Women of the Wall: A Report from the Front Lines

WOW is a grass roots organization dedicated to winning the right for all women “to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” 

Two of us from Cbi Sisterhood have direct experience with this movement--as tensions continue between Israel's ultra orthodox rabbis/communities and more liberal Jews, sharing our experiences feels increasingly important. 

Baihlah Rubin: Years ago I participated with CBI in sending W.O.W. photos of women holding the Torah. It was exciting then to support the right for ALL women to pray at the Kotel; how heartbreakingly different to actually enter the women’s section of the Kotel in May with a group of women and pray there. We were all physically searched at security for Torahs (such a security risk). Upon approaching the wall teenage Haredi women with covered faces (not unlike KKK) screamed and shrieked, calling us sinners throughout our entire service. 

Margaret Gewirtzman: We had just gone to the Memphis Civil Rights Museum where we experienced visuals of the violence and hate that happened in the States just a few years ago. Frightening. The Memphis trip was followed in short order by a trip to Jerusalem. One of the places we most wanted to visit of course was the Western Wall--from the moment we entered the security line to when we left the old city I literally feared for my safety from fellow Jews--ultra-Orthodox who so violently hate women who wish to pray out loud the words of the Torah. The impulse to remove the tallit that clearly signaled my association with W.O.W. was really strong--being on the receiving end of such blinding hate is incredibly unnerving.  What immense courage it takes for all civil rights workers to stand unwavering in the presence of such hate. Despite the legal ruling by the highest court in Israel allowing women egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, there has been a worsening of the harassment of women.

As members of the World Union for Progressive and Reform Judaism, we need to fight this oppression. For deeper understanding of these issues and ways to support the fight, please visit the Women of the Wall’s Website at www.womenofthewall.org.il.