Time to remove the facade

WOW and supporters aren't motivated by spirituality, they're seeking legitimacy for non-Orthodox Judaism
Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Anat Hoffman, director of Women of the Wall, holds a Torah scroll at the Western Wall, November 2, 2016. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

I know all the arguments: ‘This isn’t about feminism.’ ‘This is about pluralism.’ How dare you question their sincerety?!’ ‘Are you a mind reader?’ ‘How dare you attribute motives to them that you cannot possibly know about!’ ‘All the Women of the Wall want to do is pray in their own way once a month on Rosh Chodesh.’ ‘Why should this bother anyone?’ ‘They have a right to pray as they wish’. ‘The Kotel belongs to everyone. Not just the Orthodox.’ ‘Who gives them the right to control who gets to daven at the the Kotel …or how they daven?’ ‘Besides, what’s wrong with feminism as a motive anyway?’

I don’t know if I have covered it all. But I think this pretty much sums up the arguments of those who support the ‘rights’ of ‘Women of the Wall’ (WOW) to pray at the Kotel as they see fit .

My arguments to the contrary are dismissed as misogynistic. No matter how I try to explain how disruptive this group is to the vast majority of Jews that come to pray at the Kotel in traditional ways. Or how important it might be to maintain traditional modes of prayer.

The retort by their defenders is that tradition is not Halacha. And if modern values compete with tradition — it should be set aside. Their novel form of prayer elevates these women spiritually. Insistence on maintaining only traditional modes of prayer truly hampers them.

Furthermore — if one goes there on Rosh Chodesh when the Women of the Wall are there — they will see that the vast majority of Orthodox Jews that pray there are not disrupted at all. They continue to pray in the traditional way they always have, caring little about what others there do (…as if THEIR minds could be read). The disruption – they say – comes at the hands of young Orthodox zealots. Hoodlums really – looking for a fight and using religion as their weapon. (They’re probably right about those Orthodox hoodlums causing trouble. But that is only half of the story. Read on.)

So are these people sincere about the spirituality? Or is it all one big show with an agenda for something else: the legitimization of Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel?

It is certainly no secret that this is what these movements want. Their dying state in America requires them to seek refuge elsewhere. Where better than in Israel? The fact that the majority of Jews in Israel are not Orthodox allows them to feel that these Jews would fit well with their movements. So why not try and get a foothold in the holy land and do to nonobservant Jews there what they failed at doing in the US?

They certainly have the right to try for legitimacy in a democratic Jewish state. But that doesn’t make them right. It is no secret that mainstream Orthodoxy considers these movements illegitimate and are diametrically opposed to giving them any recognition at all. And Orthodox rabbis have the same democratic right to promote their agenda as do heterodox rabbis do to promote theirs.

What is clear from a Times of Israel video is that spirituality has little to do with their goals. This was clearly about the rights. Not about prayer rights or even feminist rights. Prayer is only the vehicle being used to get those rights. Feminism is driving that vehicle and heterodox rabbis are leading it. And by golly they are going to do whatever it takes to get those rights. Even if it means misusing Siferi Torah (Torah scrolls) as props or shields to get their way.

Their real agenda has finally been exposed. They were looking for a fight and got one. Those that accuse me of Orthodox bias are right. But It isn’t only Orthodox Jews that see it this way. From the New York Times:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized American Jewish leaders on Wednesday as a struggle over a stalled plan for equal prayer rights for both sexes at a Jerusalem holy site erupted with mutual recriminations and a tumultuous protest led by liberal rabbis wielding Torah scrolls.


Mr. Netanyahu’s rebuke came as he was battling international moves that have belittled or ignored historical Jewish connections to sacred sites in Jerusalem’s contested Old City. Wednesday’s events underscored the deepening discord between the Israeli authorities and many Jews abroad.


In an unusual statement after the early-morning protest, Mr. Netanyahu’s office accused the liberal Jewish leaders of causing “unnecessary friction” and of “the unilateral violation of the status quo at the Western Wall.”

Lest anyone say that Netanyahu is just catering to ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have rejected all attempts at a compromise that would grant these movements egalitarian space in another location at the Kotel… please remember that he supported that compromise and still does.

It’s time for the facade of ‘inspirational prayer’ being the motive behind WOW to be removed. This is a fight about the very character of the Jewish State. What will their future look like? Are they going to be a nation of Jews – the chosen people of God Who requires them to follow Halacha with a tradition that has perpetuated and protected their existence across time? Or are they going to be a nation of  Jews that — led by failed movements — will abandon those laws and traditions leading them down the same path of extinction that all too many American Jews that have followed? I know what my answer would be.

About the Author
My worldview is based on the philosophy of my teacher, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik , and the writings of Rabbis Joseph B. Soloveitcihk , Norman Lamm, and Dr. Eliezer Berkovits from whom I developed an appreciation for philosophy. I attended Telshe Yeshiva and the Hebrew Theological College where I was ordained. I also attended Roosevelt University where I received my degree in Psychology.
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