On this 2nd day of Tammuz, 5777, as the liberal Zionist world is rocked by the Diaspora-dissing actions of the Israeli government, I am in bucolic Northampton, Massachusetts participating in a workshop in ensemble singing sponsored by the critically acclaimed a cappella group The Western Wind. I came to know the Western Wind through my connections in the Jewish choral world, notably those friends I have made at the North American Jewish Choral Festival held every July in Kerhonkson, New York. It was at the Festival, sponsored by the Zamir Choral Foundation, that I networked with world class Jewish composers, inviting them to be a part of Sacred Rights, Sacred Song — A Concert of Concern, my Zionist cantata, by setting my activist poetry to music. How appropriate that last night, as soon as I saw the news about the broken historic Kotel Compromise Agreement, I was able to share it with one of my composers, Elliot Z. Levine, as he is a part of both the Western Wind and the Jewish choral communities.
Even though I’ve essentially moved to New York City, whenever there is major news about the Western Wall, the Kotel, the Cleveland Jewish News calls me for comments. I appreciated the opportunity to share my disgust and dismay at this turn of events. I too am not at all shocked as it has been clear to me that the prime minister of Israel is more concerned with keeping his hold on power than keeping his word with the Jewish people. It is clear that his need to keep his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners happy is more important than the Spiritual Civil Rights of All Jews, regardless of Gender or Adjective. This is not just about the right of women to participate in public prayer in Holy Space, it is about acknowledging that diverse forms of Jewish expression are welcome in the Jewish Homeland. Whether the issue at hand is conversion, marriage, divorce, burial, access to the Kotel, gender segregation or the place of women in the public sphere, the ultra-Orthodox state-sanctioned rabbinical monopoly, i. e., the “historic status quo,” on these issues must be broken. It is beyond an insult to contemporary Zionists who care deeply about the future of the Jewish State to see hard won advancements in Spiritual Civil Rights be sacrificed on the altar of political survival.
On Rosh Hodesh Av 5770, I was behind Anat Hoffman when she was arrested for carrying a Torah away from the Women’s side of the Kotel to Robinson’s Arch. On Rosh Hodesh Av 5777, I will once again be beside Anat Hoffman and the other women who will come to praise, pray and protest a status quo that is unacceptable in 5777. Only this time, because of the work I have done with the Western Wind, as well as the experiences I’ve had singing in two Jewish choruses in New York City, the voice that I raise will have even more force and volume than it had seven years ago. I strongly encourage all those who can to join me on Monday morning, July 24 at the Kotel. Whether or not you have ever sang with the Western Wind, you can certainly add your voice to the chorus of women at the Western Wall. And if you can’t be at the Kotel, let’s see an outpouring of Rosh Hodesh minyanim around the USA, to send the message to Bibi and his Boys that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
We have four weeks to organize. Let’s get to work! In the meantime, I will work on strengthening not just my voice, but my resolve to continue to bring the message of Sacred Rights, Sacred Song to communities around the world.