The topic of women praying at the Western Wall has been an ongoing debate not only among ultra-orthodox Jews and feminists, but now the Women of the Wall (WOW) are becoming divided on the issue of where to pray at the wall. While on November, 4, 2013, the group celebrated their 25 anniversary, it is at this moment in the group’s history that they are the most divided. In his article, “Women of Wall Deeply Split over Anat Hoffman’s Acceptance of Prayer Deal,” Nathan Jeffay discusses the issues WOW is currently facing both internally and externally.
In October of 2013, WOW decided to move their demonstrations from the Kotel's prayer gallery for women to a quieter piece of the wall known as ...view middle of the document...
Bonna Devora Haberman, a WOW founder, stated, “In 2003 we could have easily removed ourselves from the Western Wall plaza to Robinson’s Arch — it was there then and it’s there now...[w]e’ve not yearned 25 years to be displaced from the central gathering point of the Jewish people at the Western Wall plaza” (Jeffay). For women like Ms. Haberman, the group has worked too hard for too long to simply agree to move.
While many applaud the group’s political decision to opt to be involved in negotiations, it is far from the end of the issue. If the group does agree to leave the Kotel section and move to a separate section, they would become excluded from the most sacred place in Judaism.
This article furthers an understanding of gender relations in Judaism. In her article, “Engendering Judaism,” Rachel Adler states, “Non-orthodox Judaisms distinguish themselves from Orthodoxy by their belief that Jews beget Judaism; they reshape and renew Judaism in the various times and places they inhabit.” In other words, Judaism does not exist in a vacuum. It has been shaped and molded to fit cohesively with society and societal norms. But, there still remains the issue of relations between orthodox and non-orthodox Judaisms that disagree with each other. The Women at the Wall face protests and brutality from orthodox Jews.
Adler suggests that there two ways to address issues of gender in Judaism. “The critical task is to demonstrate that historical understandings of gender affect all Jewish texts and contexts and hence require the attention of all Jews” (Adler). Gender is simply not just a “women’s issue.” It is everyone’s issue. Every person on this earth has gender, and thus should be invested in taking a second look at gender relations within Judaism.
Another point Alder makes is that there is a gap between what the text says and what Jewish women actually feel. Alder makes this point by describing the lack of mention in the Torah about women’s presence at Mt. Sinai. Of course women were there, but why were they not mentioned. She states, “How can we ever hope to fill the silence that shrouds Jewish women’s past? If women are invisible from the first moment of Jewish history, can we hope to become Visible now?” (Adler). Alder then goes on to question how many victories were really just token victories. It is viable that women who signed the petition to remain at the Kotel feel that their invitation to be involved in the negotiations is only a token victory. How can real change happen when women would still be excluded from the holiest place in Judaism? In the comment section of the article, a man brought up a saying that often invokes images of the 1960s in America: separate but not equal. Many women feel that this would occur if they were forced to remain separated from the Kotel section.
Blu Greenberg, an orthodox feminist, has come up with solutions on how feminists can reconcile with their Jewish faith. Greenberg begins her article...