your favor, but still there are segregated buses and not just in Jerusalem. You need to continue that fight.
More and more Israelis are either not getting married at all or refusing to be married in the Orthodox official rabbinate of Israel. You need to continue that fight, so that all who choose to marry in the State of Israel can enter into that union with anyone they choose to. You need to continue the fight for agunot and mesarvot get, the women who are chained and locked into marriages and cannot find the key through the rabbinical courts.
Anat, Batya, Susan, Lesley and all the Women of the Wall, you cannot stop fighting. All the citizens of Israel, Jews, Muslim, Christian and everyone who cares about what this country will stand for — we all need you. We are not as brave as you are. We are not as stubborn as you are. We need you to help us continue to stand for what we believe in and never give up.
So give me another call soon and I promise to come celebrate with you. Victories are sweet and are worth the wait.