Jewish Agency works to assure women the right to pray at the Kotel

April 5, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
Read on for article

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Chairman Natan Sharansky has met  with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation expressing his shock at a letter sent by the Israeli Police stating that they would arrest women who recite Kaddish (the mourner’s prayer) at the Western Wall.

Natan Sharansky  pic: The Jewish Agency

Natan Sharansky pic: The Jewish Agency

Rabbi Rabinowitz assured Sharansky that, despite the letter, no woman would be arrested for reciting Kaddish at the Wall.

Sharansky is currently in the final stages of drafting recommendations for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decrease the tensions and ensure that every Jew in the world can pray in the manner that they are accustomed to at Judaism’s most important national and religious site.

In recent days, Sharansky met with a number of appropriate ministers in Israel’s new government on this issue and is engaged in a last round of discussions with leading religious and public figures in Israel and the Jewish world.

Natan Sharansky said that the growing tensions at the Western Wall highlights the urgent need to find a solution. He added that “The Kotel must continue to be a symbol of unity for all Jews in the world and not a symbol of strife and discord.”

The Jewish Agency is funded by the United Israel Appeal


13 Responses to “Jewish Agency works to assure women the right to pray at the Kotel”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto at …. (it’s probably not ‘at Perpignan now),
    It’s possible you won’t get to read my response to your last posting, as I’m so late in replying (life has made its demands over the past few weeks). You sound so relaxed and happy, enjoying your time in France; I’m glad for you.

    It seems that you are sincere in what you are saying to me, and for that at least I’m pleased, although the fairy-tale you weave is somewhat perplexing (understatement of the year). People give themselves away in their writing, and that’s what you have done. It’s obvious that you view women as no more than children, especially intelligent women who disagree with you and stand their ground with their own opinions. If you distance yourself and read all of our correspondence on this April 5 J-Wire article, you might see that it’s actually you throwing the tantrum, name-calling, generalising wildly …. Where is your reasoning in what you have to say, where is your specific response to my specific thoughts and assertions? Where is developed discussion? Even while admitting to a degree of subjectivity, I can see an attempt at reasoned argument in my postings, and a rant in yours.

    I am not capable of ‘ little quiet’ tantrums, Otto. Believe me, if I allow myself a tantrum, you will know about it. It won’t be a fully out of control tantrum, but it will be most obviously a full-fired tantrum, an in-your-face tantrum, because I have ‘a strong mouth’, as my second husband opines. However, there’s no need for that.
    You might have heard by now that the Jerusalem Court has brought down the finding that women may pray at the Wall, with prayer shawl in place, and must be left alone to do so, without further harassment. This is about being able to participate fully as adults in your own religion, not crying for a strawberry ice-cream your parents refuse you. Persistent claims have been very necessary in regard to all kinds of situations we humans find ourselves in; they don’t necessarily stem from the narcissistic or immature in us. Although, certainly we all still harbour ‘the child’ in us to a small degree, and that’s normal according to the experts in psychology. You’re perhaps unused to a woman’s voice asserting itself persistently – if you’d been feeling less benevolent towards my postings … I know, you would have called my persistence nagging! (When a man repeats himself he’s ‘reinforcing’ and when a woman repeats herself, she’s ‘nagging’ – this is the skewered perception of some men and unfortunately it’s become a stereotype that is thoughtlessly trotted out time and again; oh, and you can use the ‘hysteria’ label, that we can thank Freud for (love Freud, though! – what a genius in his time, a creative genius at that), or the ‘women as children’ label. We’ve heard it all before, Otto.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my argument, although I know and you know that you don’t consider it ‘cute’ – what prompted this description I would guess is a kind of self-satisfied benevolence, and a complete naivety and incapacity to understand where I’m coming from.

    Yom HaAtzmaut is indeed a wonderful day to celebrate. When men and women can live together on this earth, celebrating their differences and yet allowing one another room to live without gender imposed rules, that will be another day to celebrate. It will be good for men, too, not only women.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    Dear Liat

    One of the cutest things, to mine, is the supererogatory gentle tantrums intelligent women indulge into.
    Your postings remind me of a scene I witnessed yesterday at a cafe in the most adorable little French Catalan town of Ceret, an artists’ colony which housed at times Picasso, Soutine, Chagal, Matisse etc.
    Yesterday it housed a gorgeous little girl, maybe 6-7 who was having a quiet tantrum with her parents about something she was refused. She did not stop arguing, voicing her displeasure at something she was being refused by her parents. It went on seemingly endlessly. She was trying very hard, sometimes succeding, to draw tears from her eyes, yet her parents, obviusly used to this, remained ablivious. No disturbing scenes, only persistent claims. Tell you what, children speaking French is something else, the only other languages that trump it is Ivrit and – give me any time – Yidish……….that’s Heaven !!! And I just saw that at a Chabad Rabbi’s house I visited right here where I am now, Perpignan, all his five children are taught Yidish, and the ones over 3 speak it .

    This, somehow a long draw, brings us to the women at the Kotel.

    Your little quiet tantrum claims that your friends, obviously Progressive, Liberal, Neolog etc., are trying to tell us that they are………………more “Catholic” than the guys who control the Kotel !!!!??? ( Katholikos means orthodox in Greek ) .

    And this is precisely what makes your argument cute and enjoyable, and I mean it wihout my usual uncontrolable temptation of patronising.

    On this day, and any reason will do, let us enjoy the greatest day of them all, the one we call HaAtzmaut and thus I wish you and all the happiest celebrations !!!!

    otto at Perpignan

  3. Liat Nagar says:

    P.S. for Otto:
    I’m a bit of a softy in regard to your sensibility and also in regard to my awareness of how difficult it is for some people who believe so strongly in something not to feel both upset and shocked at any possibility of change, hence this P.S.

    I would like to add two things. When I consider the brutality and injustice people perpetrate against one another, the real extent of that, the human cost, a few women, or even all women, wearing tallit at HaKotel, or in synagogues, or anywhere else, pales into insignificance, at least insofar as an issue to be upset about. Judaism is not going to be weakened in any way by women choosing to pray while wearing a prayer shawl. Perhaps what it’s just not possible for you to understand, as a man who can unthinkingly don tallit whenever he likes and pray where and when he likes, is that the actual full experience of praying as a Jew is denied women by putting unnecessary barriers in the way – barriers such as designated places in synagogues (upstairs and behind curtains), the small cordoned off area at HaKotel, and being forbidden a choice to wear tallit, participate more fully in chagim, et al. Now some women might not care a hoot about this, some might be as distressed and shocked as you at the notion of any change in the male imposed tradition that is most commonly the norm. However, there are some women who actually do want as full an experience as possible with Jewish prayer, and why should they not have it? It doesn’t matter if they’re told, so paternalistically, “you’re not obligated to do it’ – that’s just a ‘pat on the head’ type comment to keep them happy back in the home, bearing the brunt of the domestic scene (again, that’s fine for those who want to do it, but it’s not fine for those who put their experience of spirituality before domesticity). I am not an Orthodox Jew, although I have experienced many times Orthodox Jewish services and lived with and among Orthodox Jews, as well as participated fully and respectfully with their lifestyle. I have also been heavily involved with Reform services and occasionally attended Conservative services. I have experienced, most especially while living in Israel, intense spirituality. I can understand from this perspective why some women might want to wear tallit. I don’t begrudge them that, and neither should anyone else.

    If you want to think the women at the Wall wearing tallit are simply provocateurs, you will be able to back it up with all sorts of assertions, such as the one you used regarding women not wearing tallit in their ‘temples’ (which actually isn’t true). You and I have absolutely no real knowledge of how any of these women really think and feel. We know what they say and we know what they do, that’s all. If any one of them wants to wear tallit in order to attain what she considers to be a fuller spiritual experience through prayer, then she should be able to do so unhindered.

  4. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    Please excuse my delay in responding to you. No, I can’t agree that ‘it’s farcical’ for women to wear tallit. Not at all. Not allowed? Well, that’s just a ridiculous notion. I’m not sure how many Liberal synagogues you’ve attended, but the few I’ve been involved with saw many of the women wearing tallit (certainly not all). And in most cases the tallit differed from the men’s garb in that they were of different colours, however the design was exactly the same.

    I think this is a big fuss over nothing. You would have to ask yourself why you are so upset at the sight of, or knowledge of, women wearing prayer shawls? Why this elicits such outrage and distress?

  5. Liat Nagar says:

    Dear Otto,
    For someone of your intelligence, I am flabbergasted at your take on ‘these women”, as well as your vitriolic attack on them. I can only think that your comments must be prompted by your passion clouding your sense of fairness. Unless you know these women more intimately and are privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings, you’re not in a position to make the judgements you have.

    I follow via the IRAC website what they’re up to one day to the next, and have heard Anat Hoffman speak on a number of occasions. She’s quietly spoken and not disrespectful of the difference in others, if those ‘others’ don’t seek to impose their opinions and ‘laws’ on those who happen to think differently. I can’t stand the intolerance associated with the idea of a group, or an individual, thinking their interpretation and views of what is kosher and right is infallible and set in concrete insofar as right is concerned. It is certainly not true to say that ‘these women’ dislike 99% of what is Jewish. If they have a beef, it’s a beef against injustice and intolerance, both of which prevent them from practising their faith in an equal situation with men. As a man who reigns supreme in this area, you can afford to laud the present increasingly fundamentalist practice of Judaism by some in Israel. As a woman and a human being, I am increasingly concerned at the arrogance and aggression displayed by some ultra-orthodox against Jews in the society, whether those Jews are at HaKotel or simply walking down the street.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Dear Liat

      let’s agree that it is utterly farcical of this group of Liberal Jews to demand that they – the women in it – are allowed to wear tallit, whether at the Wall or anywhere !!!
      As a norm,, the Liberals do not wear the tallit in their temples, not to mention other drastic departures from the Orthodox practices.
      Just by this one can determine that provocation is the MO.

  6. Otto Waldmann says:

    My dear friend Paul

    If dates are a determinant in the validity of our beliefs and practices would a 17century trump anything, say, two thousand years or more in age !!!

    These women are not interssted in keeping the faith, but assaulting it. The are well organised trouble makers and have a beef – strictly non kosher !!! – with the frumm contingent. They go all over the world and bad mouth on non Jewish channels of mass media all things Jewsih they dislike ( some 99% of what is genuine Judaism ). They do not wish pray but gain destructive publicity !!!

    all the best

  7. Liat Nagar says:

    Paul Winter,
    Such an elegantly expressed, all-encompassing and humane response to the dilemma playing out at HaKotel. The Western Wall is for all Jews, men and women alike, and it’s time fundamentalist attitudes to it are dismantled and disempowered. If not, we are heading, in Israel, for the narrow, confining and bigoted situation that exists in many Arab States under Sharia law. I do not understand how Rabbi Rabinowitz is in a position to make the statement he has, assuring Sharansky that despite the Israeli Police letter to the contrary, women will not be arrested for reciting Kaddish at the Wall. Where is the connection here, between the rabbi and the police, for him to be able to have any part in this or make such an assurance? That men who take it upon themselves to wear their uniform of black, dating back to 17th century Poland (which has nothing to do with Israel and Torah), grow their beards in certain fashion, refuse to acknowledge a woman by look or handshake, or sit next to a woman in a bus, should find themselves in a position of such power that they may judge and dictate to others of different garb and thought, all the while using their interpretation of the the word of G-d with which to do it, is frighteningly like the ruthless rigidity that Islam has become. As Jews we cannot allow it.

  8. Ariel says:

    I can’t believe the words coming out of a Jews mouth: “destabilising banner”! What the hell? That’s how people used to justify killing jews, as the “destabilising fifth column” or whatever. Jews supposedly pride themselves at being at the forefront of improving the human condition.

    • Otto Waldmann says:


      the “whatever” you are using in your “:argument” fits much better than the “destabilising fifth column”.
      1st , the “fifth column” is a very recent term and I never heard it used in association with Jews. It was used during the Spanish Civil War and means the activity of destructive forces within the interior of the enemy camp. As such it does not define at all what I said.
      Then, “improving the human condition” is totally unsuited to my coments.

      This group is simply representing less than devouted Jews using highly charged facical arguments against practices and institutional entities within the Jewish community who wish to maintain necessary traditons.

  9. Paul Winter says:

    Sorry Otto, on this I beg to differ.

    All Jews, irrespective of their sex are entitled to pray anywhere. The Kotel is not some open air medieval men’s club. I do not like the idea of women wearing kippahs and dressing like men. But if wearing talleisim was OK for Maimonedes’ daughters, who are the bearded ones to object. If they are are free to dress like C17 Polish noblemen, any woman who does not interfere with them must be as free as those men to do her own thing. We must not become like the mad mullahs and assault, spit on and curse another person for not doing what we feel is in keeping with those values that those people think is part of their religion. Jews are and must remain tolerant. And, yes, loving. modest and respectful of our fellow human beings, Jewish women included, however they dress and pray.

    • Ron says:

      how about following your own advise with regards to respect for fellow Jews and all human beings?

  10. Otto Waldmann says:

    Note; those marching today in a provocative manner at the Wall, once their demands will be met ( hopefully NOT !!), will keep on marching under another destabilisng banner. Then the same Nathan will ask for the next issue to be resolved on behalf of the “unity seeking ” divisive marchers.
    Nathan was my hero as a refusnik. One hero profile should be enough for one Yid.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.