SOS: SAVE WOMEN’S PRAYER AT THE KOTEL
Our 25-year struggle must not end in exile from our sisters and our people.
We, founders, former board members, members, and supporters of Women of the Wall call on you to prevent the imminent demise of our 25-year effort and the expulsion of women’s prayer with Torah, tallit and tefillin from the women’s section at the Western Wall.
Anat Hoffman intends to sign an agreement—the Mandelblit Plan. This plan surrenders women’s rights to pray together aloud, don tallit, lay tefillin and read from the Torah scroll in the women’s section at the Kotel. The plan puts the Kotel prayer areas under the unilateral control of the ultra-Orthodox administrator, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. He alone will be authorized to decide how Jews are allowed and forbidden to pray at the Kotel. The women’s section will be entrusted to the very people who sanction the arrest of praying women, forbid women to enter or read from a Torah scroll, and confiscate our tallitot and tefillin.
For 25 of the 47 years that the Kotel has been in Israeli hands, WoW has offered our prayers at the Kotel. Interpreting the 2003 Supreme Court verdict, the Jerusalem District Court affirms that the prayer of WoW is part of the custom at the Kotel (Justice Moshe Sobel, April 2013).
The current WoW board heralds the agreement as a long-term vision and a rare opportunity. However, the Robinson’s Arch area has been available to Women of the Wall and egalitarian prayer groups for more than ten years. We support the development of the egalitarian prayer space, but not at the expense of our hard-won rights in the women’s section.
The current WoW board took its decision without the due process required by Israeli NGO law—in violation of the registered and intended purposes of WoW to promote women’s group public prayer in the women’s section at the Kotel with Torah and tallit.
Whereas we founded and sustained WoW to enable the rights of all Jewish women, the current WoW board plans to cede the rights of all Jewish women. WoW has neither an ethical nor legal mandate to sacrifice women’s prayer at the Kotel, a site of historic, spiritual, and religious significance to the entire Jewish People, women and men.
The Mandelblit plan will harm not only women. Enforcing strict Orthodox practice at the Kotel capitulates to and rewards intolerance, disrespect, and bullying with territorial hegemony and counters the Israeli trend to hold all Israelis accountable to core values of civil society. We must intervene now to ensure that ours and the coming generations of Jewry can express our precious and diverse customs at the Kotel.
The Kotel is a symbol of the homecoming of the Jewish People. Help us to secure the women’s section at the Kotel as a place where women from all streams of Judaism can pray in one another’s presence with dignity, uniting Jews rather than dividing us. Help us to ensure that joyous, autonomous prayer with Torah, tallit and tefillin will not be evicted from the women’s section at the Kotel.
Please share this letter to educate friends, colleagues, and community about what is at stake for Jewish women, Israel and the Jewish People. We invite every Jew to sound your voice.
Call upon the WoW Board to heed our request without delay to convene a general assembly of WoW to deliberate the fate of the Kotel and achieve a responsible decision for the sake of our daughters and grand-daughters: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Bonna Devora Haberman
Cheryl Birkner Mack
Dr. Aliza Berger-Cooper
Danielle Sarah Bernstein
Bakol Ruben Gellar
Fagie Deana Fein, Adv.
Hila Liran Fartouk
ֵElizabeth Frank Backman
Miriam Benson, Adv.
Dr. Susan Aranoff
Dr. Shulamit Magnus
Rabbi Vanessa Ochs
Dr. Norma Joseph
Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Please do not hesitate to contact us –
Dr. Bonna Devora Haberman: bonnadev at gmail dot com
Cheryl Birkner Mack: cbirknermack at gmail dot com
Dr. Susan Aranoff: susanaranoff at gmail dot com
Miriam Benson, Adv.: mirbenson at aol dot com