by Sara Conway
It was never my intent to try to tell other people how to pray. I hoped to give a voice to those who treasure and wish to protect traditional religious practices at the Kotel. My intent was to counterbalance some of the negative publicity in both the Israeli and International media designed to make religious Jewish women look like mindless pawns, and paint all religious men as misogynistic bullies who all yell, scream, blow whistles and spit when a woman prays freely. I was hoping to illustrate that the majority of religious men and women are intelligent, mindful of their life choices, and not subjugated followers. I also wanted to call attention to individuals who have made conflicting statements about WoW’s goals, and have publicly stated that the liberation of the Kotel is just a stepping stone towards ultimately dismantling the status quo in Israel in general, even in communities where gender segregation is an integral part of their culture and lifestyle..
In my personal life, I am a proponent of live and let live. Living in the melting pot that is NY City, I work with people of all shapes and sizes. I work daily at helping people within the confines of their own cultures and beliefs. I have learned how important it is to be sensitive to these differences from the first interaction, as one false move can destroy the possibility of creating a therapeutic relationship.
This has led to a phenomenon where many people still identify themselves as Jewish but have beliefs that are different and even contradictory to beliefs of Traditional Judaism. Where one person may believe that the Torah is the ultimate truth given to us by G-d, another may think it is a fairy tale. Where one person may see a picture of a woman with a Talis and Tefilin and see inspiration, another sees a perversion of thousands of years of tradition. Where one woman believes that sitting in the back of a bus enhances her modesty and privacy, another sees a Civil Rights violation. In addition, I bet that there are 70 other opinions that fall somewhere in between. How do we cope with these differences? How do we accept the “other” even when our basic belief systems are so different?