The Reconstructionist movement is overjoyed that on Jan 31, 2016, the Israeli cabinet voted to dramatically expand the space for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel. This is a blessed and welcome decision. The Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City is a central and highly symbolic Jewish space. For many Jews, this is an historic moment, because an egalitarian community of men and women is essential to their religious obligations, needs and desires. We are proud that for nearly three decades, Reconstructionist rabbis, congregants and students have been part of the on-the-ground struggle at the Kotel for egalitarian practice and women’s prayer groups.
Now, as they can in many progressive communities around the world, women and men will be able to pray together at this sacred site: mothers with sons, fathers with daughters, spouses, relatives, and friends. Women will be counted for a minyan. They can lead prayer services, and handle and read from the Torah, without the interference and violence they have previously encountered. This is extremely good news for the pluralistic Jewish world, and for those who have pressed this feminist issue for many years.
We congratulate Women of the Wall and the many feminist activists in Israel and from around the world, who, for twenty-seven years, have pushed for recognition of women’s full engagement in prayer and leadership at the Kotel. Their efforts and perseverance are an inspiring chapter in the recent history of Judaism. We congratulate the leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements, who negotiated this agreement.
That said, the work is not yet done. Religious pluralism means attending to all religious needs along the spectrums of gender and Jewish practice, so that everyone is accommodated. With the new changes, there is still no room for an Orthodox feminist minyan at the Kotel, or for any women’s group that wants to lead prayer and read Torah in the traditional women’s-only space. We want these women, too, to be included in the vision of Jewish religious pluralism.
The Reconstructionist movement hopes that this signals a renewed starting point for the work that remains to be done to bolster women’s religious equality and religious pluralism in Israel. Our movement is committed to improving the state of democracy in Israel in all its forms.
Let us celebrate, appreciate and continue to work for change.
For additional background, check out the links below: