Masorti Matters Blog
Gideon Aronoff, Executive Director, Masorti Foundation
A tale of two experiences. One, a meaningful, pluralistic, loving Rosh Hodesh service. The other, a tale of needless harassment of women and men coming together to pray peacefully at Judaism’s holiest site.
For the first experience watch Rabbi Mikie Goldstein, president of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and the rabbi of kehillat Adat Shalom-Emanuel in Rehovot, chant the Rosh Hodesh prayers.
For the second, read these powerful on-the-ground testimonies, sharing what Masorti, Reform, Women of the Wall, and others experienced as they came to participate as equals in prayer at the Kotel.
We are appreciative of all those who came together. In the image at the top, you can see, among others, from the Masorti movement, Rakefet Ginsberg, CEO of the Masorti Movement, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of USCJ and the Rabbinical Assembly, Yizhar Hess Vice Chair of the WZO and formerly CEO of the Masorti Movement, Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Executive Director of Masorti Olami and Tammy Gottlieb, VP of the Masorti Movement. We were proud to be there with our dear colleagues from the Reform movement and Women of the Wall.
We believe all of us share the thoughts so eloquently expressed by one of the women whose testimony is below: “Amidst all the cries of hatred we managed to hold a beautiful prayer of unity and connection, in which we carried words of peace.”
Today I experienced the hatred in the flesh… Today, Rosh Hodesh Adar II, I was humiliated as a woman, as a daughter of the Jewish nation, as a citizen of Israel, as a Masorti-Conservative Jew.
I participated together with many women and men in the prayer, for about half an hour Orthodox protestors prevented us from entering the Wall, so we were imprisoned between fences but there we held a soul-warming prayer .. As I left, with Rabbi Yoel we passed the fence where the police station – guys, nervous men, and a few women — started shouting at us and cursing us: “Go back to Berlin” Go to hell! “
And then one spat at me and continue to curse us, they are getting closer… Fear didn’t paralyze us… Maybe the shock did… So we kept walking, with our head held high… And to more and more curses, spitting, throwing out unidentified things…
At a certain point I noticed that Yoel wasn’t next to me… Men closed in on him and started beating him… Only then did I take out a camera.. I tried to document what was happening… Someone shouts: “Take her phone!” Someone pulled my coat from the back.. A cop came closer… Taxis passed by and they didn’t stop for us…
We kept going and the Haredi crowd continued to follow us… Fear… not of God… Fear of the ultra-Orthodox. The ultra-Orthodox who learned to hate the other, to believe that God belongs to them and that they have the right to despise those who disagree with their way.
A sad day, a hard day, a humiliating day, a scary day… But today more than ever, it’s clear to me… I won’t stop fighting for my freedom to pray in my way and to work God in the way that is right for me…
Together with me, many people, lovers of the Torah, of Eretz Israel … They won’t give up their freedom either. True, the experience this morning was scary. It could have ended worse than swearing and cursing… But I’m not afraid of the thousands of ultra-Orthodox who try to terrorize us.
The members of the Masorti movement in Israel, alongside our friends from the Reform movement and the Women of the Wall. We just asked to be there, in this sacred place. To say that God is important to us too, that we also ask and ask again to get have a place at the Wall.
But in front of us, many thousands of incited youth are accompanied and brought in by their educators and their elected officials, are incited to harass us.
So violent that the police had to act as a buffer and escort us out at the end of the prayer through a back road. The curses and whistles, the shouts ‘burn in Auschwitz’ and ‘go to hell’ which we also heard beyond the checkpoints.
Amidst all the cries of hatred we managed to hold a beautiful prayer of unity and connection, in which we carried words of peace.
The solution exists — that every man and woman will have the right to choose how to pray at the Western Wall. Implementation of the Wall Agreement is always possible.