Gender dilemma sends citizenship rite from Wall

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Citizenship ceremonies for new Israeli immigrants will no longer be held at the Western Wall.

The ceremonies, which present the immigrants with their identity cards, will be moved to the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva overlooking the Western Wall Plaza following an alleged gender-segregation disagreement between the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the head of the immigration and absorption committee at the Jewish Agency.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch of the foundation had demanded that women sit separately from men during the citizenship ceremonies, in addition to being prohibited from speaking from the podium at the ceremony.

Paula Edelstein, the head of the agency’s immigration and absorption committee, would not agree to the restrictions. But a spokesman for Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said that Sharansky accepted Rabinovitch’s demands, agreeing that the ceremonies were civic and not religious.

"This is a purely administrative question about the character of the Western Wall. The Wall is not a banquet hall," Rabinovitch told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.

Aish HaTorah allows mixed-gender groups to hold gatherings. The ceremonies also may take place at Robinson’s Arch near the Western Wall, where Reform mixed-gender prayer services are held.
 

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