Rabbi Yoffie on Women of the Wall
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, had an op-ed published last week in the San Francisco Bay Area's J Weekly, titled "At the Wall, which side is the right one?: The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people." In it, he addresses the controversy surrounding the Women of the Wall, including the 2009 arrest of Nofrat Frenkel for wearing a prayer shawl at the Kotel, as well as the recent interrogation of Anat Hoffman, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center, for her leadership of the monthly women's prayer group. Rabbi Yoffie writes:
Why turn [the Kotel] into a source of division? Why should the Wall be an ultra-Orthodox synagogue rather than a place that belongs to us all -- a place where all Jews can find space to pray, to gather, and to celebrate the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people?
Twenty years ago I proposed a solution to the problem of access to the Wall, and it remains the best answer. There is ample room to divide the Wall into three areas: one for men to pray according to Orthodox custom; one for women to pray according to Orthodox custom; and one for non-Orthodox prayer and secular and civil ceremonies of various kinds.
He goes on to say that the "Robinson's Arch solution," which permits non-Orthodox Jews to pray at an archaeological site at a distance from the Wall, is no solution at all; he goes on to dismiss the idea that permitting Reform and Conservative Jews to pray at the Kotel could lead to chanting by visiting Catholics or Buddhists. Finally, Rabbi Yoffie writes:
And since there is not a single, universally accepted religious standard that governs Jewish religious life, we should make no attempt to impose one at the Kotel. What we need, rather, is to be respectful of each other's choices and customs.
You can learn more about the Women of the Wall controversy at urj.org/israel/wow, and then listen to a recording of Anat Hoffman speaking about the Women of the Wall (albeit before her interrogation).
What do you think of the Women of the Wall controversy? What should be done? Is there any solution in sight?