WOW In Their Own Words

Phyllis Chesler, Founding Member of WOW and now Founding Member of Original-WOW, to WOW’s Facebook Wall, February 5, 2014:

WOW Board knows that it has driven away many Orthodox and non-Orthodox worshipers by their religious practices, non-stop desire for media attention, their willingness to criticize Israel in North America and Europe during the years of the Al Aqsa Intifada.

We have all heard the many claims made by Women of the Wall, explaining why no tolerant person who loves other Jews would oppose them. So why do so many women do just that? To answer the question, we look at their claims, along with quotations that may seem to tell a different story. The quotes here are provided with a bare minimum of editorial comment, provided when necessary to explain the context behind a quotation.

Women of the Wall Just Come to Pray
Women of the Wall Don’t Want to Change Other Women
Women of the Wall Have No other Agenda
Women of the Wall Want to Preserve and Pray in the Women’s Section
The WOW Value and Respect the Importance and Sanctity of the Western Wall
WOW Provide a Consistent Message, Free of PR Spin
WOW Respects Other Women
WOW Supports Diversity, Tolerance, and Ahavat Yisrael [Love of Other Jews]

Women of the Wall Just Come to Pray

 
Andrea Wiese, the photogenic young women described as “the face” of Women of the Wall:

I know most of the women who go don’t pray the same way in their private lives… In actuality, they may not pray every morning at all. Some women pray/sing at the top of their lung in an operatic voice. I don’t think they would do that at home or in their local beit knesset (synagogue).

Attendee Daniela London, translated by WOW and featured on Women of the Wall’s website:

How am I supposed to pray like this, d*** it? Fortunately my friend Miri reminded me that I don’t know how to pray anyway… I look toward the kosher women on the other side of the barrier and choose a potential victim to argue with. Perhaps this tall, thin girl… I urge Miri to tempt her to come nearer.

Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, explaining why the Robinson’s Arch section of the Kotel is unacceptable:

I want to see and be seen.

Attendee Lior Nevo:

At least they notice us now.

Funny thing, that. We thought when you pray, you only care to be noticed by G-d.

Women of the Wall Don’t Want to Change Other Women

 

Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, Board Member, Women of the Wall, responding to a question posed in an online discussion:

“Should WOW be teaching it is wrong to continue practicing Judaism the way it has been taught” implies that WOW teaches this, when in fact WOW does not & has no such agenda and has tremendous respect for women who feel empowered just as they are.


Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, speaking about their mission at the Western Wall, and equating feminism with support for WOW:

Feminism is the revolutionary notion that women are people.

In context, she implied that traditional women who oppose WOW believe themselves to be sub-human.

Susan Aranoff and Rivka Haut, Co-Founder and original Founder, Women of the Wall:

WOW models to all Jewish women who pray at the Kotel that women can take control over their own religious lives… their world view is changed. Like it or not, the sights and sounds of women leading services may initially shock them but then, when they get used to it, it will, it has to, change their world view. Women will no longer be seen as following men when it comes to communal prayer… but as individuals who are able to function religiously, on their own, without the “help” of men.

This represents a revolution in haredi lives… And that is why WOW must win the struggle to remain at the Kotel. Our cause transcends women praying, women wearing tallitot… A woman reading Torah at the Kotel represents an historic correction, a tikkun, for centuries of deprivation, of secondary status.

Bonna Devora Haberman, Israeli Initiator, Women of the Wall:

Some [Charedi women] are aroused by the subversive possibility of women’s autonomous public prayer. We have even had the honor of welcoming a few ultra-Orthodox young women into our feminist circle.

Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, explaining on a Conference Call with WOW supporters why the Robinson’s Arch section of the Kotel is worth “negotiating” about after all:

Women of the Wall is the right group for bringing about change in Israel but not the right group for bringing about change in the Orthodox world.

Women of the Wall Have No other Agenda

 
Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, on the BBC:

Anat Hoffman: I think when you change the holiest site for the Jewish people, you’re actually asking “why not” about a variety of other life choices dictated to Israelis… marriage and divorce in Israel… some of us wish to get buried not by Orthodox custom.

BBC: So your aims are broader than simply what happens at the Western Wall.

Anat Hoffman: [nods in agreement]

Bonna Devorah Haberman, Israeli Initiator, Women of the Wall:

As a founder of Women of the Wall in 1988, I regret that our purpose of achieving full, joyous public women’s prayer celebration, and a vibrant pluralism at the Kotel and beyond has yet to be fulfilled. Over these decades of spiritual activism and deep analysis, I have formulated a new Jewish theology … Please look for my book Israeli Feminism Liberating Judaism: Blood and Ink… Blood and Ink contributes toward liberating religious culture from its gender oppressions, and toward rendering religion a liberating force in society.

News report regarding Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall:

“Let’s share time,” she suggested. For six hours a day the Wall will be a national monument, open to others but not to Orthodox men, she said.

Reform Rabbi Elianna Yolkut, member, Women of the Wall:

We are trying to liberate Judaism from the ties of an Orthodox hegemony.

Women of the Wall Want to Preserve and Pray in the Women’s Section

 
Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, on Israel’s Channel 2 [skip to 11:43]:

I definitely see that the day will come when people will tell you: You know what? There was a time… no, you don’t remember this, but there was a time when there used to be a mechitzah here all the time! You don’t believe it. There used to be a time when women were arrested because they wore a Talis. Once it was that way.

WOW describes as “Amazing!” one participant’s account, in which he details (and celebrates) that WOW prays mixed [despite having more than enough space to separate] unless they reach the women’s section:

And yet there was some sweet lemonade squeezed from those bitter lemons: With nowhere else to go, the men and women there prayed together in a fully egalitarian, mixed-”seating” (“standing”?) minyan.

CNN IReport, featured with excitement on WOW Facebook page.

Their main aim is to end separation between men and women at the Western Wall.

Multiple comments encouraging WOW to reject or correct this statement are ignored.

The WOW Value and Respect the Importance and Sanctity of the Western Wall

 
Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, when asked if she likes the Western Wall:

“I don’t know. I don’t like places. I like people. The Western Wall is an opportunity; it’s what we make of it. For me, this is the place where my women friends and I were born as a community.

WOW Provide a Consistent Message, Free of PR Spin

 

WOW Facebook Page, Dec. 4:

For the record, for those who claim that we are bothering others’ prayers- when i stand 3 feet away i cant hear our prayers. #mythbusted

Andrea Wiese, the photogenic young women described as “the face” of Women of the Wall:

Some women pray/sing at the top of their lung in an operatic voice. I don’t think they would do that at home or in their local beit knesset (synagogue).


WOW Statement, July 22, responding to a public invitation to a “Sister to Sister” event promoting dialogue between WOW and W4W:

Women of the Wall refrains from participation in events that pit women against women.

WOW Statement, July 26, responding to an article called “Rival Women’s Groups Feud Over Prayer at Western Wall:”

Women of the Wall rejects the premise of this article. Women of the wall has no rivals and we embrace all women’s prayer!

If we are not rivals, how would meeting with us “pit women against women?” W4W is in favor of dialogue and discussion, even if we will agree to disagree on many issues.


Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall, to the BBC:

It wasn’t a protest, it wasn’t a demonstration, it was a prayer group.

And to HaAretz:

They came to Israel in 1988 to attend the first International Jewish Feminist Conference. They went to the Western Wall, wishing to read from a Torah… I had a folding table and they asked me to join them. You know, for demonstrations you always need a folding table and a megaphone, and I have both.


Shira Pruce, Director of Public Relations, WOW, on July 7:

We truly welcome the young women and their prayers.

On July 8:

The women’s section was full of seminary students bussed in for the purpose of blocking out Women of the Wall.

Phyllis Chesler, founding member, Women of the Wall, on July 8:

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox (haredi) high school girls and women cursed, jeered, and blew whistles non-stophooligans-upon-demanda psychological lynch-mob against other Jewish women.

These were the same thousands of girls who came to pray, as they had done two months prior. Two women, possibly mother and daughter, had whistles.

WOW Respects Other Women

 
Shira Pruce, PR Director, Women of the Wall:

As feminists, Women of the Wall does not believe in attacking other women, even if they attack us. We believe in empowering women and making the world a better place for women.

We’ve been hoping for an environment of mutual respect and honesty. Above, WOW “talks the talk.” We’d like all sides to “walk the walk.” However:

Women of the Wall, Facebook Post:

Honestly exposing WOW’s “opposition”

The referenced piece, by Alison Kaplan Sommer, was a direct personal attack on Ronit Peskin, alternately described therein as the “self-appointed leader of the anti-Women of the Wall movement” and the “feisty, young, self-styled ‘founder and director'” of Women For the Wall. The word “feisty,” which comes from the German “feist,” a small dog, is almost always applied to a woman.

Phyllis Chesler, founding member, Women of the Wall:

Women are now being forced to obey ultra-misogynist views of what women are allowed to do… Why is it still so hard for religious conservatives to acknowledge women as spiritual and religious beings, capable of non-coerced autonomous, independent, and halachic (religiously lawful) prayer?

Adjectives like spiritual, religious, non-coerced, autonomous, and independent, in her worldview, apparently cannot be applied to traditionally observant Jewish women. So who is failing to acknowledge women as spiritual and religious beings?

Shulamit Mangus, Founding and current member, WOW:

Probably the vast majority of haredi women do not know that halacha, Jewish law, permits women to wear talit and tefillin, and read Torah from a Torah scroll… anyone with a modicum of learning in Jewish texts knows that halacha does not prohibit women doing these things… That haredi women… do not know this, speaks volumes about the subjugated place of women in that society.

Had she actually asked a typical haredi woman, that woman could have shown Prof. Mangus how to wear her Tefillin correctly.

WOW Supports Diversity, Tolerance, and Ahavat Yisrael [Love of Other Jews]

 
Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman, Women of the Wall:

We shouldn’t mix normalcy and Orthodoxy. They both end with a ‘y’, but they are not the same concept.

Susan Aranoff and Rivka Haut, Co-Founder and original Founder, Women of the Wall:

A woman reading Torah at the Kotel represents an historic correction, a tikkun, for centuries of deprivation, of secondary status.

Rabbi Susan Silverman, leading WoW spokesperson, and sibling to popular comedienne Sarah Silverman, referring to traditional Judaism:

Now a narrow, idolatrous view of God and covenant was being codified in civil law! Mitzvot were more and more the jurisdiction of Hareidi Jews

Professor Shulamit Mangus, Founding and current member, WOW, describing Traditional Judaism:

Archaic, alien and repulsiveutter misogynycontempt for and control of women

Phyllis Chesler, founding member, Women of the Wall, referring to the thousands of Women For the Wall:

Women who occupy subordinate status within an enclave of fundamentalist, religious patriarchy, are routinely expected to police and monitor… Women perform female genital mutilation, murder their daughter-in-laws for their dowries, and participate in the honor murder of their daughter or sister if either has stepped out of line, however slightly… filled with so much hate.

To better perceive what it means to be hate-filled, Ms. Chesler will need a mirror.

2 thoughts on “WOW In Their Own Words

  1. These quotes are inflammatory.

    It would be excellent to post the full source for these quotes. Otherwise, supporters of WoW will see the edits and assume this was a hatchet job.

    Thanks in advance for providing more context.

  2. Jason, we linked back to the source for each and every quote for exactly the reason you specified. We couldn’t post each full article, or even enough extraneous content to prove each quote was “in context,” without making the page far too long to be readable.

    In most cases, the link is from the speaker’s name. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify that!

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