What does W4W really want?

I am privileged to be acquainted with every founding member of the organization calling themselves “Women for the Wall,” or W4W for short. I watched this flower of free speech and social activism bloom from the frustration and feelings of powerlessness of my good friends and neighbors. At its inception, they seemed to have two specific goals. One was to stop the media circus that recently has accompanied the Women of the Wall’s traditional monthly prayers, and the other was to attempt to quell any non-traditionally Orthodox forms of prayer by women.

This is an excerpt from the organizations website, under the heading Our Vision:

The traditions of prayer at the Wall reach back to the days of King Solomon, we believe that these traditions, enshrined by history and the practice of Jews for generations, should be respected by all.

I can get behind the idea of trying to keep the media away from a place that should be quiet and serene, a environment conducive to connecting with God. I understand that up until now the media presence accompanying WoW was disruptive. What I don’t understand is why, then, did W4W choose to create a mega-event at the Kotel this past Friday, attracting huge amounts of press, and necessitating police action to contain the crowds?

But that’s neither here nor there. They were trying to make a statement. And they certainly achieved that goal, although what that statement was will differ depending on who you ask.

In regards to the second goal, I had a long back-and-forth online with one of the “unity prayer” organizers, who essentially told me that she believes that women who have pure motives to wear traditionally male religious paraphernalia should be allowed to do so at the Kotel! And one of the W4W founding members, in the comment section of this article just acknowledged the same thing, with the caveat that it should not be in conjunction with a women’s prayer group.

What am I missing? What happened to “traditions enshrined by history….should be respected by all.” Not that I’m complaining! I think this is a wonderful development! I’m just very confused as to what their goal, in fact, is.

If it’s to get rid of the disruption made by the press, they chose a fairly odd method to achieve that goal, and if it’s to attempt to insist that people refrain from all but traditional forms of prayer at the Kotel, why have I been told otherwise? And an even more important question—why has this stance not been publicized? What a wonderful step in the direction of reconciling differences that would be!

It is my deep hope that the acknowledgment of this fundamental principle of religious freedom by W4W does not go unnoticed by the Women of the Wall, and brings about a new starting point from which these seemingly opposing organizations can find common ground to begin a civil discourse.

About the Author
Bahtya Minkin is a full-time mother of four, originally from Lakewood, NJ, now living in Beit El. In her ample spare time she enjoys crocheting, reading, and arguing with strangers on Facebook.