HaKotel L’Kulam — The Western Wall Should Be For All
A Statement in Support of the “Women of the Wall”
Social action based on Jewish ethics is a central part of Reconstructionist community activity. In Israel and North America, Reconstructionists actively support The Women at the Wall, who advocate equal worship rights for men and women in Israel.
The Reconstructionist Movement supports the efforts of the Women of the Wall.
The Women of the Wall have held a monthly prayer group at the Western Wall (the Kotel) since 1988, in which Reconstructionist, Conservative, Reform and modern Orthodox women have participated. Today, the organization’s existence is being threatened by the Israeli government.
These women are not asking for an egalitarian section, they are seeking to pray as they see fit in the women’s section. As they stated in an open letter, “We do not hold egalitarian services…. Our rights can be realized in the women’s section at the Kotel ….” Ultimately, they were denied the right to pray as they wished within the women’s section by the Israeli Supreme Court. Due to the court’s ruling, Israeli police have prevented the “Women of the Wall” from holding organized prayer groups in the Women’s section of the Kotel’s public plaza.
On Nov. 18, 2009, Nofrat Frenkel was arrested for wearing a tallit and carrying a Sefer Torah during worship services at the Wall. On January 5th, 2010, Anat Hoffman, “Women of the Wall” leader and Israel Religious Action Center Director, was detained and fingerprinted. The police informed her that her offense was the same as Frenkel’s -- wearing a tallit and holding a Sefer Torah at the Western Wall. Anat Hoffman is a major figure within Progressive Judaism. Her arrest is a direct attack on all non-Orthodox movements. These troubling events drive a wedge between the Orthodox and Progressive Jewish communities at a time when working for unity within Israel and enhancing the connection between North American and other non-Israeli Jewish communities and Israel should be a primary concern. To put it simply, the Western Wall has become a religious site controlled by the ultra-Orthodox.
Within the Reconstructionist movement, every Jew has the right to read from a Torah, blow a shofar, wear a tallit and pray with full voice. The Western Wall is a location that holds special significance to almost all Jews. Because it is a historical site and not a synagogue, the Reconstructionist Movement does not feel that the norms of the ultra-Orthodox should prevail at the Western Wall. The Western Wall should be a place where all Jews can gather to pray. Currently, it is a haven for the ultra-Orthodox. The situation is worsening. It is time to take action.
We urge the municipality of Jerusalem, the State of Israel and its ambassadors to the United States and Canada to realize the gravity of this issue and take immediate steps to promote religious pluralism, provide equitable treatment to non-Orthodox streams of Jewish life and end the harassment of women seeking to pray with dignity at the Western Wall, which for many is a uniquely holy place.
As Reconstructionist Jews, we hope for a pluralistic Israeli society that welcomes all Jews. As Anat Hoffman writes, “Israel has shown that she can protect herself from armies and terrorists. Protecting herself from religious extremism may be Israel’s biggest challenge—a challenge that cannot and must not be ignored by those who care about Israel’s soul.” By standing with the “Women of the Wall,” we affirm our unity as a single world-wide Jewish community, the abiding importance of the city of Jerusalem in our lives, our connection with our sisters and brothers in the Land of Israel, and our responsibility to care for Israel’s soul.
In December of 2011, Women of the Wall Legal and Education Fund was launched: http://rebpam.com/WOW/wow.htm. We invite all Reconstructioinist colleagues to please join this urgent effort by lending your name and making a donation. To be listed as a supporter please email your title, name, organization, city and state to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor and Rabbi Pamela Frydman
International Co-Chairs, Rabbis for Women of the Wall
415-261-3404 (Pam) 339-206-2283 (Menachem)
For more information about the Nashot HaKotel/Women of the Wall, please visit
For rabbis to sign in support: http://womenofthewall.org.il/solidarity/take-a-stand/rabbis-take-a-stand
For cantors to sign in support: http://womenofthewall.org.il/solidarity/take-a-stand/cantors-take-a-stand
For members and lay leaders of Reconstructionist Congregations or Organizations: http://womenofthewall.org.il/solidarity/take-a-stand/organizations-take-a-stand
U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren
Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Canadian Ambassador Miriam Ziv
Embassy of Israel
50 O'Connor Street
Ottawa,Ontario K1P 6L2
* Photos at top depict (left to right): 1. Men praying at the Wall; 2. The Women's Section at the Wall; 3. Pope Benedict XVI; 4. Hillary Clinton; 5. Nofrat Frenkel reading Torah; 6. Anat Hoffman and another woman in prayer shawls; and 7. Judith Kaplan Eisenstein, marking the 70th anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah ceremony.