UPDATE, 11/15, 13:36: Both the Jewish Telegraph Agency and the Forward have replaced the original photo with different ones: JTA’s article is now accompanied by a photo of an open Torah held by jacketed arms, adorned with a prayer shawl; the Forward‘s new photo shows three males in kippot (head coverings) with dreidels (Chanukah tops). Neither photo seems to have any relationship to non-Jews at the Torah, but the one that was clearly a mistake is now gone. No correction or apology in either place, however, and it is not clear whether JTA is correcting the mistake with other outlets that might be using their article. Continue reading Who Is a Jew and how would the Forward recognize her?
An evolving midrash on Fabrangen‘s Omer Blog is exploring the idea of eating the fruit — honoring the essential Torah of an individual or community — while discarding the rind: In the case of the talmudic era Elisha ben Abuyah, the “rind” is understood as outright apostasy, but his student/friend Meir continues to defend and enjoy the fruit.
Even beyond the “fruit/rind” strategy, Rabbi Meir insists on redeeming his friend/teacher by spreading his cloak over Acher as Boaz did to redeem Ruth, welcoming the other.
Can this same strategy be employed between Jewish communities with apparently intractable differences of practice and belief? A truly welcoming cloak would have to leave room for the other to be other: is there a cloak that big? Continue reading Is There a Cloak Big Enough?
I was young during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, when my hometown police violently arrested protestors in Grant Park. I grew up thinking that a chant of “The whole world is watching” and a little press coverage were important tools in social change. And I listened to the Chicago Transit Authority album so often that the words of the “Someday (August 29, 1968)” still come to mind unbidden whenever I witness or learn about police/state violence.
Someday you will see how long we’ve waited for the time
to show you how we’ve got to get together with you all
This morning (3/12/13), for the first time in months, Women of the Wall in Jerusalem was able to pray without arrest. Most likely the presence of the several Knesset members, secular women who joined in solidarity, prevented arrest. But there were also the prayers and notoriety generated here in Wash, DC and in other U.S. cities.
Although there were no arrests, WOW had to pray through the shouting and taunts of hundreds of men and some women who believe WOW is “desecrating a holy site” with their worship. Lack of arrest does not mean the healing, on either side of the situation, is done.
But Women of the Wall in Israel is international and cross-denominational. Washington Friends of Women of the Wall includes men and women, and yesterday’s solidarity gathering included Conservative, havurah, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal, transdenominational and unaffiliated Jews participating. This, we hope and pray, will be part of getting us all to “Someday.”
Merciful God, the outside world is full of bustle and turmoil.
You are close to us everywhere, but the burdens and obstacles of daily life can rise as a barrier between our hearts and You.
In rituals of wrapping those barriers disappear.
Wrapping reminds us of Your precious constant love,
helps us feel the safety and security of your protecting hand.
Meanwhile, WoW reports on their Facebook page that these posters [Pashkevillim] appear in Jerusalem in advance of their monthly service:
“Help! The Western Wall is being trampled and desecrated by a group of women called “Women of the Wall” who are requesting to desecrate the Western Wall on Tuesday Rosh Hodesh Nisan 5773 at 7 am. Male and female worshippers, please attend Rosh Hodesh prayers at the Western Wall on that day and protest against this desecration of holiness. All those who consider important the place from which the Shechina will never move should come to raise your voice and protest.” [translation by Pam Frydman]
Today, Women of the Wall
and so many of our brothers and sisters around the world,
struggle to find the peace in worship we so often take for granted.
Today, we unfurl the garments that, for many of us, contribute
to our individual and collective sense of sanctuary.
We are grateful for the rights we enjoy, even while aware
of the many who do not yet enjoy them.
For those who choose: Unfurl your prayer shawl at this point. Hold it aloft… but do not wrap yourself in its shelter.
For with You is the fountain of life.
In Your light we see light. (Psalms 36:10)
Hashem, our God, Fountain of Life and Light, help us see one another more clearly through Your light. Bring more light to our leaders in the U.S., in Israel, and around the world. Today, our shoulders go unprotected by our sheltering garments as we stand in solidarity with Women of the Wall and all who struggle for the freedom of religious practice. We remember the words of Proverbs: “Listen, my child, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” We pray: May Your Sheltering Presence fill the world, soon and in our time. And let us say: Amen.
For those who choose: Lower prayer shawls at this point.
May the month of Nisan,
with its particular promise of freedom of religious practice,
renew us all in our own religious practices, in our tolerance
for other practices, and in our efforts to promote understanding
and justice in our own communities and beyond them. Continue reading Prayers for the New Month of Nisan
Here’s a new PDF prayer supplement, “At the New Moon,” brought to you by “Rosh Hodesh Elul DC,” a loosely formed group of men and women in solidarity with Women of the Wall. (Print back-to-back and fold.) “In Solidarity/For Understanding” was developed in support of Women of the Wall by Virginia Avniel Spatz, based on traditional prayers at the announcement of the new month. Pamela Greenberg kindly offered permission to quote from her translation of the psalms. Many others contributed editorial and other forms of support.
Wherever you may be at the new moon, please share the prayer. And please let us know — by commenting here or at “Rosh Hodesh Elul DC” on Facebook — where it is being used. Women of the Wall also welcomes knowing where solidarity activities are taking place.
The DC-area group will be continuing to explore activities in solidarity with Women of the Wall and to promote cross-community understanding and religious freedom more generally. Ideas and energy welcome.
Washington, DC’s cross-community Rosh Hodesh Elul service, held on August 11, was an experiment in creating a prayer service that allows DC-area women and men from different streams of Judaism to pray together. In showing solidarity with Women of the Wall, the service exceeded expectations. Many participants found the service a great opportunity to welcome the new month and begin preparations for the new year. Especially given the short planning period and complete lack of official organizational support — many congregations pitched in, but on an ad hoc basis at the very last minute — I believe the event was a successful first endeavor into inter-denominational prayer.
Hallel is my favorite prayer service. As an individual who cannot carry a tune in a satchel but loves to sing and loves the psalms, I find a Hallel [psalms 113-118] sung with gusto a great opportunity to join my off-key voice into a larger sound of praise.
So, as I watched video of Women of the Wall suffering through abuse for raising their voices in prayer on Rosh Hodesh Av and heard reports that a loud Hallel appeared to be a driving force behind the arrest of WoW Chair Anat Hoffman, I decided I would have to raise my voice…in Hallel for the new month, as a wake up call toward a more just new year and in solidarity with WoW. Continue reading DC Voices for Religious Freedom — Solidarity with Women of the Wall
Women of the Wall, or Nashot Hakotel נשות הכותל in Hebrew, is a group of Jewish women from around the world who strive to achieve the right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. The Western Wall is Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish people-hood and sovereignty and Women of the Wall works to make it a holy site where women can pray freely. WOW chose Rosh Hodesh as the day to gather as a women’s prayer group and celebrate, through prayer at the Wall and reading the special portion for Rosh Hodesh from the Torah scroll.
A non-denominational group of women and men will be gathering in Washington, DC, on August 11, for Rosh Hodesh Elul in solidarity with WOW and to begin our own journeys toward the new year. Like the services held by Women of the Wall in Jerusalem, the DC service will accommodate participants from across the Jewish spectrum. While women will lead services, men are encouraged to come.
Please bring a tallit and a siddur, if you are able to do so.
A number of people have asked, so: Yes, we will blow shofar, as is traditional throughout Elul, beginning on the second day of Rosh Hodesh. Continue reading Rosh Hodesh Elul
An inter-denominational group demonstrated outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC, on July 22 in support of religious freedom in Israel, in opposition to the arrest of Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah at the Kotel and in protest of growing violence against women throughout Israel.
Hoffman is the Executive Director of Israel Religious Action Center and chair of Women of the Wall. She was arrested on Rosh Chodesh Av (July 12) as WOW held their usual monthly service. A woman who was with WOW on July 12 described the event (see second of three demonstration videos). She reported that the arresting officer became visibly upset as a female cantor sang Hallel (psalms of praise recited on festivals, Rosh Chodesh [beginning of a new month] and Chanukah.)