WOMEN OF THE WALL: “WE WERE WRONG”
Women For the Wall Welcome Statement that “our Haredi sisters also have rights”
JERUSALEM, October 14, 2013 – Women For the Wall welcomed statements by Anat Hoffman, Chair Of Women of the Wall, abandoning their previous agenda of fomenting “change” among women who disagree with their feminist agenda. In response, Women For the Wall again called upon WOW to immediately move their services to the new platform constructed at the Kotel, the Western Wall, by Interior Minister Naftali Bennet, instead of planning yet another monthly disturbance of thousands of other women and men at the plaza constructed and intended for traditional prayer.
In remarks during a conference call with WOW supporters, Hoffman contradicted long-standing public positions of WOW, conceding that the group has never desired simply “to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall,” as proclaimed in its mission statement. She further agreed that the reason the rejectionist faction within WOW insists upon staying at the traditional women’s section has little to do with an objection “to praying in the same space with men,” as the group previously stated.
Rather, Hoffman confirmed Women For the Wall’s position that WOW is an activist organization, agitating for “change in the Orthodox world,” and, in Hoffman’s words, the reason to move is because WOW might not be “the right [group] for doing something like this.” She also made the unprecedented admission that “our Haredi sisters also have rights,” namely, the right to pray undisturbed, in the traditional fashion, as observed by our ancestors for over 2000 years.
In response, Women For the Wall renewed its declaration that WOW should move immediately, rather than putting up untenable preconditions, which may prevent a resolution of the situation. “Divisiveness at the Kotel continues to harm the fabric of Jewish Unity,” said Leah Aharoni, cofounder of Women For the Wall. Noting that she herself is not Haredi, she added that “the rights of other women, which extend well beyond the Haredi community, should be respected immediately, as an alternate space has been available for their use and has now been greatly revamped and expanded.”
Last Rosh Chodesh, on Friday, October 4, WOW led a loud disturbance of prayers conducted by 15,000 men and women for the health of the recently departed Chief Rabbi, Rav Ovadia Yosef, rather than using the alternate platform constructed by Bennet — though it could have accommodated a group many times their size. “WOW has made conciliatory statements before, but has never conceded the truth so frankly,” added W4W cofounder Ronit Peskin. “Their actions at the Kotel always belied their words of respect and coexistence, and it is time for that to end.”
Tellingly, the rejectionist faction within WOW is led by many of the same people who were least successful at maintaining the veneer of simply wanting to pray in their own, alternate way. Their media contact is the Israeli founder of WOW, Bonna Devora Haberman, who recently said that Orthodox women “are aroused by the subversive possibility of women’s autonomous public prayer.” WOW co-founders Susan Aranoff and Rivka Haut, who wrote several months ago that WOW must “win the struggle to remain at the Kotel” because WOW would “change [the] world view” of traditional women and represents “a tikkun for centuries of deprivation,” were featured signatories. Dr. Phyllis Chesler, who said earlier this year that traditional women crowding the plaza to declare their support for traditional prayer constituted “a psychological lynch-mob,” comparable to women who “perform female genital mutilation, murder their daughter-in-laws for their dowries, and participate in the honor murder of their daughter or sister,” also signed. And the dozen signatories also include Professor Shulamit Mangus, who in an earlier editorial called traditional Judaism, as observed by the women consistently praying at the Western Wall, not merely “misogyny” but “archaic, alien, and repulsive.”
“Now that Hoffman has admitted the truth of their agenda, WOW must conduct itself accordingly and move to the alternate space,” said Peskin. “We have always strived for mutual respect and accommodation; deliberate provocation at the Wall plaza cannot be defended or tolerated.”
Women for the Wall, a grassroots organization committed to preserving the consensus around the Kotel and maintaining the sanctity of the place, is dedicated to ensuring that the Western Wall can be a place for all Jews to come and pray with respect and dignity. It believes that only by preserving classical Jewish practice at the Wall can it be a place where all Jews can be welcome.