kotel
It seems that conservative prayer groups are being charged to pray near the kotel.

Given that mixed gendered prayer groups are a controversial issue, the conservative movement arranged a compromise in 1999 whereby their groups pray at different part of the wall, located in an archaeological site. The problem began in 2004, when the site started charging worshippers arriving after 8am the 30 shekel fee (about US $6.70) to enter the site.

The upside of course is that once they pay the 30 shekel sto get in, they don’t end up spending 50 shekels giving out tzedakka money to the highly persistent and intimidating kotel beggars.

Nonetheless, the Conservative movement has petitioned the High Court. I would also like to see someone petition the powers that be to finally take care of the hill that fell into the women’s section over a year ago, creating even less space in an already overcrowded atmosphere…but I guess that’s another post entirely.

My feeling is they made the compromise to move to a different part of the wall to respect certain sensitivities, even if those sensitives were forced on them, so hopefully the High Court can gem ’em season tickets to Robinson’s arch or something.

Source Ynet.

About the author

Laya Millman

121 Comments

  • They should stop playing games, especially the kind that relate to who is a better Jew, and open the Kotel to all at all times. All types of prayer should be acceptable. Period. If they have to have a mechitza and a women’s section, it should be exactly half the size of the male section and the two sides should be alternated every 6 months.

    Enough of this bullshit.

  • Who exactly is charging the Conservatives admission? Why can’t they respect the Orthodox and pray at the main Kotel like everyobody else? I’m getting the feeling that there’s more politics going on here than meets the eye.

  • i’ve been there a few times with a group. it’s my understanding that since the area was excavated and made into a nice place to visit (by donors affiliated with the Conservative movement in particular), they themselves set it up so that there is a fee to get to the robinson’s arch section, on the south end of the western wall. i’m pretty sure that on certain occasions such as bar/bat mitzvahs, rosh chodesh and tisha b’av the area is open to the public without charge. see their website for more info.

  • Shamir, are you saying that they are charging themselves to visit, and then complaining about it to the government? That doesn’t make much sense. That’s like complaining to the City of Seattle because my shul charges me for Yom Kippur seats. It just goes with the territory. Maybe I’m still misunderstanding something here.

  • I’m not even very religious. But I don’t think mixed groups should be allowed at the Kotel. I don’t think that Israel should recognise non-orthodox synagogues as non-profit groups.

    Israel as usual is selling out as usual. Just as it sold out the settlers, will sell out the rest of them…..

    I’m from South Africa where although we don’t do EVERYTHING, we at least know what the right thing to do it. America for the most part is missing that moral clarity.

    I really don’t like Haredim either. Good thing I don’t live in Israel!

  • I’m from South Africa where although we don’t do EVERYTHING, we at least know what the right thing to do it.
    This classic quote would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Judaism is about doing, it’s not about looking to the Ultra-Orthodox to maintain the religion in a time capsule (or throw feces at women trying to pray at the Kotel). If you ain’t doing, you ain’t Jewing, and you have nothing to say about those that are actually doing with an updated approach to worship. Live and let live, pray and let pray.

  • southern wall was not the conservative idea as a compromise. they wanted standard wall.

    ortho responded by pointing out that religiously they are both the same wall and that since (a) the orthodox by the thousands are there every day and the conservative can hardly get a minyan and (b) this is a holy place in large part because of its history and its history for 3 thousand years has always been separate prayer and (c) all Jews are welcome and encouraged to pray at the Wall, just not together.

    re areas of size it is practical. There are A LOT more men who use the site regularly than women, so they have more room.

  • This is sad. WE need to stop thinking about politics and denominations. We are fighting over praying adjacent to the holiest site in the world. We arn’t even allowed to pray on the temple mount at all. Let’s focus our energies into returning to the Temple as a united people.

  • yikes – gotta disagree with you on a few counts there.

    How often are you at the kotel during the week? The women’s section is always more crowded. You have to wait just to get up to touch the wall. Remember, the men have not just the outer part but the cave to the left that gets closer to kodosh kedoshim. It is only on shabbat that i regularly see the men’s side more crowded than the women’s.

    your part b. is also wrong. When there was a temple standing, no one prayed at the western retaining wall. Until 1967 there was no mechitza as old photos and images from before 49 will tell you. That is not to say today’s religious sensitivities should not be taken into account and respected, but it’s important to know your history.

  • tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? tzedakka? anyone??

  • Sorry laya, but I don’t think the women’s section is THAT crowded. True, it is smaller then the men’s section but the men’s section has all kinds of minyans going on that require the space.

    Conservative or Reform or whatever minyans can indeed use the part of the wall at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park – btw when you go with a group after 8 am it’s only 21 shekels. I of course don’t think that’s entirely fair and I hope some accomodation can be made (extend the time from 8am to 9 am?), but the notion that they ought to pray in the main Kotel is just very silly. Allowing them to do so will effectively prevent anyone Orthodox from being able to pray there – you know, no mechitzahs etc. The lowest common denominator ought to prevail and some boundaries ought to be established. I mean what’s next? Yoseph Crack’s naked shabbos service?

    Far from being “bullshit” the current status is the only fair one.

  • ck – when you go to the kotel during the week, can you generally walk right up and touch it without having to wait for someone to move? Cause I generally can’t.

    If there was a little more space to be had, I would probably go more often. As it is, it just reinforces my notion that when it comes to prayer women are extraneous, and we should be happy for ANY space that we’re given, even if you have to sit outside like at your moshav, or bend your head to keep it from hitting the ceiling once stepping through the window in that shteblach on Narkiss.

  • As was stated before — allowing non-Orthodox groups to pray at the main Kotel effectively bars the Orthodox from praying there. It is only fitting that the holiest site in Judaism should be conducted with the utmost standards of holiness, and that includes modesty. I*M*O the fact that non-Orthodox streams of Jews are given as much creedence as they ARE (e.g., the halachic definition of Who Is A Jew was struck down by the Israeli Supreme Ct., non-Orthodox conversions recently being recognized) affronts not only charedi but dati and dati-leumi people enough.

    Why are Orthodox ppl’s rights less valuable than those of a group of angry womyn?

  • Oh, I forgot what happens to Orthodox men when they come anywhere near a woman. You’re right, ck, it’s not “bullshit,” they should stick the women in a little corner since women don’t count in a minyan – after all, we all know that they are not really as worthy as men when it comes to being counted by God – and those less modest, less holy, well, less Jewish pesky Conservative and Reform Jews should know their place is far away from where the real Jewish folks are. And they should pay for the privilege.

    It all makes sense now.

  • Purim hero: They are of course not charged anything during any evening or on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

    TM: The women hardly have a little corner. The size of the women’s section has nothing to do with their worth relative to men – that’s just a presumption you make based on a not very keen understanding of Judaism. Also, no one is making any judgement about any Jew’s Judaism. People wishing to daven in a non-traditional minyan have a place, at the Kotel – 2 minutes away – in a site no less holy or important than the Kotel where they can do whatever they like without offending, excluding or driving away the lowest common denominator Orthodox Jews that pray all the time at the more well known site. It’s a good compromise – suggesting anything different is just shit disturbing for the sake of shit disturbing. Everyone gets to pray in a minyan – that’s what’s important. The only change I would suggest is that the time allowed for free morning prayer be extended to at least 9 am. The better known part of the Kotel is always open to anyone wishing to quietly meditate or pray on their own. This I can say without recourse to passing any kind of judgement on any non-traditional Jewish practice. So lets not even go there.

  • ck, my man, I have a simple suggestion that I’m sure will be fine with you. Let us consider the Western Wall to be one unit that we can divide into three parts. Once a year, every year, the three groups under discussion – women; Conservative, Reform and others; and the “general” group that maintains old halachic standards but allows people like me to join them if I’m not with a woman – alternate their positions. Next year, the Orthodox and general population can have the section currently relegated to Conservative and Reform, women will move into their space and Conservative and Reform will move to the women’s space. The following year, they will all shift again and the year after that return to this year’s positions. Simple, right?

  • No. Not so simple at all. It’s totally impractical and realistically, no one with any authority will agree to it. The reason the current system works is because it doesn’t offend the lowest common denominator. Services at the Kotel that include women layning will necessarily exclude Orthodox Jews who are within earshot. Also, the site of men and women praying together is considered a provocation – as offensive to some as bringing a Ham and cheese sandwich to shul. The current system works because non-Orthodox Jews are praying out of earshot and out of sight of Orthodox Jews.

    Let me reiterate again, where they are praying now is no less holy a prayer venue than is the Kotel. Why is it so imperative that the non-Orthodox have access to the Kotel?

    And why only accomodate Reform and Conservative Jews? There are Jews now who celebrate their Jewish identity in ways that violate the sabbath, include drug use and nudity and even references to pagan deities. Why are we excluding them? Don’t they count as Jews too? Or maybe we should split the area in front of the Kotel into like 4 or maybe even 5 parts?

    I say leave it as is and extend free access to the Arcaeological site from 8 am to 9 am. Why make problems for no good reason?

  • Just to be clear ck – The archaeological site is still a part of the kotel, the kotel is just a retaining wall after all.

    I also think it might be worth clarifying that the kotel is absolutely open to all individuals, regardless of race, religion, sex, color or denomination 24/7/365. The ortho/conserv/reform/pagan issue is referring to minyanim (prayer groups) only.

  • Ck, my man, it hurts me so to hear you say that my solution wasn’t simple but rather impractical.

    You specifically mention that no one with “real authority” will agree to my simple and fair proposal. After all, if, as you say, “where they are praying now is no less holy a prayer venue than the Kotel,” then it makes no difference if they rotate locations. Right?

    Of course, your response indicates that you don’t really mean that the three areas are equal, or that the three groups are equal. That’s because the three areas are different.

    If by people with “real authority,” you mean people who are not women or Conservative or Reform Jews, then I guess you are right. After all, why change things when you have the upper hand and the most advantageous situation? However, not always are the people with “real authority” the ones who should be making the decisions, particularly if the system that provided this “real authority” was skewed against the other groups in the first place.

    Don’t worry, I don’t think anything will change, although I guess women will have to go through separate check in lines because those with “real authority”…oh, never mind, we’ve already done that debate.

    It’s not a fair system at all. It’s one that works to the benefit of one group – Orthodox men – over all others. To be fair, alternate the sites. Oh, and definitely stop charging for access, unless you charge everybody.

    (Don’t think I didn’t notice the equating of Conservative and Reform with paganism, drug use and nudity on Shabbat. I’ll discuss these lifestyle changes with my wife and see if she’s agreeable to changing our lifestyle in this way since the boring, respectful stuff we do now seems to merit equating us with drug-using nudist pagans. I do think that you are right, though, and if there are any Orthodox Jews who, you know, get naked and have sex on Shabbat, that they get their own section at the Kotel as well). 😉

  • Once again, I don’t want to get into that whole equality thing with reference to Conservative or Reform Judaism. With reference to Women, the differences are based on usage. Men daven in Minyans in the men’s section – there are always more men there than women, hence they need more space.

    What can I tell you? The Orthodox are not about to cede authority over their spot any time soon and frankly there is no reason they should. I actually think it was a pretty good sign that Conservative/Reform minyans happen in proximity to them without incident.

    And I am not likening C and R Jews to pagans or drug users or nudists. I am just asking, where do we draw the line? C and R Jews are not the only game in town – there are many informal groups that meet and worship in non-traditional ways – why should they too be excluded?

  • for what it’s worth, and as someone with no real authority, I also think your solution is a little silly, at best.

  • I want you to know, and in this capacity I also speak for our Esteemed Leader, that whether Middle’s idea is silly or not is immaterial, because if you two get into another endless catfight, I will shoot a puppy. A very cute one. And I really like puppies.

  • ck – two issues,
    1) there are not always more men than women there and

    2) because the men pray in groups, they can utilize any part of the lower plaza, as they just need to congregate around each other.

    The women tend to pray individually, and so we either want to be against the mechiza, so as to be able to hear a minyan, or at the actual wall itself.

    As such, the women actually have less usable space, practically speaking, as we generally have to stick to the front and left sides of our side.

  • What can I tell you? The Orthodox are not about to cede authority over their spot any time soon and frankly there is no reason they should. I actually think it was a pretty good sign that Conservative/Reform minyans happen in proximity to them without incident.

    Why is it for the orthodox to have authority in the first place? Muffti doesn’t see at all why TM’s solution is silly. There is a clear way to block nudists and drug uses: those are both illegal activity which are acceptable in no public places that the governemtn doesn’t sanction. Muffti furthermore sees no reason to default to the lowest common denominator: why is orthodoxy a common denominator?!?

    If anything, we should be catering to majorities (like we do in democracies) and then making room for idiosyncratic groups by accomodating them, say, with spots off to the side where they can practice their exclusionary practices or certain times of day.

  • Oh, my solution was far from silly – and it got ck to acknowledge what we all know about why things are the way they are and that nothing will change any time soon. And ck, in that regard, “where do we draw the line” could be applied in the opposite direction – after all, there are far more Conservative and Reform Jews in the world. It’s just that they weren’t ceded control over religious life by Ben Gurion way back when.

    But Laya, if you think my solution is silly, that’s okay by me. You know why? I attend the Orthodox side and I am a male. If I ever need to use that space for something like a bar mitzvah, then I will use the Orthodox space as well. Easy peasy. Let those women, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Nudist Jews, Pagan Jews and Drug-Using Jews rot over in the other, less central sections. 😉

  • Wow Nathan. For a liberal, you’re really intollerant of others opinions. How dare you tell me when I can have something to say?

    Nobody knows how much of an idiot you are until you open your mouth.

    If we were in person I’d be inclined to break your face. Then you wouldn’t be able to take away my “rights”. Ain’t that right?

  • muffti, if it’s drugs and nudity you’re after, go to any beach in Herzeliya and north Tel Aviv. I don’t know how interested you are in nude older gentlemen though.

  • Are the older gentlemen taking drugs? Because if there’s a beach full of naked old men shooting horse, I am so there with my camera and tourniquet.

  • as appealing as the image is of naked old men shooting heroin, these guys (or just the one guy, maybe) were more the weed smoking, naked tai-chi practicing variety. but there are lots of professionals walking the beach at night near Ramat Aviv Gimel, so I imagine if you look hard enough you can find both heroin and all kinds of naked people.

  • Back to the topic, I think that we should stop worrying about space at the wall. . .we should start praying on the Har Habayis where there is plenty of room.

  • Well, Adam, it’s a shame that you can’t direct some of that energy that you would use to (try) to break my face toward the actual practice of the very religion for which you claim to not “do everything”. I weigh your opinions about Judaism by your stated (lack of) personal actions – hence my comment that being Jewish is a verb, and being it is the only way to have an opinion about it.

    But if it’s important to you to express your true nature with such threats, please, suit yourself. I could use the laughs, tough guy.

  • With all apologies to the puppy…

    I do think the solution is silly, first and foremost from a logistical standpoint, it is bound to cause confusion and embarrassment as time and time again people walk into the wrong part. It’s worse than shmitah.

    But more so, if we’re talking about majority, like Muffti said, then it might be worth noting that while the majority of people in Israel are not orthodox, the vast majority of the people who frequent the Kotel are. So if we are following muffti’s rational, things should stay more or less as they are, since conservative prayer groups ARE the idiosyncratic ones practicing exclusionary practices, compared to the majority at the site.

    Now granted, one could argue that if the conservative groups were more accepted there, they would come out in larger numbers, but the reality is the majority of conservative shuls are not exactly known for their high rate of shabbat attendance, let alone weekday morning minyan turnouts. So I would have to speculate that holding it at a place much harder to park and subject to the elements will not suddenly bring the conservative faithful out in numbers that come close to matching to the current orthodox presence.

  • laya there are express gemaras about separate men and women’s prayer in the Temple. THat is where the phrase Ezrat Nashim comes from. It is not an ORthodox idea implying new, it is a classic Jewish idea. You want to innovate, fine but don’t push it on ancient Jewish sites whose builders and user always had separate prayer. Heck it is even in the Torah itself when Miriam takes the women separately after Krias Yam Suf. Lots of literature on the subject

  • yikes – the temple and the kotel are two different places. The kotel was never, in and of itself a holy place. It’s just a retaining wall.

    Your original statement was this is a holy place in large part because of its history and its history for 3 thousand years has always been separate prayer

    I am aware of the tradition of separate gendered spaces for prayer, but this was not the case at the kotel until recently. If you go to the Maharah in Hevron, and want to pray at the outside wall, there is likewise no Mehitza, even though it is also an ancient place for prayer.

    I am not arguing the validity of the general idea, I am saying that for whatever reason, it is clear that this general idea did not hold true at all times in this specific space.

  • I think that if there were more conservatives who came often in masses then there would be a dif. pic. Maybe. The prevailing Yeshivish view of conservatives, is that they are worse than reform. Unfortunately, it is a power struggle. The closed minded Charedis rule. They will continue to be violent and the police will not be strong enough. It is terrible really. The extreme always wins bec. they are willing to die for their beliefs.

  • I dunno, Laya, it seems to me that FAIRNESS is more important than people walking to the wrong section inadvertently. I’m pretty confident anyway that there will be little confusion. Women will see men in the general section and know that they don’t belong there. The men will see women in the women’s section and become all excited head over to their section, and the Conservative and Reform Jews will recognize their section by all the drugged-out nude orgiastic prayer going on to trance music. Right, ck?

    Also, I figure that a People that can figure out that a certain type of Coke product has dairy in it and therefore cannot be mixed with a meal that has meat in it, can figure out which section to attend at the wall even if they alternate once a year.

    If you prefer that democracy dictate the issue, I should remind you that women represent about 51-52% of the population and therefore would get the main section. I understand if you don’t want that and prefer to leave the main section to Orthodox men, and defend that opinion by claiming that there are more of them who attend the Wall. But then again, I’m sure you know that the reason there are more of them praying is the inferior status of women with respect to prayer and ritual in Judaism -you know, the kind of stuff that pisses you off and that you’d like to change?

    Here is my simple proposal to change one important aspect of the inherent IMBALANCE in our traditions, and you call it silly. You don’t have to abide by the prevailing culture, Laya, you could fight for your right to be right there, and pray right there, in the main area of the holiest site in Judaism. Who knows, with my plan you’d be able to pray real loud in your lovely feminine voice, and all those Orthodox men in the distant section (where they’d have to pay to get in), wouldn’t even get too excited because they’d be too far away to hear.

  • middle, the confusion was the minor point. The other point I made was more the issue. As far as expanding the women’s section, you know I’m for it, but that a different fight than rotating sections to accommodate a presence that is rarely there.

    Thanks for telling me I don’t have to abide by the prevailing culture, I’m sure that comment was well meaning, if a little condescending. I didn’t think my independence was in question. Unless of course you assume I was simply brain washed by a type of Judaism you don’t like or agree with.

    I don’t feel the need to pray “real loud” and I would discourage you from assuming every woman does. On shabbat we often all sing in a group, men and women from different sides of the mehitza, but that has never proven to be a problem.

    Your solution IS silly, as well as impractical for the reasons I listed in my comment above. You are also confusing gender for denomination, which led you to not address my point that conservative prayer groups ARE the idiosyncratic ones practicing exclusionary practices, compared to the majority at the site.

    I appreciate your desire to create what you would consider a sense of “fairness” but perhaps it is because you have not been here in years that the reality of the situation is not apparent to you.

    The conservative minyan that prays at Robinsons arch meets once a day in the morning. The space can easily accommodate that reasonably sized group. But like I said, the vast vast majority of people who regularly attend the Kotel are orthodox (they tend to pray more, what can I say?). Robinson’s arch would not fit the dozens of minyans that occur during normal prayer time. There is a steady stream of orthodox individuals all day long and well into the night. Robinson’s Arch closes at night. What do the orthodox men do then? Furthermore, on shabbat and holidays, the numbers swell so that the current men’s section can barely contain them. Once again, making the idea of moving them to Robinson’s arch impractical. Furthermore, women often desire to pray along to an orthodox minyan near the other side of the mehitza, and participate in Bar Mitzvah ceremonies and such that take place by standing on chairs leaning over the mehitza. You would be eliminating all orthodox women, or women with orthodox families, and almost all Sephardic women from participating in such important activities by your solution, and I don’t think that you consider that very fair either.

    Like I said, I can appreciate where your heart is at on this issue, but the reality of the situation (for the reasons stated above and from many other angles) renders your solution impractical, and yeah, a little silly.

  • oh, and by the way, the kotel is NOT the holiest site in Judasim. It’s just a retaining wall.

    I don’t have to fight for my right to be there, and I don;t know why you would think I do. I have a whole section devoted to my right to be there, it’s just a little smaller than I’d like.

  • Laya, it’s a shame you can’t enjoy my lighthearted comments, even over a serious topic.

    You can call my suggestion what you like, but it remains a fair solution to the situation. The fact that you are willing to accept a smaller section at the holiest site in Judaism than men because…well, because it is smaller and that’s how it’s done, is unfortunate and mocks the idea of fairness or equality.

    Current situation: one group controls the largest and most desirable section of the holiest site in Judaism – the physical connection to the Temple and the physical embodiment of the quest and desire of the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem after millenia in exile – to the exclusion of women or other Jewish groups.

    My proposal: all groups share this holy site equally; all Jews are equal.

    Is that silly? Or is it silly to justify the status quo even if your area is smaller, just because it suits men to have it that way. Then again, as I wrote earlier, if you’re comfortable with the status quo, that’s also fine with me because it serves me well. So thanks!

    At this point, because I have noticed the beginnings of personal remarks again, I will take Michael’s sage suggestion and bow out of this discussion.

  • The fact that you are willing to accept a smaller section at the holiest site in Judaism than men because…well, because it is smaller and that’s how it’s done, is unfortunate and mocks the idea of fairness or equality.

    Is it really possible that you completely missed everything I said? Perhaps you are simply hellbent on disagreeing with me at every turn, and that clouds your ability to read what I have clearly said multiple times. Try rereading, pretend someone else wrote it.

    It also is beginning to seem that no matter what I write, you will read any disagreement as some kind of personal attack. That’s not very fair of you, and completely stymies any further discussion, on this, or any topic.

  • TM wrote: “My proposal: all groups share this holy site equally; all Jews are equal.”

    I don’t recall the Torah saying anything about equality. Where in our vaunted Jewish tradition, forget about Rabbinic law, I know how that is often negated by “progressive” Jewish movements. I’ll just be happy with any passage from the Torah thaat says that equality is a big ol’ Jewish value.

    TM wrote: “Current situation: one group controls the largest and most desirable section of the holiest site in Judaism”

    The Kotel is not the holiest site in Judaism. The Temple Mount is. The group that actually controls the Kotel is the Israeli government. The Kotel is run along Orthodox traditions partly because they are the ones that use it the most, their tradition represents the lowest common denominator, and frankly, Conservative and Reform Jews have no organized presence within Israeli politics. You don’t like it? Fine. Move here and vote.

    TM wrote: “But then again, I’m sure you know that the reason there are more of them praying is the inferior status of women with respect to prayer and ritual in Judaism”

    Judaism does not consider women inferior to men. Just different with different, but no less important obligations.

    TM wrote: “drugged-out nude orgiastic prayer going on to trance music”

    Very funny TM. But if this foreign notion of equality is something you cherish, why do you not add in all the other diverse Jewish practices to the equation? Why advocate for a special section for Conservative and Reform Jews but not for Reconstructionist, New Age, Pagan, Messianic and all other Jews. On what basis can you exclude those people? If it’s equality you seek, why do you only seek it for people like you but not people who are even more uh… liberal (for lack of a better term) than you are?

    By the way, Michael just went out to kill a puppy. I hope you’re both proud of yourselves …

  • TM,

    I find your attempts to impose Diaspora Movements on Israel misguided.

    The Reform Movement rejected the notion of a return of any sort to Jerusalem. They declared i Germany, “Berlin is our Jerusalem.”

    If they want a wall to pray according to their “traditions,” let them find one there.

  • Ck,

    Equality not mentioned in Torah. Yup, but stoning is.

    Move here and vote: what and go to a place where I’ll be a minority. 😉

    Women not inferior: we’ve had this discussion. Baruch she’lo asani isha is what I always think of…

    Most religious site in Judaism: play all the games you want but you can’t get into the Temple Mount’s section that is the holiest to you, but you can get to the Western Wall. That’s why all those Orthodox Jews go to pray there, right?

    Equality of movements: nowhere have I written that anybody should be excluded or not have their own section. I would include any member of groups where there is a mixed service into the “Other” section. I’m not being exclusionary, my man, some other people are…

    Kelsey, dude, it’s good to see you visiting. Masorati movement is not exactly a diaspora movement, just in terms of membership. Many Israelis, though secular, are traditional in practice. Many others believe in god and in a Jewish God at that. However, they are not Orthodox and as a result, find themselves without a religious community. If the rabbinic courts did not have the type of control over civic life that they do, I would think other movements within Judaism would take root very quickly in Israel. Instead, you have either the Orthodox or no practice for most Israelis.

    As for Reform, not that I’m the one to represent them here, but they have made an effort over recent years to bring Israel and Zionism into their movement. You should be a little less harsh in your dismissal of the fastest growing movement in Judaism.

    Oh, one last thing. I am not trying to impose anything on anybody. I am not in a position to impose anything on anybody. I am in a position to write comments on a website that represent what I believe. Read them at your peril.

  • DK-
    The 19th-century Reform movement that rejected a return to the state of Israel is so different from today’s Reform movement as to be unrecognizable as the same movement (on this issue).

    CK-
    This Stage-1 “lowest common denominator” stuff is bullshit. I understand that the idea behind it is that liberal Jews can pray in either mixed or single-gender settings, and Orthodox Jews can only pray in single-gender settings, so gender separation is maximally inclusive. (Let’s assume this for the sake of argument, and disregard the fact that this separation is unacceptable to many liberal Jews.) Suppose I then come forward and say that I (a right-handed person) can’t pray next to left-handed people. Since I can only pray in a right-handed-only section, while Orthodox Jews can pray in either separate-handedness or mixed-handedness sections, the “lowest common denominator” principle would dictate that the men’s section of the Kotel be divided into a left-handed section and a right-handed section.

    This wouldn’t happen though, even though it is logically equivalent to the justification you’re claiming for the mechitza at the Kotel. Instead, I’d be dismissed as a lunatic. So why aren’t the Orthodox Jews at the Kotel similarly dismissed as lunatics? Because they have power, and I (and my hypothetical right-handed chauvinist) don’t. The “lowest common denominator” doesn’t really exist; only power does.

    Which brings us to your other point, that the majority of Kotel users are Orthodox, and therefore the Kotel should adhere only to Orthodox practice. Isn’t this circular? If the entire Kotel plaza were filled with egal davening, then Orthodox Jews (except for the ones showing up to cause disturbances) would stay home. How would you respond if I pointed out that the majority of people praying on the Temple Mount were Muslim?

    CK wrote:
    They are of course not charged anything during any evening or on Shabbat or Yom Tov.

    Actually, Robinson’s Arch is closed during all of these times, except when it’s open for special groups.

  • TM wrote: “Equality not mentioned in Torah. Yup, but stoning is.”

    OK! Good. So you admit that there is no Jewish tradition of equality – that the notion of equality is foreign to Judaism. Please correct me if I am mistaken – your short response doesn’t really give me much to work with. And yes, much of Judaism isn’t pretty, nor does it neatly conform to modern day standards – I mean, hell sometimes I have work deadlines and shabbat is a pain in the ass. Sometimes I think why can’t I just watch a relaxing movie on shabbat? Or eat a lobster – everyone says that stuff is awesome! But Judaism isn’t about doing whatever one likes – it’s about conforming to a series of objective, God given standards.

    And yes, Judaism allows for capital punishment but in ways that made it nearly impossible to implement.

    BTW I’m sorry about the “move here and vote” comment. Although it’s true, and I would like nothing better than to be able to play basketball with you in Gan Ha Pa’amon, I did not mean to imply that your well intentioned feedback is worthless absent your posession of a teudath zehut.

    Having said that then, am I correct in assuming that you would allow a Pagan, Messianic or nudist service at the Kotel as long as it was Jewish? You do know that some of our more progressive friends have advocated celebrating Yom Kippur by having a dance and a feast… they could start their celebration with a raucous service at the Kotel and that would be ok with you? Clearly that would not be ok with me – hence my opposition to a “trichitza.”

    BZ: Hmmm… your analogy is wrong. Once again, please, anyone show me where in the Torah does it demonstrate that egalitarianism/pluralism is a halachic imperative? These are all just made up concepts when applied to Judaism. As for the power of the Orthodox – well, they were praying at the Kotel while Reform Judaism was excising all references to Zion from it’s liturgy. I’m glad they’ve now come around, but really – they simply have no standing to dictate how prayers at the Kotel ought to be run.

    Yes the Orthodox comprise the majority of people davening at the Kotel – thry also comprise the majority of people davening, period. Here in Israel there are certainly few if any progressive minyans that meet on a daily basis for services. Really, like kashrut, davening doesn’t seem to be a big priority for Reform Jews.

  • Laya gives the best description of the actual facts on the ground, in terms of history and usage. In particular, my wife and sister are constantly complaining about the crowded women’s section.

    The web site for the park area indicates it is administered jointly by the Antiquities Authority and the Jerusalem municipality. If they charge admission, it would be similar to other historical sites jointly administered by JNF and the Antiquities Authority.

    It would then be up to those administering the site to reach an informal agreement with such a group of regulars – perhaps they could adopt the site as docents/volunteers. Perhaps the donors can supply some protekzia.

    Regarding long-term, equable solution of the Kotel situation: Again Laya has the key, IMO. Historically there was no mechitza at the Kotel – BECA– USE up close to the Kotel is not really a place for minyan-style prayers, but for individual prayers.

    This is true even today when we have a nice open plaza: most men praying there in a minyan are not interacting at all with the wall (besides general awe/sense of place). In fact most of us go up to the wall before/after the minyan for some intimate time with the stones.

    So: Let’s pull ALL prayer minyanim away from the wall, and put it in that secondary plaza, and in other secondary places in the area (which would mean FINALLY developing a unified plan for the Jewish Quarter side of the plaza).

    Leave the up-close-and-personal space before the Kotel open to all.

    This would allow all kinds of groups to pray on various terraces, etc. without feeling that the Orthodox had muscled them out of the Kotel proper. It would also open up more spaces for groups, simchas, etc.

  • Let’s pull ALL prayer minyanim away from the wall, and put it in that secondary plaza
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    to be clear: I mean that “viewing gallery” just behind the mechitza-divided area. It could be fenced off on its rear portion to prevent foot traffic. Or even divided into several smaller terraces, giving more access ramps to the Kotel itself.

  • play all the games you want but you can’t get into the Temple Mount’s section that is the holiest to you, but you can get to the Western Wall.

    For the record, you CAN get onto the Temple Mount. It’s where ck and I met after all.

    I don’t know why pointing out that the Kotel is NOT the holiest site in Judaism is playing games, it’s just a statement of fact. The Western Wall is no holier than the Eastern Wall. When people project some intrinsic holiness onto the Kotel it quickly slides into a kind of wall worship which I think is really unhealthy. It’s like saying “Ramot; the Holy City of David”

    BZ: How would you respond if I pointed out that the majority of people praying on the Temple Mount were Muslim?
    Uhhh…yeah, and the rules for when you are up there go according to Muslim law and sensitivity. What’s your point?

  • TM, you wrote,

    “Masorati movement is not exactly a diaspora movement, just in terms of membership. Many Israelis, though secular, are traditional in practice. Many others believe in god and in a Jewish God at that. However, they are not Orthodox and as a result, find themselves without a religious community. If the rabbinic courts did not have the type of control over civic life that they do, I would think other movements within Judaism would take root very quickly in Israel. Instead, you have either the Orthodox or no practice for most Israelis.”
    “Masorati movement is not exactly a diaspora movement, just in terms of membership. Many Israelis, though secular, are traditional in practice.”

    Wow, that is an incredible, blatant misappropriation of terms. Being traditional and following the Traditional Movement ™ is hardly the same thing. That’s like your friend Fulani claiming that all voters who consider themselves independent are therefore members of the Independent party. Which is why the Conservative Movement attempted to re-brand themselves in the first place with a bogus name.

    Let it be clear, TM. Outside of the U.S. and her cultural colonies like Canada, your deviant movement lacks any serious inroads with the majority of traditional Jews. So don’t pretend otherwise, or offer excuses, like say this:

    “If the rabbinic courts did not have the type of control over civic life that they do, I would think other movements within Judaism would take root very quickly in Israel.”

    But they don’t, do they?

    Alternatively, you know what? I think the Hari Krishnas and the Moonies would take firmer root and very quickly if only the Rabbinic controlled courts would let them. So let’s share power with them, too!

    We are American and we have more money. It’s not fair our American movements aren’t more popular in Israel. Boo fucking hoo. Whaaaaaaaah.

  • CK writes:
    Once again, please, anyone show me where in the Torah does it demonstrate that egalitarianism/pluralism is a halachic imperative?

    Now that’s more like it! I’m happy to see that you’ve abandoned the claim that the Orthodox-controlled status quo at the Kotel somehow serves a pluralistic goal by being a “common denominator” for everyone (as in comments 18, 20, etc.), and is the objectively optimal solution without judgment about the validity of anyone’s practice.

    Now, with the question above, you’ve moved onto a new (albeit still misguided) claim, and ask “where in the Torah” egalitarianism can be demonstrated.

    First of all, there is no source “in the Torah” for mechitza, but that’s not relevant on either side of the argument, because the Karaites aren’t taking part in the discussion. Orthodox Jews base mechitza on a form of rabbinic Judaism (which liberal Jews happen to disagree with). Other commenters in this thread, in an absurd attempt to give it d’oraita status, have connected it to Shirat Hayam. Liberal Jews (IMO, much less absurdly) connect egalitarianism with tzelem Elohim.

    Neither group is going to convince the other to change their understanding of Judaism. But that’s precisely the point — there is no single interpretation of Torah that all Jews agree on. (All Jews. Considering only the opinions of those who agree with you would turn any resulting agreement into a tautology.) Therefore, if the policy is going to be based on “Torah”, then the interpretation of what that means will fall to whichever group is in power, and that’s what’s happening right now.

    CK writes:
    These are all just made up concepts when applied to Judaism.

    In your view, at what point in time does the evolution of Judaism cease, such that anything incorporated into Judaism after that time becomes a “made up concept”? After the Torah? Before or after the Mishnah? The Gemara? The rishonim? The Zohar? The Shulchan Aruch? The founding of Chasidut? The founding of Hirsch’s Neo-Orthodoxy? The founding of “religious Zionism”? The founding of the modern State of Israel?

    CK writes:
    As for the power of the Orthodox – well, they were praying at the Kotel while Reform Judaism was excising all references to Zion from it’s liturgy.

    In fact, most Orthodox Jews at that time (late 19th century) were in Europe, denouncing the Zionists, who were mostly secular. The “old yishuv” of Orthodox Jews anywhere near the Kotel was a tiny minority. The Reform movement’s about-face on Zionism was in the early 20th century, well before the founding of the State.

    Yes the Orthodox comprise the majority of people davening at the Kotel – thry also comprise the majority of people davening, period.

    That may be the case in Israel (though I’m disappointed that you take pride in the fact that the Israeli Orthodox establishment has made most non-Orthodox Israelis resentful toward any religious expression of Judaism), but is not the case worldwide. A site visited by Jews from around the world should not have its policies determined solely by the composition of the Israeli population.

  • BZ has written beautifully in response to your comments, but I’ve been sitting on this response since yesterday and his response has encouraged me to post it:

    It doesn’t matter one whit that many Orthodox Jews pray and that many do it at the Kotel, ck. If anti-Zionist Jews who live in Meah Shearim want to go to the Kotel, should they have preference at that site over Zionist but non-Orthodox Jews?

    Who decided this?

    The Kotel is a symbol for all Jews. You want to keep harping about how it’s not the holiest site in Judaism? Fine. Then since it represents what is behind it, you will agree that the Kotel is a symbol. It is a symbol of holiness, of our history and of the Temple (or remnants thereof) that lies behind it.

    This symbol, this wall, is the inheritance of all Jews. It is the inheritance of every Jew whether you agree with his/her religious convictions or practice or not. Just as there was no religious discrimination when Israeli soldiers risked their lives to break through and reclaim this Wall from the Jordanians after 19 long years of its inaccessibility, there is no justification for any discrimination now.

    Even if there is just a single pair of people, a Jewish man and a Jewish woman, who believe they can and should pray together, it is their right to pray at that symbol of their heritage and of their faith no less than anybody else’s. This is not a function of majority rules – although as I said earlier, if you want to go by majorities, women will get the main section – but a function of fairness.

    It isn’t yours, ck. It isn’t the possession of the Orthodox, or of a particular variety of Orthodox. It is ours. It belongs to all of the Jewish people. I know that as you read this, you know that what I just wrote is the truth. It belongs to us all.

    It takes hubris to determine what is the preferred kind of Judaic practice in God’s eyes. And even if one has the chutzpah to make the claim for superiority, does that also allow one to denigrate and demote others as if they are lesser Jews?

    It’s simple, ck, it belongs to us all. No group should be treated less well than any other.

    As for the Bible…

    Equality. Women in the bible are sent to the husband’s house. They are not kept in their father’s house. Sons are kept in their homes and inherit their father’s possessions upon his death. Usually the first-born gets to keep more than his siblings.

    So?

    Should I be applying these standards in our modern world?

    In the Torah, a man may marry more than one wife and have concubines.

    Should I apply that standard to our modern world?

    Some Jewish women shave their heads after marriage?

    Is that written in the Torah somewhere?

    So where is the Torah on this issue of equality or inequality that it matters so much to you? That it matters in our culture is what is important here. I mean, if some Israelite from 300 BCE or 70 CE were to see those men praying at the Kotel, do you think he would recognize them and what they are doing? It’s only when he hears the language and the words of some of the prayers that he will recognize who they are, and those prayers and words that he’d recognize also exist within other Jewish movements’ liturgies.

    As to the point about which Jewish services I would allow, I think that this was a red herring when you first brought it up – reminding of shrimp encrusted fishsticks, actually – and remains one now. You know very well that those Conservative and Reform and Reconstructionist and Humanist Jews may be no less devout and respectful of their heritage and religion than Orthodox Jews.

  • TM,

    You really lack a respect for borders. It is not your ideology that is the problem but the process with which you attempt to defend it which is so frustrating to so many. You confuse Judaism for Zionism. You confuse what’s good for Israel as what’s good for America. You confuse what is in the public religious space for how one prefers to live his personal life. You confuse the Kotel for a campus Hillel.

    You wrote,
    “It doesn’t matter one whit that many Orthodox Jews pray and that many do it at the Kotel, ck. If anti-Zionist Jews who live in Meah Shearim want to go to the Kotel, should they have preference at that site over Zionist but non-Orthodox Jews?”
    Who decided this?”

    Jewish people to Zionist guy: The Kotel and its symbolic value were not created by the Zionists. The Kotel was created in the second commonwealth, where it was a part of this thing we call the Temple. The Haredim actually care a lot about that structure, and its ruins.
    Additionally, they live in Israel. You do not.
    “Even if there is just a single pair of people, a Jewish man and a Jewish woman, who believe they can and should pray together, it is their right to pray at that symbol of their heritage and of their faith no less than anybody else’s. This is not a function of majority rules – although as I said earlier, if you want to go by majorities, women will get the main section – but a function of fairness.
    It isn’t yours, ck. It isn’t the possession of the Orthodox, or of a particular variety of Orthodox. It is ours. It belongs to all of the Jewish people. I know that as you read this, you know that what I just wrote is the truth. It belongs to us all.
    It takes hubris to determine what is the preferred kind of Judaic practice in God’s eyes. And even if one has the chutzpah to make the claim for superiority, does that also allow one to denigrate and demote others as if they are lesser Jews?
    It’s simple, ck, it belongs to us all. No group should be treated less well than any other.”

    Wrong, TM. No one should be discriminated because of their lack of religiosity, but it is good for people to understand that the modern inventions of some are not our cultural history in its entirety. There is no better place to teach them this than at the Kotel.

    “As for the Bible…
    Equality. Women in the bible are sent to the husband’s house. They are not kept in their father’s house. Sons are kept in their homes and inherit their father’s possessions upon his death. Usually the first-born gets to keep more than his siblings.
    So?
    Should I be applying these standards in our modern world?
    In the Torah, a man may marry more than one wife and have concubines.
    Should I apply that standard to our modern world?”

    The Kotel is not about the modern world. Ruins rarely are. They are about the ancient world. There is no reason to derancinate them to such a degree. Keep it ancient in its culture. That is the logical thing to do, and the respectful thing to do.
    “Some Jewish women shave their heads after marriage? Is that written in the Torah somewhere? ”
    Now you’re really being silly. This prfound observation has nothing to do with anything we are discussing, oh egalitarian modern world one.
    “Is that written in the Torah somewhere?”
    No, it’s not. Nor does it say anything about having to wear a fur hat on Chol Hamoed. Any other irrelevant points you would like to bring up?
    “You know very well that those Conservative and Reform and Reconstructionist and Humanist Jews may be no less devout and respectful of their heritage and religion than Orthodox Jews.”
    Great! Then they won’t mind behaving in accordance with our long-standing practice of separate prayer sections for men and women at this most ancient and important site, but will understand that not every place can be about changing and updating our civilization, but once in a while, it needs to be about respecting it for what it was, and what it still is.

  • I fear for that poor little puppy, as well as the future of other little puppies yet to be born in Israel, when I read so much divisiveness over the one thing that seems to have held you together and carried you through so much for so many generations, your religion.

    Don’t lose site of that forest that wants to consume you, still just beyond your borders, while you lose good will between yourselves arguing over trees….no, grass.

  • DK wrote:
    Great! Then they won’t mind behaving in accordance with our long-standing practice of separate prayer sections for men and women at this most ancient and important site

    Have you read the rest of the thread?

  • The I guess they aren’t the ones who are “respectful of our heritage” that TM must be talking about. 😉

  • Um, Kelsey, you really need to chill out man.

    Seriously, I didn’t bother with your first rant and I don’t feel this last one was much better. With all due respect, I don’t give a flying fuck if the movements were called Karaites or Samarians or Lubavitchers. The point is that all these movements are and should be considered equal at this holy site.

    As for your continuing kow-towing to those who wield the power and currently control the Kotel, you just keep busting me up. It reminds me of that time I first saw a Sephardic Jew wearing a shtreimel and thought to myself that it looked so very out of place.

    Anyway, here are some historical images for you. Let me know when you see something that reminds you of whatever it is you’re advocating.

    Pic

    Pic2

    Pic3

    Pic4

    Pic5

    Pic6

    Pic7

    Pic8

    So please, kindly, cut out the crap about historical standards and violating norms of practice. There were no mechitzas; there was no separation of the sexes; there was no separation of different movements. There were Jews praying at a holy site. Period.

  • Jews meditating and crying and prostrating themselves. There were no prayer services allowed at the kotel at the time those pictures were taken – when Jerusalem was under the benevolent rule of the Ottomans, who while allowing the Jews to have access to the tightly confined area in front of the Kotel, also imposed head taxes on Jews. Please, read your history books. Mechitzahs are a well entrenched part of Jewish prayer – well, until Reform Jews came along and decided their services had to resemble church services more and made Rabbis dress like Protestant clergy and removed the mechitzah from their “synagogues.” See they didn’t want to upset their Church going co-citizens. But what am I a history book? Look it up yourself. There’s more to come too, but I have a meeting I have to go to.

  • 🙄

    You see both men and women together without the presence of any form of physical or imaginary divider not because of the Turks, but because it was a different group of Jews than the groups that dominate today. In fact, ck, they probably resemble to a much greater degree our ancestors rather than those of the dominant Ashkenazi streams of today. Nobody is compelling the people in these photos, engravings and paintings – which are also described by travelers from those eras – to pray jointly or separately. These are their choices and they tended to pray together. They certainly did not separate from each other because some men had difficulty being around women.

    What these images show is the history of the place.

    As for the history of the mechitza, as I understand it, there were no mechitzas in synagogues throughout the Middle Ages because women tended not to attend…

  • What do you mean, CK? Just because every congregation in every land in every community had a mechitza until the Germans decided they didn’t need one in the 19th century — that’s just because of the hold of the Non-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox monopoly on ritual in the State of Israel. Get Modern World Thinking, man!

  • I’m really hesitant to enter this fray, especially when it is so emotionally charged. However, I’d like to point out one thing from the pictures TM posted.

    At no point are any group prayers taking place, there is never a minyan. No one is saying Shacris, Mincha, or Maariv. Rather, people are saying individual supplications, Tehillam/Psalms, and just crying at the unfortunate history of our people. Non of that requires a mechitzah by any standards. I will also point out that even so, the men and women pictured aren’t intermingling, or mixing. Even without a partition, the women are clumped together, and the men are clumped together. The only overlap was in the back where people were walking. Considering the limited space, the lack of control that would enable them to build there, and the form and structure of worship there, it is not surprising to me that there is no partition. Thankfully, in today’s times we have control and access, and minyanim do take place. The rules of today are set by the ideological decedents of those people in your pictures. Those people, in our times, would also require a partition.

    Perhaps you’ll want to argue for a third section where genders can be mixed that only allowed for individual supplication like the days of old. That argument would be a little foolish though, because the current system allows for individual supplication, and clearly, individual supplication doesn’t require a mixed group presence or any group presence for that matter.

    I grant you that emotionally, this issue is very sensitive. That it can and does seem discriminatory and unfair to a lot of people. I believe a large part of the reason for that is poor Judaic education, and the lack of understanding of beauty and purpose behind our traditions. Yet, regardless, I need to treat your emotions as valid (emotions are always valid, I can’t deny you how you feel) and I can only respond with sympathy.

    However, emotion is never allowed to dictate law, especially not halachik practise, which is the issue here. Halacha is clear. No matter how many attempts you make to try to reinterpret it, halachic tradition stands. Maybe one day when we have our great Sanhedrin back operating at full speed we’ll see broad changes, but for now that’s not the case. So while I appreciate your emotional vestment, demanding a change such as the one you propose is never going to be fruitful.

    More productive, and beneficial, would be an open discussion on gender issues in general. It’s clear that emotions run high, and perceptions differ greatly. If you wish to live in an accepted halachic sphere, then you owe it to yourself and others to try to integrate and be faithful to both. We should attempt to determine the best way within halacha to create feelings of acceptance and involvement for women. Shul layouts should be designed with that in mind. But rejecting halacha and demanding others do as well because you don’t like it is not an approach we can take with Judaism and expect to survive intact.

    I am, as a future rabbinical figure, extremely curious as to what you feel can be done WITHIN the halachic framework that would help to address the very real, very powerful, very painful, emotions that people feel. I’m ready to listen, I’m ready to accept you regardless of what you say, and I’m ready to not judge as a result. I will continue to love you for who you are as a Jew and as a Person despite ideological differences, but what I’m unwilling to do is compromise on halacha or any other basic tenets of Judaism.
    Oh, and Shamir, I read, in its entirety, the piece that you posted on Mechitzah by the Shechter Institute on Jewish Law. I appreciate the desire behind work like theirs, to encourage womens involvement in Judaism, but I disagree with their approach. Aside from several logical leaps and flaws in their discussion, I disagree with their methods of halachic interpretation and the degree to which they are willing to just cast aside long standing traditions and accepted practices. They are a perfect example of letting a positive goal destroy Judaism rather then strengthen it. They have the potential to do serious studies and offer real suggestions for change that follow within the realm of accepted Halacha, but they’d rather take an easier route and end up causing more confusion and pain as a result. I appreciate your sharing the piece, but I feel the need to inform you that no serious halachic scholar will look at their work and take it for more then a grain of salt. It’s too reactionary, and lacks any real authority or solid halachic discussion. Even from an academic perspective, the piece is shoddy logic at best.

  • Perhpas, Purim Hero, you have touched on one of the key issues causing a division among Jews. It’s not good enough to say, “The law is the law” when the law is clearly biased in favor of men. Or when the law is clearly biased in favor of certain movements because they were granted power.

    The images I provided were what I found using a quick Google search. I’m sure there are many, many more images out there that show the Kotel with Jews praying, and you may even find communal prayers in there. It’s hard for us to know. There may be a natural division between men and women in some of these images (not all), but if you read the copy provided in a couple of the links, you’ll see they prayed together. The point being that women were not necessarily the distraction which so troubles the advocates of this separation.

    But whatever, you want to keep men and women divided because it’s where you want halacha to stop? Go right ahead. You want women not to lead prayers or become torah readers or rabbis? Fine with me. You want to tell some poor Ethiopians who have been Jewish for at least as long as you, that they are not real Jews and need “updating” and then not update them after they go through the process? Why not?

    You want to be sexist, exclusionary, patriarchal and stuck somewhere around the 4th Century AD? Go right ahead. I’ll go my way as well, because I know for a fact that women are capable of being very good rabbis, extraordinary torah readers, amazing torah scholars, should be my equals in every facet of Jewish life (and life in general), and that these Ethiopian Jews are no less Jewish than me. Some people think that my beliefs and the way I express them would be the destruction of Judaism. To these people I say, maybe, but consider carefully what you believe and its implications.

  • I ask my young Rebbetzin spiritual and religious questions. She knows her stuff. She gives blessings and they work. She wears a wig and keeps to her side of the mechitza. She is very cool and nice. She has a lot of children. Do you?

    There is a huge sacrifice in giving up mixed study.

    But the price of mixed study is infertility and I have no answer to that. It’s wierd that’s the way it is, but that’s the way it is. I have no answer to that but there does have to be a future.

    We are all released on our own recognizance.

    Separation seems to be necessary for closeness. Go figure.

  • TM, you are right again, We must enforce our will upon Israel, the same way we force our will upon U.S. policy. Through money, through guilt, through manipulation, through lobby.

    All will bow before our progressive Zionist agenda. America, Israel, whoever.

    We decide. We know best. We are ZOG.

  • TM, you wrote,

    ”You want to be sexist, exclusionary, patriarchal and stuck somewhere around the 4th Century AD?”

    You’re being an obnoxious Feminazionist again.

    “I know for a fact that women are capable of being very good rabbis, extraordinary torah readers, amazing torah scholars, should be my equals in every facet of Jewish life.”

    Cut your daughters, or stop cutting your sons, or shut up about your supposed egalitarianism.

  • Kelsey, okay, you’ve convinced me that it’s not blood pressure medication that will help you.

    Hey ck, are you worried about Kelsey’s support here? Next thing you know, we’ll be getting other types of people who like to insert the word nazi into their clever phrases.

  • Keep dismissing Orthodoxy in its entirety as “stuck somewhere around the 4th century A.D.” and you will find you unite a lot of people with disparate opinions.

    Keep going on this track. I think it’s working great.

  • DK, are you seriously suggesting that the fact that Jewish boys are circumcized gives them a blank check to lord over women in every other aspect of life? That’s precious.
    I’m loving the irony of calling themiddle a feminazi as well. And since there is so much discussion on this blog about words and their power to offend and since the word “shiksa” is pretty much verboten here, I just thought I’d mention that the term “feminazi” offends me and I wish people wouldn’t use it. I can’t imagine that’s going to stop anyone though.
    Themiddle, your heart seems to be in the right place and while I agree with your assertion that Ethiopian Jews are just as Jewish as anyone else and that women make terrific rabbinic scholars and community leaders and all of that good stuff, you’re never going to convince the people who don’t want to be convinced. All you can do is conduct yourself the way you see fit and daven with likeminded Jews. Personally, the Kotel is not all that important to me. The feeling I have in the presence of the Kotel is the same feeling I have all over the old city, which is an overwhelming connectedness to history and to my own spirituality. Frankly, between the throngs of dosim and tourists, the Kotel is not even that pleasant a place most of the time. It is a shame that a place that apparently brings so many people such fulfillment is also a source of bitter conflict, but it’s really not a new phenomenon.

  • Kelsey, where were you when ck was talking about drugged out nudists in close proximity to where he writes about Conservative and Reform Jews?

    What can I do if that’s the premise that Purim Hero wants to use to justify refusing any moderation on this topic? This is exactly why a movement like the Conservative movement exists, because they clearly refuse to stop the natural evolution of Jewish law and practice at some arbitrary date.

    Ck says, “What can I do, this is the way it’s always been done. Sorry.” Purim Hero says, “My sympathy, but this is the way it has always been. Sorry.” Laya says, “I wouldn’t mind if the women’s section was a little bigger,” as if it’s not up to 51% of the population to make this decision. Oh wait, it’s not. Why is it not? After all, women can vote, go to school, become Prime Ministers, run companies. Yet, somehow, they cannot read a torah in public, mix in with a prayer service, become rabbis, or have an equal sized area at the (watch this, ck) symbol for the holiest site in Judaism. I guess the Orthodox and others with disparate views already ARE unified. Gosh, it’s good to be a man.

    Care to give us a speech about the use of nazi in your last remarks?

  • Do not misquote me middle. I did not use a term you used. Please stop your revisionsim. Mine was an incorporation of three separate words, and a was meant playfully and gently!

    Again, you are confusing the modern secular world with the Jewish and ancient one, and its continuum. The two are not one and the same. For many people, this different set of rules is too much, and they simply wither withdraw from the modern one, or start making shit up and pretending its Judaism, especially in the Anglo suburbs, where you obviously live.

    The first way really sucks and is dysfunctional on a pragmatic level. The second way is really dishonest, and dysfunctional in terms of fertility and longevity.

  • Purim Hero wrote:
    Perhaps you’ll want to argue for a third section where genders can be mixed that only allowed for individual supplication like the days of old.

    Uh, no. In the hypothetical third section, people can pray as they want, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go to one of the other two sections.

    Purim Hero wrote:
    I grant you that emotionally, this issue is very sensitive. That it can and does seem discriminatory and unfair to a lot of people. I believe a large part of the reason for that is poor Judaic education, and the lack of understanding of beauty and purpose behind our traditions. Yet, regardless, I need to treat your emotions as valid (emotions are always valid, I can’t deny you how you feel) and I can only respond with sympathy.

    Dear Purim Hero:
    You can take your sympathy and shove it up your ass. How dare you suggest that anyone who agrees with you (e.g. 19-year-old fresh-off-the-boat frummer-than-thou Aish Hatorah ba’alei “teshuva”) is coming from a place of superior Jewish education, and anyone who disagrees (e.g. liberal Jews who have been studying and living Judaism their entire lives) is coming from a place of ignorant emotion? You need to accept that there are people with well-informed opinions who disagree with you on fundamental principles (as well as amaratzim gemurim who sympathize with Orthodoxy).

    However, emotion is never allowed to dictate law, especially not [Orthodox] halachik practise, which is the issue here.

    No, it’s not necessarily the issue here. That’s precisely what we’re disputing. We’re not claiming that institutions under Orthodox auspices, adhering to Orthodox definitions of halacha, should change their internal practices. We’re claiming that the Kotel should not be, in its entirety, under Orthodox auspices.

    I’d rather see something like the Holy Sepulchre, where each church has its nook that it controls. Even though each church believes deep down that it is the one true way (after all, one of them calls itself “catholic” and several call themselves “orthodox”), they have eked out (albeit kicking and screaming) a pragmatic solution in which they share space and supervision.

    Purim Hero writes:
    I will continue to love you for who you are as a Jew and as a Person despite ideological differences, but what I’m unwilling to do is compromise on halacha or any other basic tenets of Judaism.

    And no one is asking you to compromise. You’re perfectly welcome to stay in your own section at the Kotel. (If you consider it a compromise any time any Jew anywhere is violating what you consider halacha, then you’re compromising every second whether you like it or not.)

  • Ofri,

    It isn’t about lording over anybody. It is about recognizing limits in our culture for modern sensibilities and axioms, okay?

    TM, I misquoted you misquoting me when it was Ofri. Sorry about that.

  • Gosh, it is good to be a woman too.

    This is a link to the kabbalah of pregnancy and childbirth and all that special life-creating stuff that men, even very smart and nice ones, can only watch in wonder: Link

  • BZ,

    You wrote to Purim Hero,

    “How dare you suggest that anyone who agrees with you (e.g. 19-year-old fresh-off-the-boat frummer-than-thou Aish Hatorah ba’alei “teshuva”) is coming from a place of superior Jewish education, and anyone who disagrees (e.g. liberal Jews who have been studying and living Judaism their entire lives) is coming from a place of ignorant emotion.”

    BZ, with all due respect, you do act as though all Religious Left (that is, other than Orthodox in the broadest of tents) Jews are frequently as erudite as yourself. You are hardly the mean average. So don’t pretend you are. You are one of the exceptions, and no layman.

    There is a greater amount of Jewish illiteracy in with the mass of the religious left world, just as there is a greater amount of secular ignorance in the Orthodox world.

  • Actually DK, the notion that those who aren’t Orthodox and who have been arguing against the status quo, are ignorant, keeps being brought up in these discussions. Supposedly, we don’t know or understand.

    There are plenty of people who understand and hold the same views as I do, just as there are many who are ignorant of Jewish traditions who do. Of course, if they still feel they are equal Jews or that women should be exactly equal to men with respect to ritual and practice, their ignorance with respect to Judaism is meaningless since they are Jews and those are their values. Their fine values, I should add.

    But thanks for bringing to our attention that perhaps many of those who advocate for the status quo are ignorant of the values and logic of other Jewish traditions and movements.

  • There is plenty of Jewish illiteracy in the religious left world, but the illiterate ones aren’t the ones arguing for a change in the religion-state status quo; they’re going to Chabad for the free alcohol.

  • BZ, I never meant to claim that any and all people who disagree with orthodoxy are stupid. I’m pretty sure that I never did, but apparently you know better. All I meant to espouse is that issues like mechitzah are emotionally clouded issues, and that many times the result is that arguments come from deep places of emotion and reactionism, and very rarely from places of erudite thought and rationalization within accepted realms of halachic discourse. What this translates into are two sides unwilling to listen to the other and often unwilling to even recognize that there may be some validity to the other perspective.

    I’d love to see progress on many socially progressive issues in Judaism, but the way to do that is through open debate within accepted practice. The goal is not to change the religion to accommodate the modern world, but to use the beauty inherent within our faith to enrich the modern world.

    Issues like mechitzah do cause real, valid emotional reactions, a lot of it negative (though positive reactions also about). Our time would be better spent trying to address problems within Judaism within the framework, rather then spending time ripping apart the framework and attacking those who don’t like it. I encourage you to look at institutions like HIR of Riverdale (Hebrew Institute of Riverdale), Rav. Avi Weises synagogue, and see how he approaches this very issue in his synogogue while maintaining Halacha. I encourage you to ask the women at his synagogue how they feel. Do they think of themselves as treated unfairly or secondary? His synagogue is a great example of what can happen when two worlds connect and determine to work out their differences within acceptable frameworks for both of them. Let’s not attack each other, or run from each other, but lets hear each other out, and see what can be done to create a whole, healthy, unified, and inspiring Judaism.

  • And I am certainly a layperson. I have never been employed by a Jewish organization except as a camp counselor, and the last full-time Jewish educational institution I attended was JCC preschool.

  • TM, When will this world come around to the understanding that “equal” does not have to mean “same”?

    Let me share with you an evolution of societal thought. (Admittedly an over generalized one…)

    1. At some point along the line the word “Kadosh” gets translated into the word “Holy” (Thanks to our Christian buddies…)
    2. “Holy” by definition means G-d like, which gives it a valuative assessment of “Good”.
    3. People now have an excuse to immediately proclaim themselves as “Good” because of the concept of a “Am Kadosh” or what them translate as “A Holy Nation”. In doing so, not only do they give themselves a value assessment of “Good” they in turn use this as a means of giving everyone else a value assessment of “Bad”
    4. Differences among people are now a reason to evaluative judge groups of people better then other groups. Being “different” now means that you are inherently “unequal” since you are now “Not Good” while I am “Good”
    5. This carries on for a long time, providing justification for many bad things that took place throughout human history. Slavery, Machismo, and Religious Persecution are only some examples of the many problems that evolve in our society as a result of the notion that “Things that are not the same are not equal” and that therefore some things are intrinsically better then others.
    6. The Great Enlightenment happens! Yeah! Many great societal advances begin to take place, because a recognition slowly sweeps over the world that among other things “all men are created equal”. One problem, the previous notion is still very ingrained. In order to achieve “equal” people begin to believe that we all must be the “Same”.
    7. This brings us to today. All kinds of wonderful advancements have been made, but at a cost of requiring everybody and everything to be “same”. We loose the beauty in our difference. All because we forget that “Am Kadosh” doesn’t mean “A Holy Nation” but just a “distinct, separate Nation”. The word “Kadosh” was never meant to describe an innate value to anything.

    The beauty of Judaism is the recognition that every element of creation has its own role to play in the perfection of the world. Each of these roles are equally important, but they are not, and can not, be the “same”.

    Clearly societal ills and disparities existed prior to this entire evolutionary process. However, this gave validity to many peoples actions, and lessed dependence on “might makes right” realities causing problems to persist much longer then they might have on their own.

  • TM,

    I would absolutely agree that many Orthodox Jews would not know that much more about non-Orthodox movements or history than non-Orthodox Jews themselves. I taught in a Reform Sunday School. They usually learn nothing. Not about their movement, not about any other movement, absolute candy, all to often.

    BZ,

    Most social revolutions in the Conservative Movement are passed when the ignorant masses want it, not because the Intellectuals want it. And they want it because Newsweek or the Times says it is a good idea, much more than anything R. Halivni or anyone else ever said.

  • Purim Hero writes:
    What this translates into are two sides unwilling to listen to the other and often unwilling to even recognize that there may be some validity to the other perspective.

    We’re listening. Interdenominational dialogue is more successful in America than in Israel because it doesn’t start with the fucked-up power dynamic of having one group be the established state religion. In the US, I frequently criticize my movement of origin and point out things that Orthodoxy is doing more successfully. In Israel, we can’t think about having an open conversation until the issues of control are off the table.

    I’d love to see progress on many socially progressive issues in Judaism, but the way to do that is through open debate within accepted practice.

    “Accepted” by whom? In my Jewish communities, egalitarianism is accepted, and non-egalitarianism is not. Would you like to start from that baseline and then have an “open debate”? Didn’t think so.

    Our time would be better spent trying to address problems within Judaism within the framework, rather then spending time ripping apart the framework and attacking those who don’t like it.

    You’re committing the common fallacy of assuming that everyone starts out Orthodox in the state of nature, and each generation of liberal Jews is rebelling de novo against Orthodoxy. In fact, liberal Judaism (by one definition) has been around for 200 years, and has developed “frameworks” of its own (some of which have unfortunately become ossified). Liberal Jews are primarily working within their own frameworks, not ripping apart someone else’s.

  • Purim Hero, we don’t have to be the same. The idea is that we do have to have equal access to an important part of our history, culture and even, dare I say it since it’s just a measly symbol, faith. You want to feel that your way is the only way? Great. You want to believe that your way is what God wants and what Judaism expects? Great. You can believe whatever you want and I’ll be happy for you. Just do me a favor and get out of the way to the other section – the one to which you relegated all those who aren’t like you because you had the power to do so – and let me take over your section for a while. You’ll get it back, right after the women have it for a little while as well.

  • The straw men are flying fast and furious! OK let me take a crack at some of the responses.

    Shamir: The study you cite in your previous comment states that the case for eliminating the custom of mechitzah (barrier b/w men and wwomen in a synagogue) is based on the notion that today men and women are used to being together in public and that thus the presence of women in a prayer service would no longer be distracting. That notion however is not universally true – particularly amongst the Orthodox. Thus I find the author’s argument less than compelling.

    BZ wrote: “I’m happy to see that you’ve abandoned the claim that the Orthodox-controlled status quo at the Kotel somehow serves a pluralistic goal by being a “common denominator” for everyone”

    I’ve done no such thing. I was merely offering more reasons to justify the status quo. I’m really trying to make it as pallatable to you as possible given that no matter how much you yell or kvetch – it aint gonna change any time soon.

    BZ adds: “In your view, at what point in time does the evolution of Judaism cease, such that anything incorporated into Judaism after that time becomes a “made up concept”?”

    Did I ever say that Judaism has ceased to evolve? Or that it ought to? Judaism is in a constaant state of flux and it is not, nor is it meant to be a monolith. Given the respect Judaism accords to tradition, the pace of change may not be to some people’s liking, but hey – that’s the way it is. It’s a smart policy. Think of it this way – you own a company with a well established and well known logo. It’s now the 80s and some people feel the logo is outdated and needs some sprucing up. The head of the art department submits a logo that uses contemporary colors and motifs that are currently in vogue – let’s say it’s flourescent orange and lime green. You may look really cutting edge for a little while, but come the late 90s, your logo just looks stupid and dated. Hence change is accomplished cautiously and methodically lest Judaism be bathed in flourescent orange and lime green (ick!).

    BZ wrote again: “most Orthodox Jews at that time (late 19th century) were in Europe, denouncing the Zionists, who were mostly secular.”

    Yeah but most of the Jews in Palestine were decidedly of the Orthodox persuasion. This has nothing to do with Zionism.

    BZ added: “I’m disappointed that you take pride in the fact that the Israeli Orthodox establishment has made most non-Orthodox Israelis resentful toward any religious expression of Judaism”

    I never said that. Israelis simply haven’t taken to Non-Orthodox Judaism. It’s really not a very Israeli thing. Most Israelis find American-style Conservative and Reform Judaism inauthentic and non-compelling. Y’all could always move here en masse – nothing would make me happier – then you can have a Liberal Jewish Party and affect change that way. Believe me, I’d welcome you with open arms. I’d never vote for you, but I’d welcome you nonetheless. And for alll the talk of the Orthodox strangelhold – there’s no shortage of Liberal minyans and institutions even here in Jerusalem where I live. I’m 2 blocks away from Meah Shearim and 5 blocks away from a Conservative Yeshivah annd numerous liberal minyans. No one’s shutting them down any time soon. But no way are Israelis going to be dictated to by what they see as a foreign movement.

    BZ concludes: “A site visited by Jews from around the world should not have its policies determined solely by the composition of the Israeli population.”

    Well… this is a democracy we have here. And as long as Israelis are putting their bodies on the line defending said sites and as long as Israelis are paying to secure, protect and maintain these sites, American Jewish opinion counts for squat. What’s funny is that the mostly non-Orthodox American Jews that I meet here, who are ostensibly affiliated with Reform and Conservative synagogues, really don’t give a shit about Liberal prayer services at the Kotel because they hardly ever pray. Reform and Conservative Jews may make up the largest segment of American Jewry but their membership remains predominantly secular. This debate that you are so passionate about is a big a yawner for the majority of your constituency.

    TM wrote: “This symbol, this wall, is the inheritance of all Jews. It is the inheritance of every Jew whether you agree with his/her religious convictions or practice or not.”

    So Messianic Jews ought to pray there too? I keep asking this question and you keep refusing to answer it. There really are jews who incorporate pagan practices in their prayer – ought they be included too? Btw I know both Messianic and pagan Jews, who are very passionate about their perception of Judaism and are otherwise fine and good people who are learned in Judaism, sincere and devoted in their practice.

    TM writes: “Some Jewish women shave their heads after marriage?”

    Yes that may not be in the Torah but it does not violate any Torah or rabbinic strictures. I think it’s ridiculous but it doesn’t offend me as much as say, “kosher” shrimp encrusted fish sticks.

    The evolution of tradition is a fine thing, but at the point where a Jewish movement evolves into something that not only rejects tradition but also the basis for such tradition, well… For thousands of years Judaism has functioned such that rabbinic opinion had nearly the same force as words written in the Torah. Reform and to an extent Conservative Judaism broke that line of continuity. That’s the difference between merely adhering to different customs and creating something almost completely different. Its not an issue of superiority – it’s not this apple is better than that apple – it’s more like this is an apple and this is a chair.

    Another thing you fail to address is the fact that the images you cited do not show prayer at the Kotel, which would be impossible as prayer services were banned at the Kotel by the Ottomans and Jews were mostly banned entirely by the Mamelukes and Crusaders before them. The only thing allowed by the Ottomans was individual prayer in which case no mechitzah is necessary. Your otherwise lovely and heart rending photos mean nothing.

    Really, y’all should pick battles you can win. Absent mass American Aliyah and a change in Israel’s electoral reality, you will never win on this point. Stick with Robinson’s Arch – it’s no less holy in the eyes of God than the Kotel. Call for it to be more accessible to the public and that those wishing to pray there be allowed to do so without having to pay. I’d support that! But don’t mess with the Kotel and risk anger, hatred and violence when you’re nice and removed from all that in your cushy pad in Cambridge, Seattle or Miami.

    OK the Sabbath Queen beckons – i gots ta go …

  • CK is the man. Hear him. All four walls, including Robinson’s arch, are continuous and part of the whole, and all just as valid as each other.

    “Equal Jews”?? Nobody said otherwise. Every Jew is a Jew. Women and men are equally Jews. Non- or slightly observant Jews are just as much Jews but they may be parasiting a little, as they are not upholding the more demanding aspects. AND BEING IGNORANT OF THESE MORE DEMANDING ASPECTS MAKES THEM NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS THAT THEY ARE NOT UPHOLDING, SO THEY DO NOT SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT.

    “Women should be exactly equal to men with respect to ritual and practice..” – but their lives are different. If women had to ignore a crying baby because it was last chance to pray Shacrit (morning prayer, TIME-fixed prayer) and the baby would just have to wait, while Mommy talked to G-d, not the baby, that would be absurd and impossible.

    Are you proposing NOBODY be required to pray Shacris on time? Yes, you are. Why are you bringing women into it? You are sort of using them as the tip of your spear. As they are not required, and you don’t want to be, either, you say, “let female and male religious practice be the same”. That way I, a man, am let off these tiresome, time-consuming duties…

    I am only arguing with arguments. I respect everybody personally.

    Shabbat Shalom to all.

  • Straw men?

    Uh, “shrimp-encrusted fish sticks.” Never seen’em.

    “Messianic ‘Jews’.” They ain’t Jews. Once again, you put out there this comparison between two mainstream Jewish movements and something completely unrelated. You got over drugged out nudists and are now into Messianic Christians who claim they are Jewish. Cut it out, it’s not only offensive, but it weakens your argument. I did respond that other movements within Judaism deserve the same respect the Orthodox have given themselves in this matter.

    “This is an apple and this is a chair.” Nope, Conservatives use Halacha as a foundation for anything they do.

    Images. Dude, I went into Google and spent 15 minutes looking around. I did not provide a scholarly essay nor did I do scholarly research. However, prayer did take place there, as you can read in some of the travelogues of the era. No mechitza? So what, you just go ahead and pray. Do you know for a fact they never had a minyan or did so quietly so that if the Ottomans were watching or cared enough to guard the place, that they would stop it? Really, the point of the images is clear and irrefutable: men and women at the Kotel praying. I grant you that it appears communal Torah reading is not apparent in these images and that’s all I’ll grant since you’re purposely evading the key point here. By the way, even if you were right, the images still apply to today in that most people who go to the Kotel go there for personal prayer.

    You don’t address the space issue or the rotation issue other than to say it won’t happen soon. We know it won’t happen soon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be told that it’s a shameful state of affairs.

    You wouldn’t be saying any of this if David Ben Gurion hadn’t given the small Orthodox community that existed back then control over Jewish civic matters and if subsequent governments hadn’t enshrined Orthodox power, usually in the same type of ugly coalition-building horse-trading we’re seeing right now as Olmert tries to build a government.

    Not only would you then not have the comfortable position of just poo-pooing all of this with a wave of your hand and saying “that’s the way it is and tough shit,” but you would have to address the fact that many Israelis would not accept so readily Orthodox dominance of the general perception of what is true Judaism. This is about control and power. Oh, and ongoing subsidization of the Orthodox both outside and inside Israel by all the other Jews whom they seem to disrespect so much (before you say, “we don’t disrespect,” think carefully about your “drugged-out nudists” and “Messianic Jews Christians who claim to be Jews” comments).

  • What about MY sterling arguments, TM?

    The four Walls all being equal at all their points?

    Ignorance being the cause of not knowing what all the fuss is about anyway. So find out what it’s about. If you don’t know, your opinion holds no water, no matter what your values are.

    Anyway, I hear that the synagogue which Israelis don’t attend must be Orthodox. It just must.

    Non-orthodox Judaism is an American thing. It’s ok but it’s what it is. It’s only 200 years old, and has little future, if I can count the babies.

    If it will have proved to have been a 250 year episode, how impressive is that, in a 3 to 5 thousand year history?

    I guess people with daughters want them to be all they can be. Watch what you wish for, you may get it.

    Look around.

  • JM, how can I respond to your sterling arguments when you keep saying that CK is the man? Everybody reading this knows who the real man is. Kelsey.

    I don’t buy your argument about women. They have to hold the baby? Let the man hold the baby. They have to do the dishes? Let the man do the dishes. Really, you’re telling me a woman can’t be a scholar because she has to take care of the house and kids?

    As to the refrain that the entire Kotel is exactly the same, we are in agreement. That’s why there should be no problem with a rotation schedule.

    As for me using women as the tip of my spear – ugh, couldn’t you have used another analogy? It’s not my fault that this is in many ways the crux of the problem. The problem is division because men and women cannot be together in prayer (and to show how disingenuous the debate has become, just a couple of weeks ago we discussed how Orthodox men have asked that even upon entering the Kotel plaza, that women be kept away. I’ve seen Orthodox men on buses get up and move if a woman so much as comes near). So what am I supposed to do, not discuss women?

    Finally, with respect to the issue of movements other than Orthodox merely being a blip in Jewish history, I will point out that you may be right but you also may be wrong. Neither one of us can know for sure. However, what we do know for sure is that the blooming of the Orthodox community in Israel and abroad has taken place because of the support of the non-Orthodox. No doubt about it and I’ve already shown you this in a previous conversation about Jewish education and how the Orthodox are subsidized by the rest of us. So be careful what you wish for.

  • TM,

    Most secular Jews in Israel ARE Orthodox. They just aren’t religious.

    Why can’t you understand that? Don’t you know about this?

  • No, they are religious, they mostly aren’t Orthodox.

    Religious: having faith.

    Orthodox: adhering to the tenets and practices of the faith.

    Anyway, if you sat down with the average non-Orthodox Israeli and probed their beliefs and the traditions they keep and then asked why, after you were done describing Conservative Judaism to them, it would be clear they are much closer to that movement than to the Orthodox. Israel is a country of Conservative Jews living secular lives dominated by Orthodox rabbis and their followers.

  • Not every person is secretly a suburban egalitarian Zionist soccer Dad at heart.

    Did you learn nothing from Iraq?

  • Dk, a higher power has suggested I avoid lashon ha’ra. As such, I will simply chuckle at your good-natured remarks and remind you to read about how male circumcision is about to be used extensively in Africa to assist in AIDS prevention.

  • TM wrote: “Israel is a country of Conservative Jews living secular lives dominated by Orthodox rabbis and their followers.”

    I dunno… A recent survey found that 57% of Israelis considered themselves either Haredi (8%), Modern orthodox (9%) or traditional (39%). And before you try to claim the traditional as your own – the vast majority of my family would call themselves traditional in that they are neither Haredim or MO and they would never consider themselves Conservative or Reform. Those designations are totally foreign to them. That’s why you do not see Conservative/Reform political parties running for office in Israel – these institutions exist here but they are non-entities with few followers and little influence. Israel is so NOT a country of Conservative Jews – unless you’d like to lay claim to the Israel’s secular Jews, who like their Conservative/Reform bretheren rarely attend a synagogue service, drive on Shabbat and don’t keep kosher. Also like most of their Conservative/Reform bretheren, they really don’t care about the composition of minyans at the Kotel. It’s just not an issue because they work during the week and on Shaabbat they chill at the beach or go shopping – they don’t go praying in Jerusalem.

    Your rotation schedule willl never work – on any given day the people that use the kotel most for prayer services are Orthodox/Traditional men. While I think it should be possible to increase the sizee of the women’s section a little, usage dictates that the largest part of the Kotel be made available to those who use it the most.

    TM wrote: Really, the point of the images is clear and irrefutable: men and women at the Kotel praying. I grant you that it appears communal Torah reading is not apparent in these images…

    The Ottomans did not allow communal prayer with Torah reading at the wall. Personal/individual meditation does not require a mechitzah. When it came time for prayers, the Jews in the old city retired to one of their synagogues where communal prayer was allowed. The pictures you showed are simply pictures of people assembling at the Kotel.

    TM wrote: “and to show how disingenuous the debate has become, just a couple of weeks ago we discussed how Orthodox men have asked that even upon entering the Kotel plaza, that women be kept away…”

    Some Haredim asked for women to come in from a separate entrance. Most Orthodox/Traditional Jews don’t care – as eviddenced by the fact that no move has been made to implement this suggestion and Women continue to enter the Kotel from whatever entrance is most convenient.

    TM wrote: “However, what we do know for sure is that the blooming of the Orthodox community in Israel and abroad has taken place because of the support of the non-Orthodox.”

    Uh… Of course this blooming has nothing to do with the Orthodox commitment to Jewish values such as communal prayer, Torah study, Pru U-rvu etc. Also what of the big chunk of any Conservative or Reform community who were former Orthodox Jews or whose parents/grandparents were Orthodox Jews. Without constant replenishment from the formerly Orthodox, who is going to be left given C and R Jews’ propensity for intermarriage?

    And I don’t disrespect Conservative/Reform Judaism, I just don’t believe in these. There are REAL LIVE Jews who are Messianic. Just because you believe in Jesus does not mean you are no longer a Jew. And there are Jews who conduct nude services or services under the influence of drugs, or services with strong Pagan inflections. These exist! Your assertions must mean that they too ought to be allowed to conduct their services at the Kotel.

    Talk about trouble! Really, just stick to Robinson’s Arch – what’s the point of opening that can of worms? So that we can see the kotel divided into three and enjoy the spectacle of that part of it that is open to non-Orthodox remain mostly empty? So not worth it…

  • ck,

    I’m no authority, but I’m pretty sure that belief in Jesus as the Messiah pretty much disqualifies a person from being considered a Jew by the community. In a similar vein, Sabbatians were excommunicated centuries ago (not me, b/c I practice in private).

    Although there must be many theocrats who consider Conservative and Reform Jews to be the same as Jews-for-Jesus, in my (always humble) opinion you do yourself and your blog a disservice by adopting their arguments. And if you want to remain consistent, next time 50-Shekel or some such starts posting comments here, you should join the camp that says his Judaism is simply another valid denomination.

  • If 50 Shekel decides to return to Judaism, he does not need to convert back to Judaism. Once you are Jewish, you remain Jewish no matter what religion you in fact practice. Judaism does not recognize conversion outside the faith. Thus, if a Jew joins Jews for Jesus, while his/her practice and beliefs ought to be considered anathema, he/she is still condsidered a Jew – thus Jewish members of Jews for Jesus, including 50 Shekel, remain Jews no matter what silly shit they believe. Hope that clarifies things for ya EV.

  • Guess what? Just as I reject other aspects of our ancient traditions, I also reject this one, ck. The minute anybody accepts Jesus as the messiah, he is no longer Jewish (by the way, those Lubavitchers who consider Scneerson the messiah are also no longer Jewish in my view).

    It’s funny that you would allow a convert to Christianity to be considered Jewish but accept it when Jews for millenia like the Ethiopians are required to “convert” to Judaism.

    What a farce.

    Either way, if you want to consider them Jewish, that’s your problem, not mine. What is my problem is that in you disallow others to have the same rights as you. If you consider pagans, nudists, Jews for Jesus the same as Conservatives and Reform Jews, then regardless of the trouble involved, there should be a rotation schedule at the Kotel. Furthermore, you decidedly did not address giving women the area they currently cannot enter at all. They represent a majority of the population, so why not rotate with them at least?

    Your survey did not show what questions were asked to determine what stands as “traditional.” What your family considers “traditional” may be very distant from what others consider “traditional.” I would be willing to bet, for example, that the majority of the “traditional” in that survey would drive on shabbat or light lights. Does that make them closer to Conservative or Orthodox? Are you telling me that half of the Israeli population is strict shomrei shabbat? Absurd. What they are is…traditional. They keep traditions but not strictly. I know many Morroccan families that are decidedly traditional but will violate shabbat. ALso, many of those who consider themselves secular – as I do – are traditional. Does that make them Orthodox or Conservative. I stand by my statement that Israelis are much closer to Conservative Judaism.

    Of course, you didn’t address the fact that Orthodoxy in Israel carries a lot of clout because of their status as those who control civic Jewish life. If they did not, what would happen? I would gather that without this type of governmental authority, and if there was a vote involved, far more people would elect someone like a Conservative rabbi to the post currently controlled by the Orthodox. Of course, since most Israelis have never lived in a country where civic matters weren’t controlled by the Orthodox, they have no way of knowing what other movements even have to offer.

    Finally, as to the Orthodox surviving without the non-Orthodox, I am surprised at your ingratitude. In Israel, the only reason the Orthodox (Haredi, definitely, but also modern Orthodox who might have, say, five kids, instead of eight or ten) were able to support their huge families because of government subsidies. As you well know, most taxes in Israel are paid by non-Orthodox because most Orthodox fall beneath poverty lines and many ultra-Orthodox do not work for a living but “study.” The state has given them authority, pays the salaries of many, supports yeshivas and their students, used to subsidize families and now Shas is trying to reintroduce these subsidies, ensured that for all civic activities, Orthodox would be in charge which means more Jobs and revenues regardless of the movement to which the citizen belongs. Outside of Israel, the majority of students in Jewish day school – by a large margin – is Orthodox. However, most Jewish day schools are supported to a significant degree by the various Jewish funds and foundations that exist out there and most of these receive the bulk of their funds from non-Orthodox Jews. To a similar degree, many other communal organizations which the Orthodox use are subsidized by non-Orthodox Jews but Orthodox Jews used them extensively.

    Also, and no less important, is the fact that both in the secular state of Israel and in North America, where a majority of the Jews are non-Orthodox, the Orthodox benefit from the political protection afforded them by the non-Orthodox communities. The only times when this isn’t exactly true are when the Orthodox have sufficient numbers to pull some weight on some issues. So in NY state, you might be able to convince a politician that he should listen to your needs as a community, just as Shas and a couple of other Orthodox parties in Israel can use their electoral success to leverage some goodies for their communities when it’s coalition-building time. In both cases, however, they remain a weak minority with the real protection and assistance coming from the much larger non-Orthodox community.

    As I said to JM, be careful who you piss on, because ultimately, your success and ability to remain strong hinges on the non-Orthodox.

  • Have you guys noticed that you’re pretty much repeating yourselves? While I don’t presume to speak for ck, I think, themiddle, that you are treading thin ice. As I understand it, ck is one of those people in Israel who works for a living and pays taxes, so why he should be grateful to this so-called silent Conservative majority is a mystery to me.
    You’re right about the fluidity of the term “traditional,” but that doesn’t really prove anything. I don’t socialize with any Orthodox people, and yet most everyone I know who ever goes to synagogue in Israel finds him or herself praying separately from the opposite gender. That’s just the way it goes, and it doesn’t seem to bother most people. I genuinely believe that, taken to the Israeli masses, your rotation idea would be met with a lot of blank stares and indifference. As has been pointed out several times on this thread, on any given day the overwhelming majority of the people you’ll find at the kotel are orthodox, tourists, or both. What I don’t understand is why people are being charged money to pray at this Robinson’s arch. Why is that ok?

  • TM wrote: “It’s funny that you would allow a convert to Christianity to be considered Jewish but accept it when Jews for millenia like the Ethiopians are required to “convert” to Judaism.”

    When did I ever say that?

  • Granted, TM, much of the Jewish world supports the frum, but in many areas of life, the frum give back to the normative (chas v’shalom, Conservative) secular Jewish world, even if not as much as I think we would both like to see. But even a bitter and self-hating fellow like myself can see some value in some of the things that some frum people do that give back to the community. And one of them is Jewish unity, and an preservation of tradition, even if we both wince at the stringency and expansion many of them push for and subsquently defend.

    I am certainly not one to claim that we should all be religious. But so too, I am not willing to change the definition of the meaning of what “religious” means, and despite my non-Zionism, I think we should give credit where it’s do, and to the Israeli definition of “religious,” which is to say, practicing or non-practicing Orthodox, and gradations of that. Although I would like nothing more than to scuttle and revise Jewish history to parallel and justify the holy grail of Jewish civilization: the lifetyle of suburban liberal Jewish Americans dedicated to selective egalitarianism, and so too, would love to usurp the identity of secular Israelis like you do, I can’t do so convincingly. I know that they don’t identify what you claim they identify as. I know they don’t consider themselves part of the Jewish Conservative or Reform Movement, and usually think it is a goofy blasphemy.

    Believe me, that causes me great anguish, but I think we both need to accept that, TM, and not project our own identities onto secular Israelis.

    I have frequently attacked you for ascribing selectively chosen and fabricated motives to the enemies of Israel. I would now like to retract that limited accusation. You do it to everybody, including your own brethren.

    At least you’re consistent.

  • TM: Government authority derives from the people. The fact that in all this time, since before the founding of the state of Israel, no Conservative Rabbis have been involved in either the Kotel or in mainstream Israeli politics, life or culture is reflective of the fact that Israelis do not find Conservative or Reform Judaism compelling.

    TM: “Guess what? Just as I reject other aspects of our ancient traditions, I also reject this one, ck. The minute anybody accepts Jesus as the messiah, he is no longer Jewish (by the way, those Lubavitchers who consider Scneerson the messiah are also no longer Jewish in my view).”

    So how does that work exactly? Chabadnikim who no longer believe reb Schneersson is the messiah or reformed Jews for Jesus or descendants of followers of Shabtai Zvi etc. etc. have to convert back to Judaism? Wouldd aa reconstructionist conversion be ok?

    That’s why I like Orthodox judaism – It provides objective standards that can be relied upon as opposed to made up stuff that has no basis in either Jewish tradition or halachah or anything for that matter.

  • Saying a Jew who one day decides to believe in Jesus is no longer a Jew raises many interesting questions; for instance, what about if a Jewish man and woman believe in Jesus, and have a child who grows up not believing in Jesus. Is that a child not a Jew because his or her parents at the time of conception believed in a false messiah?

    What if a Jew doesn’t believe that Jesus is God, but believes in the validity of his teachings? what about Jesus not as God but as a messiah?

    While believing in another god is clearly reprehensible to Judaism, where in Torah does it say we lose our status as Jews by believing in a false messiah? Where in Torah does it even talk about the concept of a messiah? If a person does not accept the validity of later rabbinic texts, then on what basis can he judge someone who believes in a conceptual redeemer they didn’t agree with?

    But back to gods, what about Jews who believe in the Goddess of the moon. I know some, are they not Jews? The Jews who believed in and worshipped the God of the Golden calf, did they lose their Jewishness? Does a Jew who becomes a practicing Buddhist cease to be a Jew? What about if on a trip to India they are moved and pray to Hindu Gods? Is their Jewishness gone forever in that moment?

    If the basis for Jewish identity is the God/redeemer you believe in then what about atheist Jews? is believing in a different God worse than believing in no god? Why? (Watch out muffti!)

    Once you lose your Jewishness by believing in another god or redeemer, can you get your Jewishness back, and if so, through what process?

    Just trying to understand the basis, belief and consistency.

  • Laya, you said,

    “But back to gods, what about Jews who believe in the Goddess of the moon. I know some, are they not Jews?”

    Great point. These women’s “Rosh Chodesh” groups should not be tolerated in Modern Orthodox synagogues. There needs to be some limits. Like say, Avodah Zora.

  • I don’t want to pick a fight with anyone, but Rosh Chodesh groups and believing in the Moon Goddess aren’t the same thing.

  • Esther,

    I’m sure if most Rosh Chodesh groups were allowed to understand the equally valid Moon Goddess groups, you would find that most Rosh Chodesh Group members are, in fact, quite close to Moon Goddess ideology in terms of both their faith and their lifestyle. Tragically, Rosh Chodesh groups are in the hands of a small group of leaders who seek to deligitimize Moon Goddess worship because of antiquated 4 century A.D. concepts of monotheism. This is unfortunate because as we all know, Moon Goddess worship is an equally valid expression of Judaism, unlike Sun God worship, where the member ceases to be a Jew.

    And by the way, you had better be careful about hoping Moon Goddess worshipper disappear from the Rosh Chodesh landscape, as they are disproprotionately the financial backers of Rosh Chodesh Women’s Groups.

  • One day, the kotel will be mine! bwahahahaha! And Mufti willbe allowed to come to the naked, drug service, and maybe Laya’s parents too.

    Oh snap! I went there!

  • When I see communion wafers with a Badatz hechsher, I’ll think about it – unless they’re lemon flavored, in which case nothing doing.

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