by Annette Powers, Dana Stein and Jane Herman
Annette: Despite the drenching rain in New York City, it was standing room only at Town and Village Synagogue this morning, where hundreds gathered to daven Rosh Chodesh Nisan in solidarity with Women of the Wall’s mission for the rights of all people to pray freely at the Kotel. The crowd was a mix of men, women and children across the spectrum of Jewish denominations. There were students from day schools and youth groups, Jewish professionals and lay leaders, rabbis and cantors. Some women wore tallitot; some didn’t. Some women wore tefillin; some didn’t. Neither one’s Jewish background nor one’s level of observance mattered; everyone joined in song together, swayed together and prayed together for an end to the discrimination of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel. The feeling of this service, filled with joyous singing and inspiring speeches, was one of great fervor, pride, energy and solidarity.
Dana: Just as WRJ leaders joined hand-in-hand with Knesset members at the Women of the Wall event at the Western Wall in Israel today, so too did staff members of WRJ and URJ stand in solidarity with them at this energetic, meaningful gathering here in NYC. Participation in these events—as well as others in Cleveland, Washington, DC and on the campuses of Brandeis University and the University of Pennsylvania—symbolized the Reform Movement’s continued support for the rights of women around the world, especially in Israel, to pray where and how they wish. As we enter the Jewish month of Nisan and prepare for Passover, the celebration of our freedom from the bonds of slavery in Egypt, it’s important to remember that religious freedom is still in jeopardy in today’s world. We hope for a day when women in Israel can pray freely at the Western Wall without fear of retribution, and a day when women worldwide are granted the same religious freedoms as men.
Jane: Although many of us prayed from our own siddurim—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal and others—sometimes making it a challenge to be on the right page, our voices were, nonetheless, united in song, and even in a few key pieces of liturgy—most notably the Hatzi Kaddish and the Torah service. Most of all, though, we are united in our belief that all of us should be able to pray in our own way at the Kotel—free from fear of arrest and detention should our “own way” include wearing a tallit, singing, or reading from the Torah. May our prayers for such a time be answered speedily and in our day.
Annette Powers is the Public Relations and Communications Manager at the URJ.
Dana Stein is the Manager of Marketing and Communications at WRJ.
Jane Herman is the Executive Writer and Editor at the URJ.