Working as Women of the Wall’s Media Associate, my Hannukah week was filled with WOW-related events. We held a beautiful candle lighting ceremony at the Kotel and also had our Rosh Hodesh service within days of each other. I invited a good friend to join our events. Both of us had been raised with a similar upbringing; I was interested in hearing her thoughts after having joined both WOW events. She replied with a beautifully written blurb:
“Having gone to two WOW events in one week- the menorah lighting and RH service – what I ended up seeing and experiencing was something I can’t even begin to truly express. Having been raised in the Orthodox community, one of the many reasons for my leaving was not seeing a place for myself and other women, other than motherhood. Experiencing this, and learning about the path WOW has taken to get to where it is today, I feel hopeful. WOW’s work is creating a space for people like myself.”
One of the biggest complaints the ultra-Orthodox have against WOW is that we push our views on others. We are perceived as provocative and challenging, and it has been said that WOW forces women to wrap tefillin. This is completely untrue. However, WOW represents change, and those who are intimidated by our presence fear that we want everyone to be just like us.
WOW is not forcing anything on anybody. If one looks closer, one will see that the majority of the women who come to pray with us on Rosh Hodesh are not even wearing tefillin. What WOW is doing, and how my friend so powerfully expressed, is opening a door to possibilities. We are providing women with the opportunity to see what is available – ways to elevate the prayer experience and deepen their connection to Judaism and to Israel.
In a recent Q&A with Executive Director Yochi Rappeport, a woman commented: “(I) just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for your work. I’m a haredi woman, but the work your organization does really inspires me and gives me hope for the future.” How uplifting to know that there are those who do not see us as aggressive envelope-pushers. What a joy to hear that what we are doing is in fact changing hearts and minds.
In 2021 our work will be focused on activating and inspiring women, specifically the younger generation, to see the beauty and connection that is within its reach. No, we will not be forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to, but instead we will continue to hold open the curtain so that if a woman pleases, she may take a glimpse at what is possible.