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)

Meet the Author

Phyllis Chesler, a founder and board member of the International Committee for Women of the Wall, has been fighting for Jewish women's religious and human rights for more than thirty years. She is a psychologist and the author of eleven books, including Women and Madness and Woman's Inhumanity to Woman. She cofounded the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network.

Rivka Haut is also a founder of the International Committee for Women of the Wall, and a codirector. She is the coeditor of Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue. She is the director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance's Agunah Advocacy Project.

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Table of Contents

Prayer for Women of the Wall Rahel Jaskow Preface Acknowledgments Introduction Phyllis Chesler and Rivka Hautxix part i Women Who Pray at the Kotel: In Their Own Words Drama in Jerusalem Bonna Haberman Encountering Fear Sharon Pikus. A Personal Account Rahel Jaskow Interview with Anat Hoffman Phyllis Chesler Sacred Tears Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael Torah Dedication Ceremony Harriet Kurlander Tzitzit and Tefillin at the Kotel Haviva Ner-David The Kotel and Me Danielle Bernstein Reawakening Karen Erlichman With Strings Attached: A Jew Wears a Tallit to the Kotel Bat Melech (Pseudonym) A Worshiper from Brazil Celia Szterenfeld. Turning Point Rebecca Schwartz My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah Sue Polansky. part ii Legal and Political Analysis The Fight against Being Silenced Frances Raday Scenes from a Courtroom Susan Alter The Lawsuit: –Present Miriam Benson Stone Song Rabbi Myriam Klotz. The Politics of Women of the Wall Susan Aranoff Dominion of Arrogance Leslie J. Klein part iii Denominational Views Why? A Reform Rabbi’s Answer Rabbi Helene Ferris Encompassing Diversity Beryl Michaels Against the Wall Rabbi Deborah J. Brin My Father’s Tallit Aliza Metzner A Wall That Matters and Others That Don’t: A Meta-Denominational View Shulamit Magnus A Moving Experience Sandy Starkman Impressions Harriet Pass Freidenreich Meditation and Conflict: A Journey on Paper Lilly Rivlin Chodesh Tov Gavrielle Levine The Tears of My Soul Rabbi Susan Grossman Beyond My Wildest Dreams Marion Krug. part iv Halakhic Theory and Ritual Objects Orthodox Women’s Spirituality Rivka Haut Shema B’Kolah: On Listening to Women’s Voices in Prayer Norma Baumel Joseph. Women and Ritual Artifacts Vanessa L. Ochs Toward a Psychology of Liberation: Feminism and Religion—a Conclusion Phyllis Chesler Epilogue: Rosh Chodesh Adar Chaia Beckerman, Betsy Kallus, and Rahel Jaskow A Chronology of Women of the Wall Notes Suggested Reading About the Contributors Index About Jewish Lights Photograph Section

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