WRJ Israel Mission 2020: Ozi v’zimrat yah, v’yhi li l’yishua

What were you doing this morning at 7:00 am? You were possibly getting up, getting ready for work, or leaving for work. You may have been heading somewhere for Shacharit services, in which case you were in luck, as today we welcomed Rosh Chodesh Adar.

Thirty-one WRJ women were very fortunate this morning to be arriving at the Kotel in Jerusalem by 7:00 am to participate in the monthly Rosh Chodesh service led by Women of the Wall. A few members of our group have participated in previous years in this special service. People always ask me if the atmosphere was tense (somewhat); did we get jostled (a bit); and was it worth leaving our hotel at 6:15 am to willingly and knowingly put ourselves into an unusual and unknown environment (most definitely). But more on that later…first, I’d like to give a huge shout-out to several women in our group who had special honours.

Abby Fisher, WRJ Vice President, led the Hallel prayers and WRJ President Susan Bass read a beautiful prayer in honour of Women of the Wall. Then, almost magically, a Torah scroll appeared! This is no small feat as scrolls are not allowed in the women’s section despite that there are more than one hundred and fifty Torah scrolls available for use on the men’s side. We have no idea how this scroll appeared on the small table acting as a bimah as it had been brought in clandestinely in pieces and was assembled in situ! Indeed, Women of the Wall has attempted to bring a Torah scroll to the Kotel thirty-nine times and has been successful on only six occasions, today included. But there it was and so our Torah readers, Abby Fisher, Karen Goldberg and Rozan Anderson, lent full voice to the verses they chanted.  Called for the 1st Aliyah were WRJ President, Susan Bass, WRJ Executive Director Rabbi Marla Feldman, and WRJ 1st Vice President, Sara Charney. Incidentally, this was Rozan’s first time chanting Torah—how very special! Now, ordinarily, chanting Torah can be somewhat intimidating; imagine if you have hecklers! These three women bravely chanted on through the hisses and boos and our chanters could feel that we were building a protective fence around them. I will also add that Rabbi Elyse Goldstein from City Shul in Toronto chanted this morning.

Did our group enjoy the experience? In their own words:
“It was so moving and so wonderful to be a part of it.”
“It was an intense and powerful experience.”
“It was a joyful and beautiful experience and prettier on the ears than the men’s side.”
“When I faced the Wall, I realized, oh, this is what I am really facing.”
“I love this worship; This is the most exciting place I’ve ever prayed. It was better than Hamilton!”

It was a true in-gathering of the exiles; there was a large group from Shnat Netzer which is a program WRJ supports through our YES Fund, and many others in our group found people from their home communities.

As always, participating with Women of the Wall is a highlight of any of my WRJ trips to Israel. May they go from strength to strength and someday, may we all be able to read Torah at the Kotel with freedom.