Women of the Wall at Tifereth Israel Synagogueby Tifereth Israel November 6, 2018
Cheryl Temkin, an Executive Member of the Speakers Bureau for Jerusalem-based Women of the Wall (WOW) will be the featured guest speaker at Tifereth Israel Synagogue on Friday evening, Nov. 16. Ms. Temkin will share some history of Women of the Wall as well as the current challenges.
Women of the Wall, (Neshot HaKotel) is a group of Jewish women from Israel, and around the world, who strive to achieve the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel), Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty. Women of the Wall work to make it a holy site where women can pray freely. Women of the Wall is comprised of women from all denominations of Judaism – Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Masorti, Renewal and Reconstructionist.
The group not only seeks empowerment at our most sacred site, but also strives for recognition of women’s prayer service by the legal and religious Israeli authorities. Members span the political spectrum and embody a message of tolerance and pluralism. The group works to further their mission through social advocacy, education and empowerment.
In 1967, the authority of the Western Wall was handed to Orthodox religious governmental authorities, a partition was placed at the site to segregate men and women and new rules began to be implemented regarding women’s prayer. Also in 1967, the Protection of Holy Places Law was voted in.
Since then, women’s prayer has been decided by the “local custom” of the Western Wall, as defined by the Authority of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, appointed by the president and prime minister. As the rabbi appointed to this position is an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and also the head of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, he commands that women pray in complete silence, with no group prayer, no tallitot and no Torah scrolls.
Women of the Wall began to pray together monthly at the Kotel in 1988. Women of the Wall spent over 10 years in the first Supreme Court struggle for women’s equal rights at the Western Wall. In the final decision, the Supreme Court instructed the government to build a prayer space in the Robinson’s Arch area on the southern end of the Western Wall. Courts later concluded that this was not done in accordance to specifications.
The Plan for a Pluralist Section at the Kotel
In keeping its responsibility to pursue all significant opportunities to realize WOW’s mission, the board decided to enter into negotiations with the Prime Minister – through Avichai Mendelblit, Cabinet Secretary – for a third, pluralistic and equal section of the Western Wall. Unlike the current men’s and women’s sections, this section would not be administered by Rabbi Rabinowitz, Administrator of the Western Wall and Holy Places. The pluralistic section would be fully integrated, equipped as a prayer space and would allow for both egalitarian and women’s prayer.
In January 2016, after two and a half years of negotiations, the Israeli government approved a plan for a pluralistic prayer section of the Western Wall. Unfortunately, immediately after the plan was voted upon and passed by the Knesset, the ultra-Orthodox parties demonstrated against it and demanded that the agreement be rescinded.
Until the construction and implementation of this pluralistic section, Women of the Wall continue to pray in the women’s section.
While men have been allowed to pray freely at the Western Wall since its liberation in 1967, women have been forbidden from many of the same rights. For more than 29 years, Women of the Wall has struggled to achieve gender equality at the Western Wall. What will it take to ensure that the freedom of religious expression will become a social norm in Israel? How can egalitarianism, pluralism and respect become the “new” status quo at the Western Wall and throughout Israel?Α
Ms. Temkin will speak after the congregation’s 6:15 p.m. Shir Chadash Shabbat Musical Kabbalat Shabbat Service and Shabbat Dinner. Paid reservations for Shabbat Dinner must be received by November 9th and may be made online at tiferethisrael.com/events/wow/ or by phoning 619 697-6001. Tifereth Israel Synagogue is located at 6660 Cowles Mountain Blvd., San Diego, 92119.