I’d be misleading you if I didn’t put it out there immediately — I can’t stand the Women of the Wall, including the queen bee herself, Anat Hoffman, who was recently arrested at the Kotel for opening a sefer Torah in the women’s section, which she and her cronies smuggle in each Rosh Chodesh in the name of equality and women’s rights.

Women of the Wall

The Kotel is a holy Jewish site, and it should be a place that is comfortable for anyone who would like to pray there.  Yes, this includes the money-sucking, draft-dodging ultra-Orthodox who believe that women reading Torah is a chilul Hashem.  To do that, there needs to be a place where women don’t read Torah.

Women who want to read Torah should, of course, have a space to do that.  What the Women of the Wall fail to accept is that they do have a place to read Torah at Robinson’s Arch, the Masorti area of the Western Wall Complex.  Having worked for a Conservative program this past year, I davened there with an egalitarian minyan — albeit not my cup of tea to pray as such, it was a beautiful, intimate space where women were able to do whatever they pleased in terms of being involved in the service.  But for WoW, it’s not good enough.  They believe that it is their right to daven however they please, wherever they please, which by definition makes it a place that is unsuitable for many Orthodox Jews.  How does that promote tolerance? Where are the pluralist values here?  I’m not defending the disgusting human beings who react to the WoW with violence or bogus arrests, but the group itself shows absolutely zero respect for the non-egalitarian perspective, and it doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t teach anyone anything, it generates further resentment, and it’s unfair to those who have differing interpretations of what constitutes appropriate methods of Jewish prayer.

By the same token, last I checked, Israel wasn’t akin to Saudi Arabia and the police were officers that ensure the safety and security of its people, not the puppets of religious extremists who take non-violent ‘protesters’ into custody.  The fact that a woman was arrested for opening a sefer Torah is a disgrace, regardless of how inappropriately she may be asserting her perspective.  The Israeli police should act with integrity, which by definition means refusing to succumb to pressure from Charedi extremists.

Frankly, it’s sad when everyone involved is a complete loser and contrary to the cause.

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  • Don’t you have to pay for entrance to Robinson’s Arch? If no, than fine–the compromise is reasonable. If yes, absolutely not.

  • Gila- it depends on the time of day. They have certain entry hours that are free, and groups who wish to enter and make arrangements ahead of time can also enter for free, regardless of the time. I agree with you, though – there should be the exact same ease of access that there is to the non-egalitarian part of the kotel. That, I think, is something worth fighting for and if the WoW made a stink about that in particular, my guess is that it would ultimately be successful, being that it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights.

  • Right on! In addition to offering a real, circumspect viewpoint on this incident, Cori hit on the root of much confusion in the “liberal” Jewish world.

    “They believe that it is their right to daven however they please” – Mitzvot are about relating to Gd and to Am Yisrael, not about doing whatever I please.

    Of course, a woman may discover in the course of her avodat H’ that she needs to daven 3 times daily, wear a talit, wrap tefilin, etc., but to make these political issues is to completely miss the point.

    Why are the Women of the Wall missing the point?

    So, maybe they’re saying to themselves, ‘How can I tolerate oppression? I’m obligated to fight so that women be able to express themselves fully in their avodat H’.’

    Yes. But if that’s the intention, some different methods are in order. (See the Torah portions Shelach and Devarim, and Rashi’s comments there, regarding real intentions, projected intentions, and how the means express the ends.)

    According to many sources, one should say before davening, “Check me out – I receive upon myself the mitzvah of ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself’, and I love every individual of [the People of] Israel like my own soul.” That is to say, we need peace and love before we daven. That means, when I go to daven, I better not cause divisiveness.

    But perhaps the Women of the Wall might say, ‘We aren’t causing the divisiveness, it’s them, with their intolerance and non-egalitarianism!’ Usually anger and blame are indications that I’ve got work to do in my relationship with my “them.” (Again, see this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, ch. 1, verse 27, and Rashi’s comment there “Because the Lord hates us…”)

  • Joel, Yeah, I saw them after the fact. She never even opened it this time (though she has been arrested for it in the past), which only further communicates the idiocy of the police.

  • Also, Joel – you should, and I’m sure you do, realize that whether the Torah is open or closed, the extremism is to the extent that a woman can’t *have* a Torah without being in danger of arrest. She has been to the police station in Jerusalem many times; sometimes for an open Torah, sometimes for a closed Torah, etc. and she is well aware of the fact that, open or closed, smuggling a Torah into the Kotel could and generally does result in arrest. Scary, but true — and she knows it.

  • Really now, what makes you think wanting to pray at the Western Wall is a political statement? How do you figure that? Because the haredim say so? Because your friends say so? Because they speak out when they are silenced? Should Jews be silent? Because they make use of secular political processes when they believe something is wrong? Are Jews not allowed to use the media or political power in the name of justice?

    Because you know their hearts? Because you have prayed for and with them and found them false?

    I know these women and I don’t see any politicing when they are praying. I see heartfelt prayers – same as the haredi women next to them. Same as you when you daven everyday.

    And who does their praying hurt? There is nothing in the Torah nor in the Mishnah nor in the Talmud, nor in Shulchan Aruch that says women holding the Torah is Hilul Hashem. Even reading from the Torah is not Hilul Hashem.

    But what you say – dis’ing the prayers of a sincere heart – well that is hilul Hashem. When a woman cries, God hears. It is in the Talmud. Go and learn.

  • Mazal tov – you’ve made assumptions about my friends, my daily prayer routine, and much more!

    Did I say that holding the Torah was Hilul Hashem? I’ll spare you the scanning time: nope, I didn’t – nor am I making *any* religious/halachic claims, so you can save your smart remarks for someone who is.

    All of that aside – WoW has a PR department – they’re trying to spread awareness of their cause and to promote peaceful protest. However peaceful they may be, and however sincere their prayers may be, I’m saying that every Jew has a right to pray at the Kotel as they see fit. This means the Women of the Wall, the Modern Orthodox, the Reform, the Conservative, the ultra-Orthodox, and every other term that serves to divide us. Am Yisrael is Am Yisrael.

    In order for that to happen, there needs to be space where woman have complete access to the Torah and space where they do not. That, Elizabeth, exists. Robinson’s Arch is a place where egalitarian woman can pray sincerely, with a Torah.

    Know who your real enemies are, Elizabeth. I support WoW right to pray, but I encourage them to respect the rights of the Orthodox just as they expect the Orthodox to respect their rights.

  • My initial comment was directed primarily at Meir Simchah who cast politely worded aspersions on the sincerity and self-knowledge of the women at the wall.

    To Cori,

    I think you have a very narrow definition of pluralism.

    The Kotel is a place loaded with both Israeli and Jewish religious symbolism. It represents the longing of a diverse people within the Jewish world – some who agree with the Haredim, some who do not, and some who can go either way. We cannot be pluralistic without taking into account ALL THREE.

    Robinson’s arch is not a substitute for the Kotel. We did not “liberate” Robinson’s arch in 1967. We liberated the Kotel. Robinson’s arch, however beautiful, does not carry the same range of loaded meanings. Not to Israelis who appreciate the fact of the state, nor to diaspora Jews for whom the very existence of the state and the wars it fought to survive are the stuff of legends.

    If pluralism is a goal, the range of practices at the Kotel proper OUGHT to reflect the broadest range possible of Jewish custom and belief, and be comfortable to the widest range of people.

    There are quite a number of non-Charedim who are NOT comfortable there. Egalitarianism is not merely the addition of something that can be removed. It is an alternate way of being. Choosing as a woman to daven with a talit is not merely adding a piece of clothing. A talit becomes woven into the very act and feeling of prayer.

    Women who are accustomed to sincerely davening in tallitot risk arrest. People who feel uncomfortable in davening or holding ceremonies in segregated environments are uncomfortable there. Because of the recent enforced gender segregation, the Jewish Agency had to stop holding welcoming ceremonies for olim there.

    The problem isn’t that the charedim have their way of being. They have every right to theirs, just as liberal and secular Jews have their rights.

    The problem is that pluralism requires us to see the broadest audience if possible. From time to time, there are irreconcilable differences and we can’t include everybody. In that case the group that is most inclusive of others should be allowed in “pluralistic” areas and the group that requires exclusion should find a private place.

    But what we see with the Kotel is the exact opposite.

    To capture the broadest range, it would make the most sense that the Kotel be reserved for those who can get along without excluding the practice of others. Those who have religious beliefs that require exclusion should be the one’s required to find alternate arrangements.

    I am unclear why you are so eager to send liberal Jews who want egalitarian prayer to Robinson’s arch. Why not send the Charedim there if this is such an ideal place to pray? The specifically Israeli significance of the wall is lost on many of them. Some even consider the state itself “Hilul Hashem”. Any religious argument that would be used to tell liberal Jews that it is just as good a place to pray, would apply to Charedim as well, would it not? And if it wouldn’t, then how is it any more “fair” to send the liberal Jews to Robinson’s arch than the Charedim?

  • I agree with Elizabeth.

    This post was very strange to me. The OP starts by saying that everyone deserves equal access to pray in their own way – and then concludes by saying that this means that women wanting to pray must leave the Kotel and go elsewhere! Apparently, haredis may pray as they wish, but women must tolerate the haredi demands on them and leave – and this is “equal access”?

    Obviously, the Kotel is a special place. Robinson’s Arch cannot replace it. That’s exactly why the haredis don’t pray at Robinson’s Arch or care if women pray there.

    Furthermore, the women in question are not stopping the haredis from praying as they wish. Why should the haredis be allowed to stop the women from praying as they wish?

    I also think that it is completely wrong to reward haredi violence. They might attack women – therefore, women must go elsewhere? Why not instead arrest haredis who attack women and break public order?

    Also, btw, no Torah was “smuggled” anywhere. The Torah was openly carried, and it is completely legal (both in Jewish and secular law) for women to do so.

  • Elizabeth, I’m not fond of such labels, but if I gave you the obligatory list of my beliefs and practices, you’d probably put me in the realm of Modern Orthodox – and I, too, am uncomfortable at the Kotel. I resent being handed a scarf because my elbows aren’t covered when I feel that I’m appropriately dressed and I don’t, in any way, support the Charedi monopoly on prayer at the Kotel. What you’re not acknowledging is that we aren’t talking about two groups: Charedi and not Charedi, we’re talking about egalitarian and non-egalitarian, which cannot exist side by side and be comfortable for both parties. I am not egalitarian, and I don’t want to pray in a place that is egalitarian. Therefore, if we’re all in the same place, my right to pray as I see fit is being infringed upon. It’s not that the Orthodox can’t accept the egalitarian and the egalitarian can accept the Orthodox, but inherent in Orthodoxy (minus certain Torah-egalitarian movements) is the fact that women reading Torah, doing Birkat Kohanim, etc. is unacceptable. Being in the presence of this is contrary to what they believe is appropriate, and those who insist on doing these things at the Kotel are unable to accept that. This is why separation is necessary; pluralism has its boundaries and contrary to what you seem to be saying, both parties involved have fundamental beliefs and practices that make it impossible for them to pray in the same place.

    Re: Robinson’s Arch vs. what we call the Kotel – Zionist or not, no one is praying at the Kotel because we liberated it in 1967. In that case, I could pray in places other than the Western Wall, and they would be just as holy. It’s a ridiculous thought, really. The Western Wall that we know today is not merely the area that you call the Kotel, as it includes the entire western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, including what is known of as Robinson’s Arch on the southern end of the Wall. Robinson’s Arch is, indeed, a part of the Western Wall and a very holy place to pray– in fact, no less holy.

    Eyelid, check out the WoW blogs (accounts of the women who were there). The Torah was smuggled in. That’s neither here nor there

  • Thank you, Elizabeth, for saying everything that I was feeling but so much more eloquently than I would have said it.

    Cori, I’m not sure where you’re from, but if you’re from the US you’ll get my analogy… Remember in the 50’s, when blacks were allowed to do everything that white people were? They were allowed to use the bathroom and go to school and ride busses and go to swimming pools… As long as they did these things out of the sight of the white people who might have taken issue with them. That was a great compromise, right? I mean, everyone got to do what they wanted, the black people should have been happy to do their thing in the space that was allowed, just for them…

    I fail to see the difference here.

    I am every bit as Jewish as the ultra orthodox folks are, yet when I come to Israel (often leading groups) I sit in the back of the Kotel plaza because the Kotel itself is so unappealing to me. In my mind, the orthodox have stolen from me what is every bit as much mine as theirs. Why not make 3 EQUAL sections to the wall itself? A men’s section, a women’s section, and an egal section? Until then, it’s not my Kotel. It belongs to some other fundamentalist religion– not mine.

  • The Kotel is, as Cori noted, merely the western retaining wall of the second Temple. Robinson’s Arch is just as holy as the area by the Kotel plaza. Non-egalitarian Jews are there on a daily basis, praying in large numbers three times a day. Egalitarian Jews have organized services once a month and occasionally during the month when coming to visit on trips or celebrating bar and bat mitzvahs. When the Supreme Court assigned Robinson’s Arch to Egalitarian Jews for worship, they did so in order to balance the interests of all parties involved. Egalitarian worship at the Kotel will by necessity infringe upon the worship rights of non-egalitarian Jews. The aforementioned separate but equal analogy fails because it isn’t a matter of personal preference or racism, it’s a matter of religious worship. It’s not that non-egalitarian Jews won’t worship alongside Egalitarian Jews, it’s that they can’t. Whether or not you agree with that is irrelevant. I do not believe in Christianity or Islam but I support their right to worship.

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if egalitarian Jews want to change the current status quo, I strongly urge them to worship at the Kotel in much larger numbers and much more often. I strongly encourage egalitarian Jews to move en masse to Israel and vote for non-haredi parties committed to protecting their interests. Make sure to have lots of babies too!

  • CK, thanks- I was getting tired 🙂 Susan, what he said. This type of protesting only exacerbates the problem, and it infringes on the rights of the Orthodox to pray as they wish. No one is questioning whether or not egalitarian Jews are Jewish, and if they are- the hell with them. I support your right to daven as you see fit, and Robinson’s Arch, as both my previous comment and CK mentioned, is every bit as holy. Babies and voting are also good options.

  • Cori,

    All around the kotel are small minyanim each davening according to their own minhag. It is quite possible for people with different minyanim to pray side by side, each observing their own customs.

    No one from women at the wall is saying all women at the Kotel _must_ daven with a Torah. Their choices are not preventing the existence of other minyanim who do not wish to daven that way. They are happy to share space with other different minyanim, just as men from different communities pray each in their own way on the men’s side.

    If a women feels that sharing space with Women of the Wall is interfering with her davening then she is seeking much more than the right to daven in her own way. Similarly, when the rabbi of the wall insists that the Jewish agency have separate seating at olim ceremonies or go elsewhere, he and those he represents need much more than the right to daven in their own way.

    Such women and the rabbi of the wall need to have different minhagim out of sight and hearing. They not only are requesting the right to control their own behavior. They also need to have control over other peoples behavior as well as their own.

    Almost by definition, it is impossible to meet their needs and have a key Jewish and Israeli symbol be inclusive of the broadest possible range of both secular and religious customs. They have requirements that can only be met by excluding others.

    I want to stress that this has NOTHING to do with the particular beliefs of any group. It doesn’t matter whether they are liberal, charedi, or purple polka-dotted. The only issue that matters is whether you have a religious belief that requires you to control others. Whoever has such a belief needs to be provided a place where they can meet their needs without limiting the diversity of those who feel they can co-exist side by side.

    True Jewish unity would be a world where all Jews could co-exist side by side, not one where we shunt people off to the side because we cannot bear behavior different from our own.


    Robinson’s arch is totally inappropriate as a symbol of the Jewish diversity. Klal Israel contains both secular and religious Jews. The Kotel, unlike Robinson’s arch, is both a secular and religious symbol. Israeli soldiers reaching the Kotel was the defining moment of the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967. Robinson’s arch never had that role. The idea that it is “just as holy” only has meaning for religious Jews.

    Given that the haredi by and large claim their only interest in the wall is religious (they have reduced a national symbol to a bet kenesset), it seems you have made the perfect argument for them to go over to Robinson’s arch and let the Jewish Agency and the army and return the Kotel to a broader range of uses and communities.

    Also the argument “let them show up in greater numbers” is specious unless we also protect their right to show up.

    Showing up is exactly what WOW is trying to do and they are getting arrested for their efforts. That is exactly what the Jewish agency used to do, and they have been forced to withdraw and go elsewhere. That is what the conservative movement was doing in 1996 and 1997 when their egalitarian Shavuot minyan (in the plaza off to the side, NOT at the wall) was surrounded by sea of hostile haredi throwing pebbles, stones, and sour milk – some of which hit children.

    The solution in all these cases was not to protect the right of others to show up, but to forcibly exclude them.

    • We’ve had these discussions on Jewlicious before and the bottom line remains that the ultra-Orthodox control the plaza in front of the Wall. What they’ve done with it is sacrilege since I cannot enter it without being accosted by two or three beggars whispering under their breath for me to give them money. Everybody knows this is going on, even though it is against the rules, but nobody stops it from happening. I resent even more that two thirds of the space is allocated to men and only a third, if that, is allocated to women.

      However, these don’t come close to the affront of sending those who don’t meet the standards of the Orthodox down to Robinson’s Arch. Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer Robinson’s Arch to the ugly and impractical plaza in front of the Wall. However, Robinson’s Arch is an intentional slight, intended to mean that those who don’t practice Judaism the way the Orthodox do are inherently inferior and their very presence and actions at the main plaza would defile “real” Jews.

      The compromise of splitting up groups and keeping the Orthodox in control of the plaza is now supported by the High Court. This is the biggest shame of all. The Court is supporting segregation and locking in one stream – and actually one movement within that stream – as the de-facto sovereign over a part of Jewish tradition that is valuable to us all. Let us not forget that the soldiers who liberated the Wall were primarily non-Orthodox.

      Other than that, I voice strong agreement with what Elizabeth has said here.

  • The police arrested her for violating a court order – not because the police are Haredi puppets. The court order was based on much the same reasons you state above.

    If the haredim said that the public bathrooms at the central bus station were holy and off limits to women, you can be sure to find miss Hoffman clamoring to get in.

    • Thanks for the ridiculous comment, Rube. I’m sure anybody who tries to reclaim the right to worship at a holy site after that right has been unfairly revoked appreciates your diminution of those efforts to a claim that they’re just trying to stick it to the Haredim.

  • I am ok with the Robinson’s Arch solution, but it needs to be far more open and, I suspect, still needs rocks cleared from the base of the wall. It is presently way too difficult to access and is physically uninviting. That needs to be remedied before it can be a real solution.

    What appalls me most, however, is the lavish and climate controlled interior area on the men’s side. Compared to the women’s side, it is an extreme statement of male privilege. Amenities need to be provided equally to all.

  • I agree that the indoor area on the men’s side is small. It might even be as small as the entire women’s side.

  • Elizabeth, I find it very ironic that you’re citing the secular significance of the Kotel and based on that, claiming that Robinson’s Arch is not a holy enough place to *pray*. Why yes, we’re talking about it from a religious perspective, because we’re talking about prayer. Again, religiously, RA is just as holy. The secular significance is an important one, and everyone is free to go there, admire it, pay respects to the soldiers who liberated it, etc.

    I said it once, and I’ll say it again – when you talk about the ultra-Orthodox control of the Kotel and all that it entails, you’re preaching to the choir. I’ve had some *awful* experiences there and I resent it just as much. The mechitzah keeps moving back, and I can’t even wait by the bathroom for a friend unless I’m what they consider far enough from the men praying. It’s extremist and it’s disgusting. It’s also far-removed from my original point, which is simply to say that separation is necessary in order to respect the rights of the egal and the non-egal. You show a complete lack of desire to understand the Orthodox perspective and you simply dismiss it as intolerant; think about it for a moment. Hearing a woman read Torah over the mechitzah is something that the Orthodox (not all, but most definitely a large portion, for certain the ultra-Orthodox) consider to be asur, which is why it can’t be that women read Torah at this part of the Kotel and we smile and dub it “respecting everyone’s right to pray as they please” – because it’s simply not. A woman should be able to read Torah if she wants, and a man should not have to hear a woman read Torah if he deems it inappropriate. Therefore, we need separation.

    You can dwell on the symbolism of each location all you want, and all the while, people like WoW are precisely what adds fuel to the fire in terms of extremism at the Kotel. The more you provoke, the more paranoid they get, the more extreme it becomes. If you really feel that you’re making a legitimate request, I may disagree with you, but I’d encourage you and every woman of the wall to lobby and try to make political strides, while davening at RA in the meantime. This form of activism is making the climate at the Kotel worse for all of us, and as a non-egalitarian woman who feels victimized the the extremism in the non-egal portion of the Western Wall, I resent that.

    • Cori, as I’ve said, we’ve had this discussion before. One of the ideas that was brought up, I believe by yours truly although I can’t remember, is that certain hours at the main plaza be allotted to egalitarian or non-Orthodox groups. Then, the Orthodox who can’t bear to hear a woman’s voice can know to be away. It’s not hard to find an appropriate solution to these issues, but instead the state has come to support an unfair and unreasonable situation.

  • Well, sorry to force you to repeat yourself, but I wasn’t involved in these previous discussions. “The Orthodox who can’t bear to hear a woman’s voice…” Listen to yourself- your statement reeks of resentment. Doesn’t sound like it comes from a pluralist who respects all interpretations of Jewish Law/prayer.

    I see the value in your potential solution, but we won’t reach agreement simply because I believe that the current state-supported solution is a better one, and that RA is in no way inferior.

    • Cori, my statement about Orthodox and women’s voices stinks of resentment? I was quoting the justification you gave!! Why so defensive?

      But that’s not as bad as your suggestion that it’s a numbers game. The numbers are what they are because of the way the Kotel has been set up for years. The issue isn’t egalitarianism, it’s that the vast majority of Jews are excluded from having a meaningful experience at the Kotel. For example, half of Orthodox Jews are women, and yet the Kotel plaza is organized so that most of the space and the air-conditioned study center/synagogue are organized for men. I usually see fewer women there. Is that because there are fewer women who are interested in going there than men, or is it that the experience is vastly inferior to the one men enjoy there so that fewer women consider going?

      To remind you, both inside and outside Israel, the vast majority of Jews are not Orthodox. If the numbers don’t represent this at the Kotel, you can place the blame on all the others who are not among the ultra-Orthodox, or you can consider that when people feel unwelcome and disenfranchised, they tend to stay away.

  • So Cori, if it’s in no way inferior, why not advocate for the problem to be solves by making Robinson’s Arch the place for segregated prayer, and give the Kotel to the egalitarian worshippers? No big deal, right?

  • I support WOW’s right to daven together at the Kotel, but provocation cuts both ways. Anger at ongoing haredi provocation (actions that never make the news) has, I believe, caused WOW to adopt a less legalistic and more militant stance, which I think is to their detriment.

    In the past few years, the Kotel area has become more of an ultra-orthodox sanctuary than a national religious site, with separate entrances for men and women, and a female-free pathway through the plaza that allows men to reach the wall without coming into contact with females. The back mechitza was also re-done, making it more difficult for women to see into the men’s section (a real issue if your son is having a bar mitzvah or ha’anachat tfilin, for instance). Personally, all this makes me angry. And it’s being paid for by my taxes.

    This being said, WOW has thufar been scrupulous about complying with court orders, and not READING from the Torah at the Kotel itself. This time, instead of simply walking over to Robinson’s Arch, they marched with the Sefer Torah. It was a political demonstration, plain and simple, because it was GUARANTEED to act as a “red flag to the bulls.”

    Do I think WOW should be attacked, or Anat Hoffman arrested , for carrying a Sefer Torah in public? Of course not! But I believe this action was born of decision to “up the ante” — just as the haredim have “upped the ante” about ensuring that the Kotel belongs to Orthodox Jews (of a certain worldview and gender) alone.

    I support WOW’s activism, because I see the haredi takeover of the Kotel as a tragedy for — and a theft from — the Jewish people.

    At the same time, I was saddened to read a communique from WOW’s offices this morning (I’m on their mailing list)that lashed out at those who enforce gender segregation at the Kotel as “myopic zealots.” Gender separation in Orthodox Judaism is here to stay, and by using this terminology, WOW is doing a disservice to its justified struggle for respectful, pluralistic administration of Israel’s religious sites (I think that many of the Orthodox women who daven with WOW would agree with me).

    I hope that the charges against Anat Hoffman are dropped, and I hope that WOW wins its fight, using tactics that bring honor to them and all of Am Yisrael.

  • Susan, the fact of the matter is that the numbers don’t support that act. You’re way too stuck in your own world if you truly believe that there are just as many egalitarian worshipers at the Kotel on a daily basis as there are non-egal. Many Orthodox people pray there on a daily basis, not only on Rosh Chodesh. I suppose that you’ll respond by saying that this would change if the Kotel weren’t such an extreme Orthodox place. Perhaps a little bit, but synagogue attendance in Israel refutes that claim pretty well. Check it out.

    Stop worrying about inherent symbolism more than the simple notion of having an adequate place to pray at the Kotel (which you do). If people come in large numbers to RA and the egal community proves itself to be a movement just as large as Orthodoxy in its various forms, my guess is that you will have *much* more of a voice. Whining about details when you have a piece of the Western Wall – that isn’t widely attended, and should be if the Egal movement really needs such a ‘large piece of the wall’ so to speak – is not helping. The activism in place is making the Kotel worse for all of us. See my previous comment.

  • is the reform movement growing in eretz yisrael?

    in any case, i know a few shuls here in los angeles that have women’s minyanim (why they want to take on the responsibility is beyond me) but i highly doubt they would go out of their way to daven with a female minyan at the kotel

    the times that i have been to the kotel, i have chosen to go at off hours…i find it a bit disconcerting to try and daven with a minyan amongst that huge tumult

    to me, the kotel is a very personal experience

    as for the reform, conservative, reconstructionist,etc jews getting all in a tizzy over the charedi continuing to control most of the religious issues in israel…i say deal with it

    those groups are not doing a very good job in keeping people jewish in america (i think the intermarriage rate now is around 50 percent)

    nothing against those here….or anywhere for that matter…judaism is beautiful because it allows for free choice

    but i say leave the frum in charge….thank you

  • Cori,

    You say ” It’s also far-removed from my original point, which is simply to say that separation is necessary in order to respect the rights of the egal and the non-egal.”

    There are absolutely *no rights* for the non-egal in this country when it comes to Jewish practice. The Haredi world exerts increasing control over all aspects Jewish, shows absolutely no respect for our legal system, let alone fellow Jews. We are supposed to be living in a democracy. Yet in all things religious, we may as well be living in Iran.

  • You were quoting the justification that I gave, except the language that you used was, as I said, reeking of resentment… I never said that the Orthodox couldn’t ‘bear to hear a woman’s voice’ – I simply said that it was against their halachic boundaries. The language that you use is very telling.

    In any case, fewer women in the women’s section is complicated – partially, I agree with you, it’s due to the extremism that has a home at the Kotel. More than that, though, it’s due to the fact that the Orthodox generally subscribe to the belief that men are commanded to daven three times per day, and women are not. Many men in or near the Old City do their daily prayers at the Kotel, while much fewer women do, if they even pray three times a day. Again, understand the Orthodox before you assume that the women are simply oppressed. Secondly, if you go in the evenings or on chagim, the women’s section is completely mobbed (which, you would think, would warrant moving the mechitzah a bit, but no such luck, unfortunately). As far as the numbers, I want to clarify that I’m talking about Israeli society at the moment. Don’t get me wrong – the Kotel belongs to Jews abroad as much as it does here, but in a practical sense, people living in Israel are the people frequenting the Kotel on a regular basis, rather than just during tourist season. The egalitarian movements in Israel are, perhaps arguably growing, but despite many egal minyanim and shuls, the number of congregants is far, far, far below that of the Modern/Ultra Orthodox, simply because Israeli society is much less dependent on movements. There is the dati/lo dati phenomenon, and so those who don’t fall into the realm of Orthodoxy but still consider themselves to be religious Jews are far, fare fewer in number. I’m not arguing that the climate at the Kotel does not influence egal attendance, as it clearly does, but you challenging my statement that the status quo is a reasonable compromise and suggesting that we make segregated prayer at RA instead was more provocative than anything else, and it doesn’t bear in mind the populations that frequent the Western Wall and that pray in minyanim on a regular basis.

    Dan- it must be miserable to live in your alternate reality where we live in a theocracy, but it’s far from the truth. It is sad and true that there are certain sectors of society in which the ultra-Orthodox have a monopoly where they should not (Kotel, marriage, divorce, conversion, etc.) but secularism reigns in the majority of government activity, and for the time being, that may be preferable. As far as ‘all things religious’ – you have got to be kidding me! There are Masorti communities, Torah-egal shuls, Reform and Masorti schools funded by the Israeli government, etc. Aside from the Kotel, inside synagogues, and ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, you can do as you please. I can understand having some, davka MANY, complaints about ultra-Ortho influence in various sectors of society, but likening Israel to Iran is simply ignorant. When is the last time that certain haircuts were outlawed, or women having affairs were sentenced to death? Perhaps you should vacation there if you’d like to learn more about theocracy and religious extremism. Israel is FAR from ideal, but you have much more religious freedom than you let on.

    All of that being said, I’m willing and eager to continue these discussions, but only via email. I don’t enjoy the hostility below the surface, and personal conversations are generally more conducive to mutual respect. Anyone who would like to respond to what I’ve said and continue to challenge my ideas is invited to do so at [email protected], as this will be my last comment.

    • Cori, the reason you can walk away from this discussion is that you support the status quo. You have nothing to gain by debating and everything to lose if your position is defeated.

      The language I used is reeking of nothing more than disdain for those who would use halacha to justify treating others disrespectfully or worse.Tell me, Cori, in the name of halacha, would you would keep women dumb, pregnant and away from the levers of power? Would you accept that? Just asking because in non-Orthodox circles there are female Jewish doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, psychiatrists, best-selling authors, pulitzer-winning writers, etc., while in Orthodox circles a woman can’t be a rabbi, isn’t commanded to pray and isn’t counted in a minyan. Now, I understand why the Orthodox don’t accept women rabbis, in a society led by rabbis, but can YOU tell me how that doesn’t indicate that Orthodox women are oppressed?

  • Cori,

    You shouldn’t begin a blog post and then walk away from the comments. Makes me question the courage of your convictions.

    Actually, I think that it is you that lives in fantasy land while I live in Jerusalem. Can I pray where I want in a *public* space – no. Can I have a private, recognized, marriage ceremony in this country with my choice of Rabbi – absolutely not. Do I ride a public bus and see Haredi out-of-control towards females – yes. Can I hold my wife’s hand walking in certain parts of Jerusalem? Not if I don’t want to be spit on.

    There is religious freedom in Israel – on that you were 100% correct. Freedom of Judaism? You’ve got to be kidding.

  • There was once a form of idol worship to Ba’al Peor. It was said that the practitioners could call up such amazing displays of demonic energy and magic that the congregation would loose control of their bowels. Over time, the ability to conjure demons receded and all that was left was the incontinence.

    This is the situation we get into when symbols cloud our understanding of history. I find all of the furor surrounding the women of the walls desire to pray at the Kotel misplaced. No educated Jew wants to pray at the Kotel!! The kotel is merely the outer retaining wall of the Temple mount. The Kotel’s holiness is merely because of the proximity to the Temple mount.

    Why do educated Jews want to pray near the Temple mount? Because this was the site of the Temple, a place of miracles and animal sacrifices. The non egalitarian Jews include in their prayers a desire that the Temple be rebuilt and that animal sacrifices be re-instituted. Congregating at the kotel makes sense in their world view.

    If the Temple were rebuilt tomorrow and animal sacrifices re-instituted. Most Liberal Jews would protest the extreme display of animal cruelty. Judaism has become enlightened as to no longer need the crutches of a physical manifestation. Why fight and push to be part of the Kotel experience? Is it merely to be part of a symbol?

    I suggest taking some time to think about what that symbol means. Either a person is disingenuous, desiring only to be part of the experience because it is controlled by Chareidim, or, perhaps there is an aspect of one’s identity that is not so liberal and enlightened. In either case, a therapist would ask for future consistency in action.

  • Eli, even liberal Jews practice in a manner that honors history and tradition. Indeed, I would argue that our critical approach honors history far more than less critical approaches. With that in mind, it is natural that we should want to honor history by practicing in places rooted in history. We still face Jerusalem in our prayers and Jerusalem features prominently in our siddurim for a reason. We are not rootless in our theology. We do not have to desire the return of animal sacrifice to embrace the history that included such practices. The Kotel remains important because of this connection to history.

  • themiddle – congratulations on the most ignorant comment I’ve ever seen on Jewlicious. Wow. Impressive.

    Again, anyone who wants to continue this conversation is invited to email me. I’ll be sure to showcase the strength of my convictions there.

    [email protected]

    • No Cori, there have been stupider comments, I’m sure. For example, instead of responding to the accurate claim that in a society dominated by rabbis, women may not be rabbis, somebody called the comment ignorant.

      Here is some reading that I did before I commented:




      And especially:

      http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/article.php?p=55387 [bold is my editorial]

      Resolution on Women’s Communal Roles in Orthodox Jewish Life

      Presented to the 51st Convention of
      The Rabbinical Council of America
      April 26th 2010

      1) The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our chaverim[1] have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.

      2) We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah,[2] hashkafah,[3] tradition and historical memory.

      3) In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.

      4) Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah,[4] yir’at Shamayim,[5] and dikduk be-mitzvot.[6]

      Permit me to translate fer ya, Cori:
      “We, the Rabbinical Council of America, believe that women should have lots of babies, cook, take care of the kids, take care of the household and go out to earn a living if necessary. We are amazed that despite setting up all types of hurdles, women have found ways to study torah to a degree that is fairly advanced. What strength of character! Eshet chail, indeed! What’s really great about all this learning is that our women can now transmit this info to their numerous babies. However, let us also add in a hidden sentence at the end of the third paragraph that no matter how hard our women study or however much they achieve, under no circumstances can they become rabbis, and we don’t just mean the title, we mean ordained leaders of the community. Never, never, ever. Nope. Not women. Oh, and by the way, if you want to have a good time praying with a real minyan, one without women regardless of how learned they are in torah, come to the Kotel. We have a big area there for the guys – you know, the folks who can become rabbis even in cases where they’re less intelligent than their wives – and even a little air-conditioned shu’ul/study area to make life sweet.”

      Oh, and Cori, just in case you wish to debate the importance of rabbis, I thought I’d bring up some basic stuff.

      Rabbi: Hebrew term used as a title for those who are distinguished for learning, who are the authoritative teachers of the Law, and who are the appointed spiritual heads of the community.

      Gosh, a woman can’t be distinguished for learning, an authoritative teacher of the Law or a spiritual head of the community (and of course, in some communities, the rabbis are revered).

  • James,

    Your post proves my argument. Your argument is disingenuous.”Liberal Jews practice in a way that honors history and tradition” What tradition and history is would that be? Kashrut? Sabbath observance? Endogamous marriage? Separate seating for prayer services? Matrilineal descent? If it is not the history and tradition of 1800 years of rabbinic judaism, perhaps it is the tradition of the Pittsburgh Platform?

    “We recognize, in the modern era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching of the realization of Israel s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.”

    I have no argument with you if you choose to follow modern interpretations of Judaism. That is fine. But, to argue that they are historically and traditionally consistent is neither honest nor accurate.

  • Eli, I am generally Conservative in my orientation. Egalitarianism is my principal (and nearly lone) objection to being Orthodox. My observance is imperfect, but I follow halacha and kashrut. I follow matrilineal descent. I oppose mixed marriage and encourage conversion of non-Jews who are, nonetheless, married to Jews.

    You presume too much.

  • Gee Cori, you speak of hostility below the surface?

    “themiddle – congratulations on the most ignorant comment I’ve ever seen on Jewlicious. Wow. Impressive.”


    • Dan, thanks for the comment. I feel badly that a new poster on Jewlicious has had such a rough introduction to this place, but her response has been ludicrous.

  • I’ll have to come to her defense and state that I pretty much agree with her. But I have to go talk about social media. Gah.

  • “[S]acred continuity”, eh?… Now I understand why we don’t have women priests.

  • Oh, and despite his occasional propensity to use words that hurt rather than words that help, Middle always debates on the merits. You’d better bring your ‘A’ game if you want to take him on.

  • Interestingly, the author of the piece appears to believe one should blog online and then defend one’s positions offline.

  • …Which defeats the purpose of allowing people to comment and thus creating debate. Jewlicious could do it the way that Commentary (which used to publish comments), Andrew Sullivan and numerous others do it, but it’s chosen not to (fortunately for blowhards like me).

    It’s hard not to interpret her retreat from the field of battle as a concession to her critics. That’s a reasonable interpretation, certainly.

  • I find the severe lack of understanding to be sad here.

    Eli and Cori both make the following points:
    *There are alternative locations, of equal importance, located elsewhere(Robinson’s Arch).
    *The perceived infringement on the rights of those who wish to do extra is becoming a political justification for infringing on the rights of those who don’t see it that way.
    *The numbers imply that Orthodox attendees are far more numerous than “Egalitarian” attendees.
    *The “Egalitarian” movements maintain changes in belief on their part justify forcing changes on the systematized practice of the “Non-Egalitarian movements.”

    Lets think about it here for a sec…What is the picture being painted?

    There are Orthodox and “Non-Egalitarians” who hold a strong system of beliefs, specific to texts and philosophies from the course of 2000 years(or more,depending who you ask). These individuals feel the compulsion to pray and do certain things like tefillin DAILY. Not just once but 3x daily! They believe the rules say so and they believe that there are certain environments conducive to their need to fulfill this.

    There are also “Egalitarians” and the WoW. These individuals have their own system of beliefs. The system is a “modernized update” of the system of the “Non-Egalitarians”. Historically speaking, these movements spawned in the most PR damaging way imaginable. They sought to outlandishly display that nobody would get struck down by lightning for not keeping the mitzvot to the level of observance that most “Non-Egalitarians” maintained. This led to slacking by most “Egalitarian” movements in the upkeep of the mitzvot because “HaShem won’t punish me like the Rabbi said”.

    Needless to say, these individuals may feel a connection but they do not utilize the connection to the degree of the “Non-Egalitarian” Orthodox movements. Seldom have I met nor heard of anybody that davens 3x daily, or even 3x weekly. Most of my non-Orthodox friends will daven 3x monthly or 3x yearly, if they even do it at all. The outlook toward other, “harder”, mitzvot isn’t very shining either. How likely would it be for someone to keep kashrut or taharat mispacha if they can’t even spend 15-30 minutes in the morning or evening reading?

    The issue we’re discussing is simply this question: Do the rights of regulars supercede the rights of irregulars?

    I would say they do. Clearly the “Non-Egalitarians” invest enough time in the text to understand it, to practice it, and to live by it. Therefore when Torah requires something of them, they NEED to do it. They cannot live their lives effectively otherwise.

    Given, there are some abuses that I’ve read about. The buses and the chasity squad in Mea Shaarim. Those things I don’t approve of.

    However, I find the segregation by mechitzah at the site of the Kotel to be justified. “Non-Egalitarian” movements make significantly more frequent use of the Kotel. It holds a higher importance and significance to their lives.

    A doctor has priority over a mailman in doing CPR when someone chokes because they have daily experience and loads of training with saving lives. If you think of it by this analogy, its understandable why they should have a larger say or control over the Kotel.

    My honest advice to those “Egalitarians” who do feel they deserve the Kotel in their tradition: Educate yourself. Educate others. The only way Egalitarian movements will ever gain legitimacy is when their members feel just as strongly toward things as the Non-Egalitarians who dedicate their lives.

    • Mexijew, you write, “The issue we’re discussing is simply this question: Do the rights of regulars supercede the rights of irregulars?”

      The “regulars” can go to a synagogue if they like. Three times a day.

      The Kotel is much more than a place of prayer.

      Furthermore, it is a place for everybody, regardless of how extensive their use of the location would be. The Kotel belongs to all Jews.

      For some reason, the government of Israel has abdicated this holy site to the ultra-Orthodox, just as they are about to abdicate the question of who is a Jew to these extremists. That’s the only reason there is a mechitza at the Kotel and that is the only reason women are allocated far less space than the men. That’s also the reason that anybody who wishes to worship as the majority of Jews in the world worship is shunted aside to Robinson’s Arch.

      This is not about egalitarian Jews, it just so happens that a group of egalitarian Jews is willing to fight for the rights of all Jews.

  • So will it become a Rosh Chodesh minhag of Jewlicious.com to write about what WoW do on Rosh Chodesh?

    Couldnt we just leave it at below?


    101 comment is pretty shtark.

    I want to daven this way this place this time yea. Equal Equal Equal blah blah blah do what I say because that makes it equal you evil charadi secular zionistic chassidim and your progressively backwards cave man innovators of religion.

    Ill take the rapist for $300 alex. Shawn thats therapist.

    There is nothing in the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, Tanach, Shulchan Aruch Kabballah that says blah blah blah because I read all of it on wikipedia and trust me jewishvirtuallibrary has it on lockdown.

    I know it so well that I know not to follow it

    chillul hashem chillul hashem everything is a chillul hashem

    what are you talking about I follow all of it and Im super duper heimeshe frum yid and thats why im on the internet.

    Didnt you know typing 613,00000000000 words or more is the gematria for I am always right

    Wow it feels so good to argue about the same stuff all the time on the internet especially since in real life over coffee these discussions wouldnt get passed 15 comments.

    Well I hope we all have reached a peacefull conclusion.

    A) A Jew is a Jew

    B) Goyim dont give 2 @#%@#% about elagitarian chassidic secular zionist nothing. Refer back to A).

    C) Goyim WILL rise up again and attempt to G-d Forbid! Kill us, Exile us, and for sure steal all our possessions.

    D) Refer back to A and remember every Jew keeps 90% of the Torah by default unless you be consulting wizards and worshiping baal peor with a big fat #2 on that thang putting bird bones in your mouth and consulting oni and sacrificing your child to molech.

    Why dont we talk about what we have in common….


    just worked 13.5hrs of Melicha. Enjoy your kosher meat Trader Joes customers. Help a Jew out. Its a Mitzvah.

    Good Shabbos.

  • I think I may now jump in as I won’t hurt anybody’s sensitivities now.

    Genesis 1:26f.:

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

    So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

    Man is made in appearance like God.
    Man consists of male and female alike.
    God is male and female alike.

    In case anybody wonders, the predominantly male concept of God is Germanic. Feel free to try rationalise that into Jewish theology.

    (Please note that that story of creation was written during the Babylonian Exile; it connotes that egalitarianism had been the norm at that point in Judaism.)

  • Froylein. Your comment confuses me more than the fact it took you so long to comment.

    My sensitivities have been effectively affected effected. fected. fec. fe. fooowah.

    • Oh, I refrained from commenting as I heard I was more welcome to play with the guys (Middle, Muffti, Tom etc.) than with the girls cause my play is too rough; except for Vicki cause she’s fierce enough to stand her ground. (Also, I was busy baking, pickling gherkins, doing crafts etc.)

      Sounds as if you need a good night’s sleep..

  • This entire debate is almost on par with the great apple debate. Granny Smith or Golden Delicious. What scrumptious delectable treat will triumph!!!?

    lila tov.

  • For all the hooplah about stateside about America being a “theocracy”, it sure is nice to view the ridiculous policies of an actual theocracy for relative measure. If nothing else, I’m keeping “egalitarians don’t show respect for the non-egalitarian perspective” in the bank.

    America 1, Israel 0

  • I think this bickering makes me appreciate living in a small place like Iowa City.

    Out here in the Jewish hinterland, we, of course, have our disagreements. But, we also tend to get along across our differences out of a need for community … The Chabad Rabbi teaches classes at the Reform Temple … Reform and Conservative Jews belong to a dual-affiliated synagogue … we accommodate the minyan needs of people based on their requirements …

    Of course, in such a situation counting women does help if you need a minyan, but if you need an Orthodox minyan, our Reform Rabbi will help get one together.

  • Amen to the middle. But Muffti would rather discuss his agreement with middle offline as he wants to shield himself from ignorant comments that offend his sensibilities. Please email him, if you want to talk about how not-ignorant middle is at

    [email protected]

  • Since when does Muffti shy away from slings and arrows? Cori may have been intemperate with her comments but she is hardly a cheerleader for the haredim. Neither am I. And yet, we both agree with the status quo. Go figure!

    • Muffti is poking fun at Cori, ck. Rightfully so.

      Out of curiosity, are we going to have any more of these posts where the poster takes the conversation to private email? Jus’ asking.

  • Muffti has been philosophising whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous impudence, or to take arms against a sea of annoyances, and by opposing end them.

  • Old post, I know, but I just happened to stumble across it. So my two cents: as a liberal, feminist, egalitarian, conservative Jewish woman (who read from the Torah at her bat mitzvah and was annoyed that she couldn’t wrap teffilin), I have to agree with Cori, at least in principal: I agree that non-egalitarian Jews need a space in which to pray where there aren’t women violating what they believe. They have a right to their own segregated space. There are certainly issues with access to the wall and how much space they may be taking up, but I believe we must respect their religious beliefs, even though many of them will never respect ours.