Supporters of “The Women of the Wall”, WoW, may not know that this esteemed organization has recently undergone a split, and now is functioning as two different groups, with different goals.
The larger group, which still calls itself the Women of the Wall, no longer is advocating that women have the right to daven with tallit & tzitzit, and a Torah, at the Kotel. They have submitted to the demands of the Haredim that woman’s tefila groups shall effectively be banned from what is commonly recognized as the Kotel, and instead shall be held elsewhere, at a more distant site called Robinson’s Arch. Unfortunately, their leadership has been mysteriously vague on this massive shift in goals to the supporters, and they make no mention of this on their website or press releases.
This image shows the difference between the Kotel (on the left) and Robinson’s Arch (far right)
The original goals of WoW are now only being represented by The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל. The women in this group include founding members of WoW, and are still protecting the rights of women to legally daven at the Kotel, free from harassment.
Shulamit Magnus, of The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל, writes:
the organization known as “The Women of the Wall” has radically shifted gears and has a different goal than the one for which this group (the original Women of the Wall) was founded and for which it fought– and won. What they are now after is egalitarian, mixed prayer at a five-star Robinson’s Arch, at which the Reform and Conservative movements will have recognition. For this, they have given up the goal of women’s pluralistic, inclusive tefilla at the kotel. They are using this cause to advance different goals; they have given up the independent, autonomous women’s movement and are allied with those movements. We warmly support, the right of Jews who wish to make a new prayer site at Robinson’s Arch, or anywhere else. While we think it would be a terrible, short-sighted, mistake to cede the Kotel, the historic holy site of the Jewish people, to any segment of Jewry to run as its private preserve, with the right to exclude other Jews, if Conservative and Reform Jews wish the deal, outlined above, for themselves, we wish them well.
What we reject is the right of anyone, in those movements, in the haredi establishment, or in the Government of Israel, to trample our legally recognized rights as Jewish women to full, religious expression at the Kotel. Religious coercion is not what we normally associate with those movements, with “progressive” Judaism in general—or with feminism. But that is an intrinsic part of this deal and those negotiating it are party to that. Efforts to dismiss our position as that of a “few” individuals is a knowing distortion among many being asserted, amid patronizing, paternalistic mischaracterizations. Basic principles are not negotiable. Upholding them is about integrity, vision, and fundamental commitments. Jews know this well. We have done it for thousands of years, which is why we are still around. We are about fresh, new visions of and for Judaism and for Jews, women and men, and respect for historic legal pronouncements that recognize the religious rights of Jewish women at the Kotel. These must be enacted fully on the ground, becoming the base for holy, new possibilities for the Jewish people in Jewish sacred space—for true wholeness– shelemut—literally, “integrity.” To this path, we are committed, and on it, we proceed.
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An official statement from The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל
The Original Women of the Wall remain unalterably committed to our original goals: women’s group prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall) with Torah, talit, and tefillin. We preserve the rights of all Jewish women recognized in landmark Israeli court rulings. We believe it is an error of historic proportions to cede exclusive control of prayer at the Kotel, the most venerated site of Judaism, to the Haredi establishment, a militant but minority branch of Judaism. No one, no deal can negotiate away women’s fundamental, inalienable prayer rights at the Kotel. We will remain at the Kotel.
These goals have been affirmed by:
Dr. Susan Aranoff
Cathy J. Bardenstein, Esq.
Miriam Benson, Esq.
Cheryl Birkner Mack
Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Bakol Ruben Gellar
Rabbi Bonna Haberman, Pd,D, z”l
Rivka Haut, z”l
Dr. Norma Joseph
Dr. Shulamit Magnus
Rabbi Vanessa Ochs, Ph.D
If you wish to be counted in our number, contact Vanessa.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Original Women of the Wall FB group