Tensions flare over women’s prayers at sacred Western Wall

JERUSALEM — The ultra-Orthodox rabbi in charge of the sacred Western Wall assured a government emissary on Thursday (April 4) … Continued

JERUSALEM — The ultra-Orthodox rabbi in charge of the sacred Western Wall assured a government emissary on Thursday (April 4) that Jewish women will not be arrested if they try to recite the mourner’s prayer at the holy site, despite a warning from Israeli police.

Tensions have grown between traditional Jews and reform-minded women over prayers at the Western Wall, which contains the remains of the Temple that was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tapped Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, with defusing the conflict and ensuring “that every Jew in the world can pray in the manner that they are accustomed to at Judaism’s most important national and religious site,” according to a statement issued by the Jewish Agency.

Sharansky met with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the caretaker of the Western Wall, on Thursday, three weeks after the Israeli police told the Women of the Wall prayer group that their recitation of the Kaddish mourner’s prayer at the site would be grounds for arrest.

The Kaddish mourner’s prayer is the newest flashpoint in the ongoing dispute; ultra-Orthodox Jews say women should not sing or pray aloud in public because their voices are provocative to men. Because the mourner’s prayer traditionally is recited only when a quorum of 10 men is present, a group of women reciting the prayer in public is doubly offensive to traditionalists.

Sharansky went into the meeting “to express his shock” at the March 14 police letter, but “Rabbi Rabinowitz assured Sharansky that, contrary to the letter, no woman would be arrested for reciting Kaddish at the Western Wall,” the agency statement said.

Rabinowitz could not be reached for comment.

Members of Women of the Wall, a group of Reform, Conservative and modern-Orthodox women, have been praying at the Western Wall for more than two decades despite objections from the ultra-Orthodox religious establishment, which has attempted to put further restrictions on the women’s prayer options.

In recent months the police have detained several WOW members and their supporters for wearing prayer shawls and bringing in a Torah scroll to the women’s section — both banned by a 2005 High Court ruling that mandated the status quo at the holy site.

The women’s group holds monthly prayer services at the site, and in March three female Israeli parliamentarians, dressed in prayer shawls, joined the group. The presence of the lawmakers deterred the police from detaining any of the 300 worshippers.

Anat Hoffman, WOW’s chairwoman, said that “prohibiting women from saying Kaddish is a shanda,” using the Yiddish term for a shameful thing, and said Rabinowitz “has, without a doubt, crossed a clear red line, as women’s right to say Kaddish is respected and accepted by the entire Jewish world, including Orthodox factions.”

Elana Sztokman, executive director of the New York-based Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said “it is not up to the state of Israel, the police, or the (Wall’s) administrator,” to dictate when women can say the Kaddish.

“The idea that the police are being recruited to incarcerate women for failing to comply with the particularly radical opinion of the ultra-Orthodox rabbi … is a frightening invasion of fanatic religious opinions into women’s real lives,” she said.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • itsme1

    Ultra-Orthodox Jews are just as bad as militant Islamists. Crazy people.

Read More Articles

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.