The day I Became a Woman (of the Wall)10 October 2013
By Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, October 2013
I’ve been living in the Jerusalem area for over 20 years. I grew up Orthodox and, being so busy with studies, work, and children, I never thought much about religion and my part in it.
And then I chanced upon a Facebook post about Anat Hoffman’s arrest for carrying a Torah at the Kotel. When I read that I felt terribly ashamed; ashamed of my country but mostly ashamed of myself for not knowing about this group before, for not being with these people all these years, for ignoring a cause so blindingly right and just. There and then, I swore to myself that I would join these women for the next Rosh Hodesh service.
And so I did. At the service there was a policeman who kept telling us to “lower the volume”. Did I have to listen to him? I stopped singing every time he said that. I didn’t want to get arrested for singing too loudly.
There was shouting coming from the left. I was so scared I didn’t dare look around. Next to me there was a woman who must be a regular; her tallit was wrapped comfortably around her and from time to time she told the policeman in charge something which made him back off for a few minutes. I started to concentrate on the tefilah. And it was beautiful.
Hallel over, we sang our way to Robinson’s arch for the Torah service. By this time I had a bit of a stomach ache so I found a rock to sit on and tried to calm down. You obviously need to be made of strong stuff to be a Woman of the Wall! Then I heard someone asking if anyone wanted to read from the Torah. I volunteered to read the 2nd aliyah. My stomachache miraculously gone, I read the three psukim. Only after, I started to notice things: The guy with the "This is a Jerusalem Feminist" t-shirt, the woman with a baby snuggled in a carrier, the blue sky and warm sun. I can do this again, I thought to myself and vowed, G-d willing, to come back next Rosh Hodesh.
Postscript: I came back the next month, and the next, and the next. I joined the Women of the Wall board soon after. It's been a privilege and a learning experience - especially learning what the inside of the Jerusalem old city police stations are like (dull!) and most recently, the art of negotiation and leadership (fascinating!).
Rachel Yeshurun is a software developer in Jerusalem and is on the board of directors of Women of the Wall.
Where there's a Will there's a Wall10 October 2013
By Roberta Harris, October 2013
I was a (very small) part of that initial movement to bring women and Torah together at the Western Wall all those years ago. Without being an active feminist, I have always believed it is a woman's right to be the equal, legally and socially, of anyone in the world. Not to be part of the Women of the Wall would be an anachronism.
I have spent my work life teaching the Bible in one form or another - mostly the archaeology and history that can bring so much more out of the narrative; but also its Hebrew and its link to rabbinic Judaism.
Today, well beyond retirement age - I shall be 68 next birthday - I have just begun rabbinic training, with the idea of becoming a chaplain to and advocate for the Jewish elderly in the UK. I hope that I will be able to attract others to join me in this ambition, and that together we will be able to make a difference for people coming towards the end of their lives.
The determination of the Women of the Wall has always been and will always be an inspiration in my life.
Free to Be10 October 2013
By Dove Weissman, October 2013
Born in the early 70s, I am a product of the women's liberation movement. I was dressed in baby bell-bottom blue jeans, if anything, and I was always told that I can be and do anything. The lyrics of Harry Belafonte and Marlo Thomas on "Free to be You and Me" informed my perspective of what it is to be a woman, (mother or not).
"Some mommies are ranchers, or poetry makers
Or doctors or teachers, or cleaners or bakers
Some mommies drive taxis, or sing on TV
Yeah, mommies can be almost anything they want to be."
You get the point. As a 3rd generation American Jew, the commitment to Jewish values such as tzedakah and acts of kindness were strongly encouraged, but religious practice was more a byproduct of belonging to a Reform congregation where Jewish community was strengthened.
I recently participated in a service at the Kotel with Women of the Wall. In addition to the WOW activists, religious women praying nearby, police, and onlookers, was my 13 year old daughter, my mother, her women's lib activist friends, and my soon to be in-laws, who are secular Israeli kibbutzniks. Standing there, I felt the complexity and immensity of the moment, all the struggles that made it possible for us to be there, together. Such places of power and spiritual significance usually help us transcend our human divisions. Yet in Israel, the transcendent and mundane are continually engaged in a magnetic dance of duality.
There is still much work to be done to overcome the inequities of gender, class and race, yet I feel hopeful that my daughter's generation will evolve society to be even more just. After all, they are standing on the shoulders of some mighty strong giants.
Dove is a citizen of the earth, mother, friend, sister, daughter, lover, artist, health and wellness enthusiast, and occasional writer.
Role Model for a Gay Jewish Man10 October 2013
By Seth Morrison, October 2013
After many years of repressing my sexuality, I met a wonderful Rabbi, Leila Gal Berner, who is both female and a proud Lesbian. She helped me accept myself and guided me in finding a therapist to begin the coming out process. Having Rabbi Leila as a role model was a key element in overcoming my fears.
Since that time I have attended services and worked on Jewish Community projects with many Rabbis, male and female, gay and straight. This diversity creates a community where each of us can feel comfortable being ourselves.
Seth Morrison is a long time Jewish peace activist volunteering for a number of organizations. He serves on the NIF Leadership Council for Washington, DC.
Women at the Torah10 October 2013
By A man from Houston, TX, October 2013
One of the great thrills of my life occurred when I was President of a rather small Conservative congregation about 30 years ago. During that period women not only were called up to the Torah but they read from it and carried it. An unheard of activity in Conservatism at that time. I think that it is the norm today.