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JERUSALEM – On Wednesday, February 25, 2009, over seventy women rabbis joined a small group of Israeli women, primarily composed of Orthodox members, at the Western Wall to praise God.
For the past twenty years, on the first day of each month in the Jewish calendar, a day which Jewish tradition teaches gives a special honor to women, the group “Women of the Wall” comes together for an early morning prayer service at the Western Wall.
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and a founding member of “Women of the Wall” stated, “We feel that there is a great deal of hypocrisy here: On the one hand, the Western Wall symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people, and on the other hand women, who comprise half of this nation, are being silenced, along with the traditions of the largest Jewish movement in the world.”
The group’s expression of Judaism and their prayers to God is often quiet amongst the other prayers at the Wall, given the group’s small numbers. However, this month with the Central Conference of American Rabbis having their annual conference in Jerusalem, the group swelled to nearly 80 women.
Despite the women taking precautions by gathering outside the immediate wall area, the sheer number of voices, magnificent in splendor, caused those who would rather only hear men's voices to create a conflict. Hoffman added, “Those who disagreed with the women’s actions transformed this gathering for prayer into one of tension and conflict.”
Rabbi Shira Joseph, of Hingham, MA, who attended the prayers was spiritually uplifted by the service, but was saddened by the negative reaction from those who would prefer to stifle women's voices. Joseph remarked, “It seems that no matter what we do, we are unaccepted- we come to the Kotel to pray to God and to sing God’s glory, not to be provocateurs. It saddens me that other Jews seek to quiet us because we are women and to claim that Halacha trumps active community participation by all Jews.”
This story was covered widely by the Israeli media.
Israel Religious Action Center
33 Jaffa Street, P.O.B. 31936, Jerusalem, Israel 91319