Fight for the things you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you. – U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, z’l
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) is appalled and outraged by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s recent assertion that the plan for the agreed-upon egalitarian section at the Western Wall, the Kotel, would not be implemented. That plan would create an egalitarian plaza at the southern part of the Western Wall, one where those who choose to pray in an egalitarian manner would be able to participate in its management, preserve and cherish its open nature, and pray in accordance with our practices. There is more than one way to be a Jew, and we seek a place where people of all gender identities can pray without disturbance at the Western Wall. We raise up the words of our partner, Anna Kislanski, CEO of The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), who expressed her anger at the government of Israel “surrendering to extremists.” We take to heart her reminder that we all have a role. As she stated, “[t]he eyes of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora are looking at the current government in hopes that it will implement a worthy compromise that will help all of the people of Israel and not surrender shamefully to violent bullies.”
We, the Women of Reform Judaism, have ourselves experienced prayer with the Women of the Wall (WOW) on Rosh Chodesh, individually and together. We have heard the whistles that try to drown out our prayer, we have felt the hands pushing, scratching, and attacking us while we are at prayer. Like us, the Women of the Wall seek to pray at the Kotel in accordance with their practice, and every Rosh Chodesh they come to the women’s section to try to pray with Torah, Tefillin, and Tallit. When their prayer books are grabbed, ripped, trampled, and even burned, we feel that pain acutely, in part because WRJ underwrote those prayer books.
We continue to feel anger, frustration, disillusionment, and disappointment at the six years that have passed without meaningful action since the Kotel agreement was approved on January 31, 2016. Along with our partners in the Reform Movement, we will continue to bring women to Israel, to pray at the Kotel, and to raise our voices in both prayer and protest. We support the Union for Reform Judaism’s statement, signed by WRJ Executive Director, Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, reminding Israel’s leaders that “The Kotel compromise is good for everyone…The entire Jewish people deserve to have a place at that holy site where they can feel at home and where their access and freedom are protected.” The Kotel, and all of Israel, should be a place for ALL Jews. WRJ, along with our partners, will continue to demand reinstatement and implementation of the Kotel agreement.
The Executive Committee of Women of Reform Judaism urges our members to:
1. Urge your clergy and spiritual leaders to speak out from the pulpit and write to Israel’s Ambassadors and Consuls General in support of upholding and implementing the Kotel Agreement.
2. Write an email to the Israeli Ambassador and Consul General serving your community, urging them to implement the Kotel Agreement and expressing our dismay at the Government’s back-tracking on the Agreement. To find your Consul General, click here, select your region and then click on “Contact Us” to get the email address. Information for what to include in the letter can be found here.
3. Share these education materials with your friends, your community, your sisterhood, and your congregation:
- Read: URJ Statement on Prime Minister Bennett’s Abandonment of the Kotel Agreement, signed by Reform Jewish clergy and the Jerusalem Post Op-Ed column by Anna Kislanski, CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism
- Watch: Reform Movement video on the Kotel Agreement
- Visit: the Reform Movement landing page about the Kotel, and sign up to stay informed about the Kotel and associated campaigns.
- Sign up: for IRAC’s weekly The Pluralist Newsletter at https://www.irac.org/sign-up
- Watch: If you missed our webinar with Women of the Wall (WOW) and the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism on January 30, 2022, the link will be provided shortly. The opening video can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UR7nkbhlpg
4. Donate a mantle: Donate a Torah mantle that is no longer in use to Women of the Wall. Empty mantles represent the restrictions that bar women from bringing or reading a Torah at the Kotel. Each mantle tells Israel’s representatives that we are involved, and we demand equality. Find more information here. Send the mantle along with information about your congregation to the address below and WRJ will get those mantles to Israel, to WOW, and to the Kotel:
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, URJ-Israel VP
Attn: WRJ/WOW Torah Mantle Collection
633 Third Avenue - 7th Floor
NY, NY 10017