The Women of the Wall's Struggle for Religious Liberty in Israel
Rabbi Jill Maderer serves at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, Penn. This post originally appeared at BlogRS and is reposted with permission.
When I prayed with Women of the Wall (WoW) in 1996, I never imagined that in 2010, women would still be prohibited from raising their voices in prayer at the Kotel -- the Western Wall, the remaining wall from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Yet, as much as ever before, the religious extremism of ultra-orthodoxy continues to hold authority and power over all Jews in the State of Israel-from school funding to liberal rabbinic recognition- and over all activity at the Kotel.
In November, WoW member Nofrat Frankel was arrested for wearing a tallit (prayer shawl) and for holding a Torah scroll. Two weeks ago, WoW leader Anat Hoffman (who spoke at Rodeph Shalom a few years ago at our Joseph W. Rosenbluth Shabbat), executive director of the Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center, was interrogated and fingerprinted by police. Her crime? Wearing a tallit, not at the Wall, but at a previously designated alternative overlooking the wall, where WoW has been holding services for years.
The soul of the Jewish State is at stake when the extremists keep women from wearing a tallit, holding a Torah scroll and even from praying outloud at the Kotel. To add your voice to the voices of justice, write a letter advocating pluralism.
As the struggle of the Women of the Wall continues, let us join their prayer: that all the women and girls of the people Israel may raise their voices before God in song and praise. May no one, in Israel or anywhere else in the world, be silenced. As it is written: For Zion's sake I will not be still and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be silent, until her righteousness comes forth like great light and her salvation like a torch aflame.