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Up Against the Wall

Rachel Ginsberg

When a court ruled that the women of the wall could pray at theKoselPlazawearing tallis and tefillin and read from a Torah scroll, it was more than just a coup for a group fighting for what they claim is religious freedom. What’s the real agenda of these ritual petitioners, who have proclaimed they’d like to see the mechitzah at the Kosel removed and the Orthodox rabbinate stripped of authority?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

western wallBoth Ronit Peskin and Anat Hoffman are waiting for Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. Ms. Hoffman, Reform movement leader and  head of the “Women of the Wall” (WOW) group — buoyed by the recent Jerusalem District Court ruling allowing her prayer comrades to don tallis, tefillin, and read from the Torah in an official “minyan” at the Kosel — will be singing in front of the cameras on June 9. And if they’re really lucky, the phylactery-clad women who showed up at the Kosel on Rosh Chodesh Sivan will again endure curses, spitting, and abuse from a few dozen hot-headed young men on the other side of the mechitzah. Then their media event — the victimized underdog held hostage by a “backward, misogynist ultra-Orthodox regime” — will be another international success.

Mrs. Peskin, a young mother of three, resident of the settlement Kochav Yaakov, and head of the grassroots group “Women for the Wall” (W4W) — buoyed by the turnout of thousands of young women from across the religious spectrum who also arrived at the Kosel last Rosh Chodesh to rally for traditional prayer in Judaism’s holiest location — will be re-strategizing on June 9. Working withIsrael’s rabbinical figures, she hopes to make sure that next time, those young men will be banned.

While the media at last month’s face-off had their cameras focused exclusively on a few rowdy, undisciplined youth and ran headlines such as “Hareidim Harass Women During Prayer,” three women — one self-described as “borderline chareidi” (Ronit Peskin) and the other two (Leah Aharoni and Jenny Menashe) in the national religious camp — have harnessed massive support from religious and traditional women around the country with the endorsement of leading rabbanim, blowing the whistle on Women of the Wall and that group’s not-so-hidden agenda, which they say is far broader than a noble, egalitarian cry for religious freedom.

“They claim they just want to pray peacefully in a way that’s meaningful to them, which of course sounds honorable,” says W4W founder Ronit Peskin. “But they also say openly that they want to ‘liberate’ us religious women, to ‘liberate’ the Kosel, to do away with the mechitzah and traditional prayer, to change how religion works in Israel, to wrest religious authority from the rabbinate. We respect those who desire a sincere connection to G-d in whatever form, but we ask that everyone respect thousands of years of tradition, and the rights of those who wish to pray as has been done for generations.”


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