Yesterday I met a Hero

Yesterday I met a hero.  I had coffee with my friend Alden Solovy who is a poet and liturgest from Jerusalem.  You can read his work on his website www.tobendlight.com.  We had this meeting set up to discuss a workshop he will lead for my temple group in Israel this summer.  But who knew that I would be meeting with a person the Haredim (the fantical religious Orthodox) in Israel called “a man of wickedness”?  Alden is not wicked at all but my hero.  IMG_2454

On Rosh Chodesh Iyar on Monday Alden helped defend the Torah at the Kotel. The Western Wall in Jerusalem. As usual on the first day of the new month Alden and many others go early in the morning with Nashot HaKotel Women of the Wall to celebrate the new month.  Nashot HaKotel, Women of the Wall led by the amazing Anat Hoffman has been working for more than 2 decades to create women’s equal prayer space at the Kotel.  The Kotel through the years has become an Orthodox synagogue. There is a mechitza, a dividing wall separating men and women worshippers and over the years the women’s side has gotten smaller and smaller.  Egalitarian prayer and women’s prayer leadership-hallmarks of Reform and Conservative Judaism isn’t allowed but Nashot HaKotel has been trying to institute that. Women led prayer including reading from a Torah scroll has been forbidden even by the Supreme Court.  But a few years ago-a Jerusalem judge ruled that women must by allowed equal access.  The Women of the Wall have been sneaking in a small mini-Torah at times.

But on Rosh Chodesh earlier in the week, a group of supportive men passed a full size Torah (one of the 100 state owned Torah scrolls at the Kotel) to the women’s side. There Nashot HaKotel danced and prayed with the Scroll.  But as the gate pass through opened several of the state-paid ushers and few Haredi men rushed the men’s group.  My friend Alden and another man Charlie Kalech who was also part of the supporters were beaten by thugs.  Both sustained injuries and rather than arresting the thugs at the Wall, Charlie was arrested.

These men and the men who supported the Women of the Wall are heros! They believe in the equality of men and women in spiritual Jewish life and became warriors for Torah.  Sometimes in civil disobedience there is violence, even when we try to live by the code of non-violence. It certainly wasn’t the Women of the Wall or their supporters that engaged in violence. They just wanted to read from and pray from and dance with the Torah.  But rather the so-called Orthodox who threw punches, and stomped on others. This kind of Jew against Jew brought our Temple down according to the Talmud.  As another great Jewish thinker, Bob Dylan said: “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

But I got to have coffee with a hero yesterday. Thank you for taking a punch for Torah, justice, equality and women’s prayer.  May you heal quickly from the bruises to your body and your soul and may you never know violence again.alden on the ground

Reform Movement Responds to Kotel Plan – URJ

This is very important.  Sunday word of the Mandelblit Commission’s plan was leaked to the press. This was a commission appointed by PM Netanyahu in Israel to follow up on the grand compromise arrived at by Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency and Diaspora Jewish leaders on prayer at the Kotel, the symbol of Jewish Unity.  But the Mandelblit plan pushed forward by Cabinet member Naftali Bennett would decimate the grand Compromise achieved and the delicate balance.  Click below to see the unified Reform Movement Response… As a result of Reform Movement outcry and other groups-the Prime Minister announced that no conclusions have been reached.  Seems like a slight delay in announcing their plan.

 

Reform Movement Responds to Kotel Plan – URJ.

Anat Hoffman arrested again

My friend and colleague Anat Hoffman director of the Israel Religious Action Center and one of the founder of Women of the Wall (www.womenofthewall.org.il) was arrested last night at a Rosh Chodesh celebration with the Hadassah Women from around the world. The women of Hadassah are in Israel celebrating their 100 year anniversary of this wonderful Jewish women’s organization known for its philanthropy  in the United States and in Israel.   Anat has been arrested at the Kotel before.  The Women of the Wall group gathers each Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall for a morning service to celebrate the new month. This half holy day associated with women is a time for women of all denominations to come together to pray and read Torah.  But they are not allowed to read the Torah in the Kotel Plaza area.  The Rosh Chodesh group continues to point out the inequities at the Wall.  Men have most of the area near the wall for prayer and meditation and reflection and the women’s section is small. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling said that they could gather but this group had to read Torah in a different section near the southern part of the wall.  Not in the main prayer place.  They also arrest members of the group and detain them for wearing a tallit which is common among women in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism.  Tallito have to wrapped around like a scarf not in the traditional manner of wearing a prayer shawl.

Anat was arrested for reciting the Shema-the prayer that unifies the Jewish people world wide.  She was detained overnight and although a familiar site to the police who guard and protect the wall was evidently treated very poorly by the police.  Now is our time to strengthen our support for Women of the Wall and the values of equality-even in Israel.   We must stand for our place and our Jewish ideals too.

Take some time to donate. To visit their website.  And the next time  you are in Israel at Rosh Chodesh go and take part in the service.  Men stand on the men’s side near the divider to protect the group of women praying from flying objects on the men’s side over the Mechitza and pray together with the women and then all proceed with the Torah to the site for reading of the Torah.  This is for equality for all people and all who believe that the Holy Sites of Judaism should be open and available to all Jews.

A prayer for Rosh Chodesh and the Women of the Wall

Rosh Chodesh-the New Month- is this weekend.  It begins tonight and continues through Monday -the first of Kislev..

The Women of The Wall gather monthly on Rosh Chodesh to welcome the New Moon.  This is traditionally a day associated with women.  Tradition teaches it was a reward for resisting Aaron’s command to part with jewelry to make the Golden Calf.  The women resisted sin.

How sadly ironic that the Women of the Wall in efforts to pray and welcome a holy time associated with women resisting the greatest sin of the Jewish people, men, specifically the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbi of the Wall, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz  continue the sin of exclusion and misogyny.

Below is a prayer for Rosh Chodesh and a prayer for the Women of the Wall at this Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

Remember the month of Kislev is the month of Chanukah; A time of light, miracles, rededication of the Temple.  It is a month of Maccabean strength.  As you pray keep these intentions in your mind and heart.

Prayer for Women of the Wall

May it be your will, our God and God of our mothers and fathers, to bless this prayer group and all who pray within it: them, their families, and all that is theirs, together with all women’s prayer groups and all the women and girls of Your people Israel. Strengthen us and turn our hearts to serve You in truth, reverence, and love.

May our prayer be as desirable and acceptable before You as the prayers of our holy foremothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rahel, and Leah.

May our song ascend to Your Glorious Throne in holiness and purity, like the song of Miriam the Prophet and Devorah the Judge, and may it be as a pleasant savor and sweet incense before You.

And for our sisters, all the women and girls of Your people Israel: let us merit to see their joy and hear their voices raised before You in song and praise. May no woman or girl of Your people Israel or anywhere else in the world be silenced ever again. God of Justice, let us merit justice and salvation soon, for the sanctity of Your name and the restoration of Your world, as it is written: Zion will hear and be joyful, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, over Your judgments, O God. And 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.

For Torah shall go forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem. Amen, selah.

Prayer by Rahel Jaskow is from Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism’s Holy Site, copyright 2003 by Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Haut. Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock VT, www.jewishlights.com.