Let them pray

Let them pray

One of the problems we face as a community is declining religious commitment. Whether attributable to intermarriage, assimilation, or apathy, Jews – particularly young Jews – have been falling by the wayside, diverted by everything else the world has to offer. This is as true in Israel as it is here.

Being Jewish is sometimes hard, sometimes inconvenient, sometimes expensive. To live one’s life as a Jew is a major life choice, and one that should be encouraged and fostered.

But this encouragement is not always forthcoming, even for those who proudly affirm their identity and – even more – embrace halacha.

On page 6, we read about the Women of the Wall and the struggles the group has faced since 1988 in praying together on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall.

Anat Hoffman, chair of the group, recently wrote that policies in place at the Wall are constantly revised to deny women equal access. She, unlike most Jews, male and female, has been going there to pray for some 21 years.

Hoffman gives an example: “Within the past decade, women soldiers were still allowed to sing the national anthem during ceremonies at the Wall – now they are instructed to be content with mouthing the words.”

Ironically, men with no interest in Judaism are welcomed to pray at the Wall, while these women cannot achieve their modest goal: “to obtain the freedom to pray and to do everything that is halachically permitted for women on the women’s side of the mechitza.” They do not question that mechitza or seek to cross it. Yet they have been subjected to violence, threats, curses (by men and women) and police harassment.

We are talking here about a group of modestly dressed women, many of whom are Orthodox, all of whom are committed to Jewish observance.

“That some are provoked does not make us provocative,” she said.

We have all seen Jewish outreach groups urging total strangers to put on tefillin. Most do not, and never will. Why, then, question, detain, and arrest Jews who want to practice Jewish rituals?


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