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Article by Rabbi Rick Jacobs.
For 27 years, women have attempted to pray openly at the Wall, in efforts organized by Women of the Wall. Today, an extraordinary development has come about.
This morning, the Israeli cabinet approved the creation of an enhanced egalitarian prayer space at the Wall, which, for the first time, will be under the authority of non-Orthodox leadership. This is the most significant development in the nearly generation-long campaign by Women of the Wall and their allies for religious equality at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
The government’s proposal calls for a significant revamping of the Western Wall area to create a more unified relationship between the three prayer areas (men’s, women’s, and egalitarian). The existing egalitarian space - near the area known as Robinson’s Arch - will be enhanced by the creation of an expanded platform with more access to the Western Wall, including from the ancient Herodian street. The site will be open through the main plaza by removing existing visual barriers and building a new, inviting entrance.
“This is a groundbreaking agreement,” said Anat Hoffman, chairperson of Women of the Wall and the head of the Israel Religious Action Center. Hoffman, an indefatigable crusader on behalf of this issue who experienced arrests and insults through the decades of struggle, said, “After years and years of insisting that we have an equal place for prayer, after enduring campaigns of abuse against us, and being encouraged by a wave of Jewish support from across the globe, we have accomplished this extraordinary first step. We will be able to stand as part of living history, read the Torah, and pray in the spirit of pluralism and equality that we believe is critical to a vibrant Judaism. Now, we look forward to the steps that will need to be taken to implement this plan.”
The approved proposal was the result of a coordinated effort by Reform and Conservative Jewry, both in Israel and in North America, as well as Women of the Wall and the Jewish Federations of North America. It involved several years of intense negotiating, advocacy, and leadership, led by North American Reform Judaism and Women of the Wall and developed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, and the prime minister’s office. We should especially celebrate the hard word and visionary leadership of the leadership of our Israeli partners, especially Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the extraordinary director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and and the force that is Anat Hoffman. We are all in their debt. They, in turn, would be the first to say that the role of our North American Movement - our advocacy here and on our trips to Israel - was indispensable.
Indeed, this effort is the result of the extraordinary commitment shown by those in Israel who wouldn’t agree to the second-class status imposed by the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment, and by all of us outside of Israel whose unconditional love for our Jewish State compels us to tirelessly advocate for a more equal, pluralistic, and Jewishly vibrant Israel.
There will be many bumps in the road to full implementation, and we will need to keep up the very pressure that brought about this critical advance. In weeks and months to come, the North American Reform Jewish community will work with its partners in Israel to implement the proposal and to celebrate this new arrangement, which will allow all Jews to experience an egalitarian prayer space at the holy site.
After 13 years of dedicated service to Honolulu Community Jewish Preschool,Momi Martinez is retiring from her position as Director at the end of this school year. Momi has been the driving force that elevated the program to a nationally accredited school. It has been her personal unwavering commitment to her students and their parents to provide a safe, loving environment that facilitates learning. We will miss her energy and professionalism. Please save the date of April 2 for an evening of celebration and appreciation of her legacy.
We are excited to build on her legacy. We are currently in the process of interviewing qualified applicants. Please click here to download the job description. For inquiries or to send your resume, please e-mail Executive Director Richard Field at email@example.com.