Women of the Wall, Judaism, and you!

9 October 2013

I want your help to bolster Israel’s women’s rights movement.

25 years ago a group of activists committed to the principle of women’s equality joined together to pursue a simple goal: that women should be allowed to pray at the Kotel according to the dictates of their consciences.

Today, their efforts are at the center of two parallel debates about gender equality within Judaism and about the rights of women in Israel to be a part of the public square.

NIF is committed to winning these debates. That’s why we seed-funded Women of the Wall 25 years ago. That’s why we support dozens of Israeli NGOs committed to women’s rights. And that’s why we convene these organizations, and others, to press forward for our shared vision of equality.

You can bolster this front-line work by demonstrating the depth of support for the notion that women should be full partners in modern Jewish life.

Here’s what I need from you: Write a short personal statement. Tell us about a moment in your life when your connection to Judaism was strengthened by the shift to the greater gender equality we’ve witnessed here in America. Or speak out on what needs to be done in the next 25 years to ensure that Jewish and Israeli women continue to rise as spiritual, political, and cultural leaders.

Click here to see other contributions and to submit your statement.

We’re going to take a selection of the statements we receive and publish them online and in the mainstream Israeli press. To make sure we get attention, we’ll be printing the stories of grassroots activists, intellectual elites, and political leaders side by side. (We’ve already reserved space in the Haaretz.)

The world has changed dramatically in the past 25 years since Women of the Wall was founded. Here in America, women have been taking our place as leaders on the bima, at the board room, and in the struggle to build a better Israel.

But in Israel, ultra-Orthodox extremists have increasingly sought to block women from participating in nearly every aspect of Jewish religious life — from singing prayers in public to offering the eulogy at their parents’ funerals. And their ambitions extend to the secular realm: They believe that women must be hidden. It’s part of a radical worldview that strips women of any meaningful role outside of the home.

NIF and our organizations have taken on this extremism with great success: It is now illegal for women to be forced to sit at the back of the bus. The attorney general has ordered all government agencies to stop any government-sponsored exclusion of women. Billboards with women’s faces can now, once again, be seen in the streets of Jerusalem.

Now you can help reinforce these policy victories with outreach to more of the Israeli public. For too long ultra-Orthodox extremists have dominated the discussion about our Jewish heritage. As a result, too many in Israel believe that Judaism is inherently about keeping women down.

Help broaden the discussion. Demonstrate the depth of support for the notion that women are full partners in modern Judaism.

This is your opportunity to be a part of the movement pressing for women’s rights at the Kotel, within Judaism, and in every other aspect of life.

You and I know that when women take our place as equals, it strengthens Israel, the Jewish tradition and our strength as a people. Help us to show that modern Judaism is about equality. Help us strengthen the movement for equality within Israel.

Thanks for your partnership in the push for a better Israel!

Naomi Paiss
Vice President of Public Affairs
New Israel Fund

P.S. — As a tribute to all that Women of the Wall has achieved, we will be presenting them with a book of the statements we receive at the commemoration of their 25 year anniversary on November 4th. Add your story now!