The Common Good

Jewish Federations Support Egalitarian Space at Western Wall

The Jewish Federations of North America announced Monday that its trustees had passed a resolution in favor of a nonsegregated place where men and women can pray and read from the Torah at the Western Wall, the Jewish holy site.

In May, Women of the Wall was attacked by ultra-Orthodox Jews opposed to their non-traditional style of prayer. Photo via RNS.

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

Worshippers at the Western Wall now have two options: separate men’s and women’s sections, both under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, an Orthodox institution.

The egalitarian plan will allow the Western Wall to “become a spiritual center for all Jews and a symbol of unity for the entire Jewish community world-wide,” the federation statement said.

The plan is the result of months of negotiations between Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and the heads of the non-Orthodox movements in the U.S. and Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Sharansky to find a way to accommodate both Orthodox and non-Orthodox prayer at the wall, which operates as a de facto Orthodox synagogue.

In May, just days after a court ruled that the feminist prayer group Women of the Wall can legally pray at the wall wearing traditional prayer shawls, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews tried to stop the activists, some by throwing rocks and spitting.

The Netanyahu government responded to escalating tensions by reaching out to North American Jews.

“By issuing this resolution, the Jewish Federations are giving voice to the strong desire across our community to resolve this critical issue and ensure that all Jews can experience the most spiritually powerful place in Judaism,” Jerry Silverman, JFNA’s president and CEO, said in the statement.

The plan still faces a long road to implementation. Recently,  archaeologists said the place earmarked for the egalitarian section contains ancient artifacts that cannot be disturbed.

Michele Chabin writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)