DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla (Jan. 31)
An Israeli government regulation that outlaws the activities of a women’s prayer group at the Western Wall is “an offense to all Jewish women in the world,” the president of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism declared this week.
Launching a campaign to have the ordinance reversed, Women’s League President Evelyn Auerbach urged the 200,000 members of Conservative women’s groups to send letters of protest to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
“You tell him we have the right to worship where we please in our beloved land of Israel,” Auerbach told the women gathered Monday at the group’s South Florida World Affairs Conference. “Cancel the ruling immediately!”
Auerbach was reacting to a regulation issued earlier this month by Israel’s Religious Affairs Ministries. It prohibits any religious ceremony at a holy place that is “not in accordance with the custom of the holy site and which offends the sensibilities of the worshipers toward the place.”
The regulation was issued to curb the activities of a group called Women of the Wall, which has been trying to hold monthly prayers at the Western Wall. The Orthodox religious establishment in Israel objects to women conducting prayer services at the holy site.
The group of Israeli women, which has received support from Jewish women in the United States and Europe, has gone to court to obtain the right to pray collectively at the Wall, without harassment.
They want to be able to read from the Torah scroll and use prayer shawls. The Orthodox restrict both practices to men.
But Auerbach told the 130 women gathered at the conference here that “the Torah belongs equally to women and men.” She cautioned Shamir that “this is hardly the time to alienate Jewish women.”
In New York, Rivka Haut, a leader of the International Committee for the Women of the Kotel, welcomed the show of encouragement from the Conservative women.
She reported that the Women of the Wall “feel somewhat beleaguered” at this point in their struggle. Words like Auerbach’s “give them the strength to keep going,” she said.