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World Union Convention Calls off Plans for Mixed Prayer Service at Wailing Wall

The World Union for Progressive Judaism today called off plans for a mixed prayer service at the Western (Wailing) Wall in view of the strong opposition by Orthodox groups. The Orthodox followers filled the area near the Wall all night and today to prevent the Liberal-Reform mixed service.

Rabbi Jacob Shankman of New Rochelle, N.Y., president of the World Union, conferred today with Israel Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and later announced the cancellation of plans for the service at the Wall. Rabbi Shankman said the Union did not want to cause strife among Jews and precipitate action by “irresponsible elements.”

The World Union opened its 15th annual convention, being held in Jerusalem, yesterday. The meeting was attended by Mr. Eshkol and the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek. After a brief greeting. Mr. Eshkol told the 500 delegates to the convention from 25 countries that the style of life in Israel is determined by the Jews living in Israel and if Reform Jews wanted to change it they would have to migrate in increasing numbers to make their influence felt.

The mixed prayer – men and women participating together – is prohibited by Orthodox Judaism. Before the prayer service was called off, the Knesset’s committee on interior affairs endorsed the decision of the Ministry of Religion that male and female worshippers should continue to pray separately at the Wall.

Rabbi Shankman and Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, are expected to submit a number of specific requests to Mr. Eshkol. These are known to include recognition of the right of Reform rabbis to perform marriage ceremonies and financial help to local Reform synagogues, similar to aid given to Orthodox congregations. Observers believe that it will be difficult for the Government to meet these demands because the Knesset (Parliament) has given authority on such matters to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, which is Orthodox.

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