Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site

Overview

An Inspiration to All Who Struggle for Religious and Gender Equality

“Our souls yearn to pray, in peace, in the sacred place, to read from our holy Torah, together with other Jewish women.”
—from the

In Israel today, the historic Western Wall, known as the Kotel, a holy site for Jewish people, is under the religious authority of the Orthodox rabbinate. Women have only limited rights to practice Jewish ritual in its precincts.

This passionate ...

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Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site

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Overview

An Inspiration to All Who Struggle for Religious and Gender Equality

“Our souls yearn to pray, in peace, in the sacred place, to read from our holy Torah, together with other Jewish women.”
—from the

In Israel today, the historic Western Wall, known as the Kotel, a holy site for Jewish people, is under the religious authority of the Orthodox rabbinate. Women have only limited rights to practice Jewish ritual in its precincts.

This passionate book documents the legendary grassroots and legal struggle of a determined group of Jewish women from Israel, the United States, and other parts of the world—known as the Women of the Wall—to win the right to pray out loud together as a group, according to Jewish law; wear ritual objects; and read from Torah scrolls at the Western Wall.

Eyewitness accounts of physical violence and intimidation, inspiring personal stories, and interpretations of legal and classical Jewish (halakhic) texts bring to life the historic and ongoing struggle that the Women of the Wall face in their everyday fight for religious and gender equality.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For the past 14 years, a multidenominational group of women has tried to conduct a women's prayer service-Torah scrolls, prayer shawls and all-at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Since their first attempt to pray there in 1988, Women of the Wall (WOW) has engaged in a political, legal and religious struggle against the State of Israel that continues today, though the group is hardly anti-Israel or anti-religious. This anthology traces the genesis, history and impact of what is now an international grassroots effort on behalf of Jewish women's religious rights. Haut, an Orthodox Jew, and Chesler, a feminist author and psychologist, present essays from 30 women who recreate the drama of praying together; explore the Jewish legal issues around women wearing and using ritual objects, and express their deep connection to the Wall. The essays reflect the diversity of voices, but the repetition of basic information in almost every piece slows the narrative flow and dilutes the book's power. The first two descriptions of the first prayer service, at which the women were "cursed, threatened, pushed, shoved, spit upon and bitten," injured by heavy metal chairs thrown at them, hospitalized and arrested, are horrifying. By the fourth mention, however, it's almost old hat. Still, the universal themes that erupt in this specific context are worthy of broad reader interest: discrimination, democracy, religious pluralism, anger at the silencing of women, solidarity, sisterhood and the sacredness of place. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
On the morning of December 1, 1988, an international, multidenominational group of Jewish women approached the Kotel (formerly known as the Wailing, or Western, Wall) in Jerusalem to conduct a women's prayer service. The women-including editors Chesler (a psychotherapist and author of Women and Madness) and Haut (coeditor of Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue)-were jeered at, cursed, threatened, and assaulted: "proper" Jewish women do not pray aloud in public, carry or read from the Scroll, or wear ritual objects. WOW-Women of the Wall-was born. For the next 14 years, they fought for their right to continue prayers at the Kotel in this way, which is not prohibited by Jewish law but was banned by Israeli law because it caused such a riot. This is the story of WOW's continuing struggle. Divided into four sections, it contains thoughtful personal accounts by participants, keen legal and political analysis, various denominational views, and discussion of halakhic theory and ritual objects. This is the first book-length treatment of this landmark case in Jewish women's spirituality, feminism vs. Orthodox tradition, pluralism in Israeli society, and basic human rights. Highly recommended for Judaica collections.-Marcia Welsh, formerly with Guilford Free Lib., CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580231619
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Prayer for Women of the Wall
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Pt. I Women Who Pray at the Kotel: In Their Own Words
Drama in Jerusalem 3
Encountering Fear 36
A Personal Account 37
Interview with Anat Hoffman 42
Sacred Tears 58
Torah Dedication Ceremony 59
Tzitzit and Tefillin at the Kotel 63
The Kotel and Me 94
Reawakening 99
With Strings Attached: A Jew Wears a Tallit to the Kotel 103
A Worshiper from Brazil 108
Turning Point 109
My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah 112
Pt. II Legal and Political Analysis
The Fight against Being Silenced 115
Scenes from a Courtroom 134
The Lawsuit: 1989 - Present 136
Stone Song 159
The Politics of Women of the Wall 180
Dominion of Arrogance 205
Pt. III Denominational Views
Why? A Reform Rabbi's Answer 209
Encompassing Diversity 213
Against the Wall 215
My Father's Tallit 222
A Wall That Matters and Others That Don't: A Meta-Denominational View 224
A Moving Experience 236
Impressions 238
Meditation and Conflict: A Journey on Paper 240
Chodesh Tov 252
The Tears of My Soul 254
Beyond My Wildest Dreams 258
Pt. IV Halakhic Theory and Ritual Objects
Orthodox Women's Spirituality 263
Shema B'Kolah: On Listening to Women's Voices in Prayer 288
Women and Ritual Artifacts 310
Toward a Psychology of Liberation: Feminism and Religion - a Conclusion 335
Epilogue: Rosh Chodesh Adar 5762 (2002) 355
A Chronology of Women of the Wall 362
Notes 392
Suggested Reading 409
About the Contributors 414
Index 422
About Jewish Lights 430
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