Beinisch: The Bane of the Supreme Court?

The president of Israel took a leave of absence for a day this week. Why? In order not to be present at the swearing in of Dorit Beinisch, the new head of the Israel Supreme Court. [He is being questioned on allegations relating to harassment.]

Judge Beinisch will always be associated in my mind with the type of activism that led her to vote in 2000 to change the prayer arrangements at the Western Wall’s women’s section. She voted to allow the Women of the Wall to conduct Torah readings in tallitot and tefillin, changing long-standing “minhag hamakom.”

The decision was appealed by Elyakim Rubinstein, and in 2003 nine judges went down to the women’s section to check things out. They ruled that the Women of the Wall can pray at the wall, but at a separate southern section called Robinson’s Arch. The nine-judge appeal modified (in reality, overturned) the earlier decision. Judge Beinisch stuck to her guns and voted again for Women of the Wall, but there was a majority of 5 judges who voted for the Robinson’s Arch proviso. Suprisingly, then-Court President Aharon Barak was among the latter. Justice Beinisch is considered a clone of Barak, but in this case she diverged from his opinion (or he diverged from hers.) I had written about this earlier in Cross-Currents last summer.

Judge Beinisch represents the activism that interferes where the court should not. This pertains not only to the ezrat nashim of Orthodox women (I don’t think Judge Beinisch frequents women’s sections of synagogues, aside from checking out the Wall); but this exaggerated court activism and inappropriate interference also has led her to instruct the army, income tax, and other arms of the government how to execute their responsibilities. You can read her decisions in Hebrew by going to the Israel Supreme Court website. For the Women of the Wall decisions ask for number 2258/95 (the earlier decision in 2000) and then the appeal 4128/00 (the 2003 decision on the appeal). If you have trouble finding them, contact me and I will send you the two files. The decisions on Women of the Wall run to the dozens of pages.

What is the upshot? What happens now on Rosh Hodesh at the Wall? The Women of the Wall still come at 7 am Rosh Hodesh (second day if there are two) in tallitot and pray Shaharit and sing Hallel in the regular women’s section of the Wall. Then they go at 8 am to Robinson’s Arch and conduct a Torah reading and Musaf. The dates they will be there are:

Heshvan — Mon., Oct. 23, 2006
Kislev — Weds., Nov. 22
Tevet (and Hanukah!) — Fri., Dec. 22
Shevat — Rosh Hodesh shabbat (Jan. 20)will not meet
Adar — Mon., Feb. 19, 2007
Nisan — Tues., March 20
Iyyar — Thurs., April 19
Sivan — Fri., May 18
Tammuz — Sun., June 17
Av — Mon., July 16
Elul — Weds., Aug. 15

An interesting lesson in the evolution of a modus vivendi in Eretz Israel.

Shira Schmidt

Shira Leibowitz Schmidt was raised in an assimilated Jewish home in New York, and became observant while studying at Stanford University in California. In June 1967 she told her engineering school professor she would miss the final exam because she was going to Israel to volunteer during the Six Day War. “That’s the most original excuse I have ever been offered,” he responded. She arrived during the war and stayed, receiving her BSc in absentia. She subsequently met and married the late Elhanan Leibowitz, and they raised their six children in Beersheba. Mrs. Leibowitz acquired a Masters in Urban & Regional Planning from the Technion, and an MSc in Civil Engineering from University of Waterloo. Today she lives with her husband, Dr. Baruch Schmidt, in Netanya. She co-authored, with Nobel prize-winning chemist Roald Hoffmann, Old Wine New Flasks. She has co-translated from Hebrew to English (with Jessica Setbon) From the Depths (the autobiography of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau); The Forgotten Memoirs (memoirs of Rabbis who survived the Shoah, edited by Esther Farbstein); and Rest of the Dove (Parashat Hashavua by Rabbi Haim Sabato). She and her husband appear in the documentary film about the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe, “Hidden Face.” She is available to lecture in Israel and in the US and can be contacted via

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28 Responses

  1. Dov Kay says:

    Why the dates? Are you suggesting that we turn up on those days to protest?

  2. Rahel says:

    The dates that Women of the Wall meet to daven are no secret, but one must wonder why they appear here, as part of an article by an author who opposes the group so very strongly and evidently feels that we are a threat (though to what, exactly, I have no idea). Women of the Wall has been in existence since December 1988, and the last time I looked, the only women worshippers still under any restriction at the Kotel are those whose viewpoints are not specifically Haredi. We are no threat to anyone, despite the strenuous efforts of the author to portray us as such.

    Also, a simple point of fact: those members of Women of the Wall who have taken on the mitzva of tefillin do not wear them in the ezrat nashim of the Kotel.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    The real problem is not that this or that Supreme Court Justice is more out of control than some other one. Even the best in that system is not nearly good enough.

    We try to comfort ourselves that the escalating absurdity, overreaching and destructiveness of the Supreme Court’s decisions will lead to a clamor for reform. However, these can just as easily lead to cynicism and defeatism, unless someone steps up now to create a coherent opposing force within the government with the clout and will to end the systematic judicial abuse of power.

    In any event, we need to unite to beg HaShem to restore the Jewish judicial system (see Amidah).

  4. Rivka Haut says:

    I am curious about the reason Shira presented all the dates that WOW plans to meet this coming year. As she disagrees with all that the group stands for, why has she taken the trouble to inform the readers here as to the exact dates? Could it be that she would like more people to join her if and when she incites a provocation at WOW’s tefillah as she has done in the past?
    I have a film, that I plan to show to a US group this coming Sunday morning, that has a clip of Shira’s disruption of one of the women’s halakhic tefillot that took place about two years ago. In it, Shira can be clearly seen attempting to cause a disturbance. Thereofre I find her posting most troubling, possibly preparing foranother such provocation. As we prepare for the coming year, shouldn’t we all be engaging in ahavat Yisrael, and not in perpetuating enmity between Jews, whether we agree with their religious practices or not?
    Rivka Haut

  5. HILLEL says:

    It’s time we realized that the State of Israel is just another form of Galuth (among our own secular brothers–and sisters).

  6. Steve Brizel says:

    Looking at the schedule reminds me of my observation of a practically 24/7 empty CJ house of prayer in a Jerusalem neighborhood. One can only conclude that just as CJ built a building that stands devoid of signs of use in a neighborhood that otherwise is brimming with shuls, so too, Rosh Chodesh is hijacked as a political statement by WOTW.

  7. joel rich says:

    It’s time we realized that the State of Israel is just another form of Galuth
    Certainly there is a galut when the shechina isn’t present in the form of the Bet Hamikdash. Before classifying the State as “JUST (emphasis mine) another form of galut” imho we must consider the totality of Jewish history. Based on this approach, I would strongly disagree with this characterization.


  8. Jewish Observer says:

    “It’s time we realized that the State of Israel is just another form of Galuth”

    – probably not possible to be mevarer this inyan which has been debated by previous generations of gedolim

  9. Shira Schmidt says:

    The Court determined that the Women of the Wall were causing a disturbance. So by my asking them to remove themselves to the Robinson’s Arch portion of the Wall, was I disturbing a disturbance??

    Once the WOW decided that the Wall was the appropriate place to make a public debate about women’s tefillot, it was obviously — by their own decision — appropriate for me to engage them in debate in that location. In fact, on Rosh Hodesh Tammuz 5764, I went to the Wall and suggested that we study the halakhot of minhag hamakom, customs of a location. I had prepared two dozen copies of a source sheet on hilkhot minhag hamakom. They rejected my suggestion; they had their sefer Torah and they were intent on taking it out of a duffel bag and holding a reading. I asked them to go to Robinson’s Arch as the Court had determined and reached out to help them carry the duffel bag to the alternative site. The Meah Shearim women got wind of their intentions and they made a ruckus.

    I posted the dates that WOW holds services so that rather than relying on my account, people can gain an understanding kli rishon, first-hand. By continuing to hold shaharit and Hallel at the Wall, it is the Women of the Wall who are keeping this controversy alive, not I as Rivka Haut implies.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Both Rachel and Ms. Haut are incorrect IMO in respect to one major premise-All Orthodox women, Charedi and MO, who attend shul daven behind a mechitzah and in synagogues that do not provide WTGs except for a small group of LW MO women who still believe that power issues such as who can lead davening or serve in a communal function are the key issues facing Jewish women, as opposed to people issues such as child rearing, kids at risk and shidduchim and the laws of forbidden speech. The notion that the Ezras Nashim at the Kosel comports with Charedi notions of an Ezras Nashim is IMO misleading, to say the least. There is no shortage of articles and photographs that show that the Ezras Nashim comports with that in any other O shul-Charedi or MO-and with a breadth of women that is unique to that sacred location.

    It is fascinating that both Rachel and Ms.Haut appear unaware of the fact that WOW was ordered by the Court, not the powers in charge of the Kosel, to utilize Robinson’s Arch and not the Kotel. Instead, they accuse Ms. Schmidt of provoking an incident without much evidence at all except for the schedule posted, despite the lack of stellar evidence submitted by WOW to the Courts or its own conduct in this regard. One wonders what type of purpose is served by the disobedience of the Court’s Order in the Ezras Nashim, as opposed to using the Robinson’s Arch area as set forth by the Court. It is not far fetched to surmise that the use of the court-prohibited Ezras Nashim is to provoke an incident and to gain further press coverage on this issue and the agenda-which most frum women have rejected as irrelevant to their lives.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    Are we talking here about WOW praying or striking a pose?

  12. Rivka Haut says:

    As for Shira Shmidt’s provocation at a WOW tefillah, this is not debatable because, despite Shira’s creative “interpretation,” her actions of provocation are clearly visible in the film, beyond dispute.
    As for important women’s issues, you omitted the most important one of all-AGUNOT!
    You may all be interested to know that the major female agunah activists, (all 5 of us) are all also involved with WOW. We work as volunteers who help agunot, I and the others have done so for more than 20 years. I have suggested to Shira years ago that she leave WOW alone and devote her energy and talent to helping agunot. The need is urgent.
    Rivka Haut

  13. Yaakov Menken says:

    Ms. Haut appears to be evading the point. It really doesn’t matter what Ms. Schmidt did, when she responds to a provocation it is inappropriate to say that she was doing acts of provocation.

    Regardless of one’s personal feelings in the matter, many — especially in Chassidic circles — believe that kol b’isha erva applies even to a group of women singing. A man who believes this must stop praying. In any situation, loud singing disrupts another person’s prayers, which is why the only time you find singing at the Western Wall is when the guys from Yeshivat HaKotel come down for Lecha Dodi, when everyone expects it. The men don’t sing Hallel as loudly as the WoW. What they do is unnecessary, provocative, disruptive… simply wrong.

    Simple respect for the dignity of other worshippers would preclude large group singing. There is certainly no mandate that one must sing Hallel, whereas there are men motivated not by politics, but by religion, who believe that they cannot pray when a woman is singing.

    This is why the Court sanely decided that Robinson’s Arch is an appropriate place, and yet the WoW persist in their provocation.

    You may all be interested to know that the major female agunah activists, (all 5 of us) are all also involved with WOW.

    That is informative, but not in the way that Ms. Haut imagines. It is also entirely irrelevant, a distraction from Mrs. Schmidt’s rebuttal of Ms. Haut’s initial, hypocritical claim that Mrs. Schmidt was doing the provoking.

  14. Rivka Haut says:

    Yaacov, I do not see how you can claim that interrupting a group of women who are davenning Hallel together at the Kotel is a “provocation.” There is no way the women can be heard on the men’s side; they stand as far away from the mehitsa as possible, on the right side, towards the back of the women’s area, they do not shout or sing loudly, and there are always loud noises coming from all around, from people and planes etc. It is only when someone calls attention to them, as Shira has done, that the men notice their presence. Interestingly, in all the legal papers filed against WOW by Shas and other parties, never has kol ishah been raised – because it is not an issue there. Other issues were raised, but never that one.
    Shira not only tried to stop their tefillah, she also endangered a woman who was carrying a 5 month old by shoving and pushing against her.
    She can be clearly seen on film. If I knew how to show the film clip here, I would. Then all could see who was provoking, who was creating a real disturbance at the holy site – it was not WOW. And I suspect that she has again raised the topic of WOW here on this blog because she is unable to leave the group alone. She has posted their schedule unnecessarily, I assume because she wants to encourage people to notice them. I consider this a provocation.
    Rivka Haut

  15. Sarah Elias says:

    Rivka Haut: Surely you must know that the very presence of Women of the Wall is an irritating and infuriating provocation to those of us who wish to spend our time at the Wall communing with G-d, not playing politics. How, by the way, do you justify flouting the Supreme Court’s decision banning WOW from praying as a group at the Wall itself? If all you really want is to pray, and not cause a provocation, why can’t you accept the Court’s decision?

    And thank you for informing us that the leaders of the aguna agitators and the WOW are one and the same. If I ever wondered why the aguna activists made me uneasy, now I wonder no more.

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Ms. Haut-WADR to your comments re activism re agunos, is it correct that you support R Rackman’s universally condemned Beth Din as opposed to encouraging couples to sign a Pre Nuptial Agreement, which has the support of the RY of RIETS, the support of the overwhelming majorty of Gdolim and which has led to a decrease in litigation as well as its implementation in many MO circles?

  17. Rivka Haut says:

    This is my last comment here, because the tone is becoming virulent, but, to answer the questions , no I do not support the Rackman beit din. Absolutely not! I resigned from the Agunah organization, of which i was a director, when they decided to support that effort.
    I am a case worker for the GET organization, and try to help agunot by working with them, one case at a time. I have been to most of the batei din in NY and surroundings, accompanying women and helping them thru the process. I speak to the rabbis on batei din, and most of them readily co-operate with me. Some even welcome my help.
    More women are needed in this effort, as well as men. When the “frumer” women take over, i will happily leave it to them. In the meantime, agunot are stuck with such as myself.
    As for pre nups, my late husband, Rabbi Yitzchak Haut, who was also an attorney, wrote his own version of a pre nup, together with the late Rabbi judah Dick. That is the one we used for both of my daughters. I support just about any pre nup. They are not a solution to the agunah issue, but they help, they are among the few strategies to reduce the number of agunot.
    Shana tova to all, Rivka Haut

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    Ms. Haut-IIRC, I saw a post on Hirhurim that quoted you or one of your associates as saying that the RCA Pre Nuptial Agreement (“PNA”) was worthless or almost so. I wonder why you or your associates think that PNA is not a solution, when other solutions such as the Rackman Beis Din and its advocates threaten the very essence of halacha.One wonders what you believe would be a “solution” as opposed to a “strategy” to reduce the number of agunos.

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, it is almost a complete misnomer for anyone to claim that “agunot are stuck with” GET as a prime force to free them from their status. ORA is very active in both picketing recalcitrant spouses who refuse to give or accept a get. The OU lists in the J Press the names of those who ignore a judgment of a Bes Din and reccomends that their businesses be boycotted.ORA, which has the endorsement of RY in RIETS, pickets the homes and businesses of these persons. Kayama arranges for the delivery of gittin to avoid possible instances of mamzerus among many who very distant from Torah and Mitzvos. The key with a PNA is that it avoid any possibility of a get meusah. That is why the RCA PNA has the endorsement of as many Gdolim both in the US and Israel and has been accepted almost as a de jure element among MO and RZ couples in the US.

  20. Bob Miller says:

    Rivka Haut said, “This is my last comment here, because the tone is becoming virulent.”

    Others see this as normal give-and-take on a subject of great interest.
    No one’s ideas get a free pass. No one is exempt from scrutiny of their previous written record as it relates to their current message.

  21. Rahel says:

    I agree with Rebbetzin Rivka Haut: the tone here has indeed become virulent, if not outright vitriolic. A “normal give-and-take on a subject of great interest” is — or should be — a great deal more respectful than this has been. I am appalled at the way some of the commenters here have treated Rebbetzin Haut. She deserves only the highest respect and honor, disagreements notwithstanding. I would have expected better behavior from my fellow Jews.

    Have we so far forgotten our principles, such as judging favorably, disagreeing respectfully and refraining from evil speech, that we feel we are exempt from them in cases of strong disagreement — or that those with whom we disagree are exempt from their protection? If anything, strong disagreement requires that we be even more considered and respectful in our speech than usual. It is clear that some of the commenters judged Women of the Wall long ago and found us guilty, and therefore deserving of the worst accusations and behavior they can think of. Can they say honestly that they have ever spoken to a member of Women of the Wall and listened to what she had to say with an open mind and heart? I very much doubt it. (In fact, regrettably enough, it seems to me that I can almost hear some of the commenters reply: “How absurd! Why should we listen to anything they have to say?!”)

    The writer of this post maintains in her comment that “The Meah Shearim women got wind of [WOW’s] intentions and they made a ruckus.” I was there that morning; that is not what happened. What really happened — and what the filmed material shows — is that the author of the post incited the “Meah Shearim women” and afterwards retired to a safe and protected spot in order to observe the results. There had been no disturbance during our previous tefillot, nor was there any disturbance during that particular tefilla until the author created it. As someone who has been attending WOW tefillot and leading them for more than a decade, I can say that the only disturbances associated with Women of the Wall’s tefillot are those caused deliberately by outside elements. The abovementioned tefilla was one such case.

    By the way, I wrote about the incident at my own weblog, Elms in the Yard, in a post entitled “When Bad Behavior Is Kosher,” shortly after it happened. The commenters here are invited to read that post and judge for themselves.

    As I note in my blog post, the author of this post telephoned one of our members several weeks after creating the disturbance in order to apologize for having done so. She then asked that the filmed material containing her behavior not be shown. She was also removed from the Women’s Tefilla Network e-mail list for her actions, and shortly thereafter apologized and asked to be reinstated. I find it interesting that she did not see fit to mention this in her post or in her comment above. In my opinion, her post above, together with her posting of WOW’s tefilla dates, show that her apologies were hollow.

  22. Shira Schmidt says:

    30 bEllul
    Yes. I would very much like to see the film, and hope that Rivka will make the techmnical arrangements so we can all view it. What is the link? (BTW, why did WOW come there with their own camera crew?)
    Yes. I repeatedly stated to the WOW group this is not minhag hamakom. I didn’t incite the Meah Shearim women; they got angry when they saw that WOW planned a Torah reading.
    Yes. The film will show I was so upset by WOW’s intention to radically change the way women pray at the wall that my distress overcame my inhibitions. I apologized afterwards and henceforth confined my disagreements to discussions in writing and conversation.
    Yes. Rivka deserves courtesy. I myself made a point to attend her lecture at a CAJE conference and to talk with her cordially after identifying myself. She is one impressive lady with a heart of gold and goes to great lengths to help agunot. What impressed me the most was that she refused to attend the women’s tefilla group at the conference because they played instruments on Shabbat and she asked them not to do so. They obliged.
    I wonder how she would feel if a group called MOW (Musicians of the Wall) or SOW (Shofars of the Wall) would sound their instruments at the Wall on Shabbat, with the intention of establishing a beachhead for a practice at odds with halakhic norms today.

  23. Yaakov Menken says:

    In response to Rahel, the assertion that “the tone here has indeed become virulent, if not outright vitriolic” is itself offensive, and should only be used if and when the accusation has merit. The only person who has been accused here of personal ill-temper and provocative conduct is Shira Schmidt, such accusations having been authored by none other than Rivka Haut herself (and now Rahel).

    To quote another person’s public statements of an ideological nature as related to a current topic is hardly lashon hora, evil speech, and the asking of pointed questions about those positions need not reflect a lack of respect. Showing a film purporting to show an individual’s “provocation,” “disruption,” “disturbance” and/or “inciting,” however, undoubtedly violates the aforementioned laws while demonstrating a lack of respect for the individual depicted.

    Speaking of which, Rahel goes on to accuse critics of the WoW of prejudging the group as “deserving of the worst accusations and behavior they can think of” — which, if true, seems remarkably absent of evidence here. But it is clear that — speaking of myself, at least — Rahel has prejudged me without speaking to me, much less assessing what I have to say with an open mind.

    I observed one of the early WoW demonstrations long before I had ever heard of Shira Schmidt. One of the demonstrators turned out to be a fellow college alumnus — well, alumna — then a Reform Rabbinical student. Today she is a Rabbi, and when asked “Are there any parts of Judaism you disagree with?” responds “I don’t love the way traditional Judaism creates separate roles for women. That’s one of the many reasons I love being a Reform Jew!” This is no change from the intelligent, personable, committed, and painfully misguided woman she was in college. She doesn’t love the words of our Torah, in an area that speaks directly to her motivations when she joined the WoW.

    The group’s then-spokewoman, Anat Hoffman, later ran for city office under the banner of the Meretz party. The parties’ advertisements depicted a bright orange Jerusalem increasingly blackened by dots and blotches reflecting the charedi populace. She later went on to become director of IRAC (the legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel) — an organization whose stated intent is to promote pluralism, and whose practical actions are at least equally devoted to obstructing Torah outreach and education in the Holy Land.

    No intelligent person would deem it necessary to sit down with her for a heart-to-heart chat before judging her attitude towards Halacha, any more than it should be necessary to think long and hard before understanding that for a group of women to stroll leisurely down to the Wall singing Oseh Shalom Bimromav in front of Chassidic men would offend their religious sensitivities and bring anything but Shalom (Peace) here on earth. Indeed they gathered in advance under police escort, so it was quite obvious that they knew exactly what their actions would accomplish and intended those results.

    Previously I said that I found it hypocritical to claim that Mrs. Schmidt, as compared to the WoW, was doing the provoking. Before issuing further accusations, it would be worthwhile to assess whether we ourselves are guilty of the behavior we project upon the other.

  24. Rahel says:

    Shira Schmidt writes: “Yes. The film will show I was so upset by WOW’s intention to radically change the way women pray at the wall that my distress overcame my inhibitions.”

    WOW does not have, nor has it ever had, the slightest intention of changing the way Jewish women worship at the Western Wall. In my opinion, Shira knows this perfectly well, and it was not the reason that she behaved as she did. Those who wish to join our tefilla are welcome; those who do not are under no compulsion to do so. In all, we are at the Kotel as a group for approximately one hour per month, and we stand in the rear of the women’s section. So it seems to me that all the fuss some people make over WOW is not really about us specifically. It makes me wonder what our opponents are really afraid of.

    When we read Torah in the women’s section of the Kotel on three prior occasions (which we did legally at the time), there was no disturbance at all. In fact, hardly anyone noticed (including the “Meah Shearim women”) — which, in our opinion, is precisely as it should be.

    Nor did we come to the Kotel with our own camera crew, though in the past we have been advised to document our tefillot for our own protection. An independent filmmaker was making a film about us, and it was only by chance (or by Divine providence, depending on one’s perspective) that her crew happened to be present when Shira Schmidt created the disturbance.

    She further writes: “I apologized afterwards and henceforth confined my disagreements to discussions in writing and conversation.”

    If that is so, then why did she find it necessary to include the dates of WOW’s tefillot here? In light of her past behavior toward us and her continued strong opposition to us, I must conclude, reluctantly, that she did so in order to cause trouble.

    Yaakov Menken says of me: “Rahel has prejudged me without speaking to me, much less assessing what I have to say with an open mind.”

    He then cites the involvement in WOW of several women associated with the Reform movement, without mentioning the fact that the vast majority of WOW’s leadership is mitzva-observant. He also characterizes our tefilla as a “demonstration.” In my opinion, these statements show his position toward us very well. I don’t have to prejudge him; he has furnished the proof himself.

  25. Steve Brizel says:

    Neither Rachel nor Ms. Haut have answered a critical question-The Court prohibited WOW from conducting their service at the Kosel and permitted the same at Robinson’s Arch. The question remains why WOW views it necessary to violate the terms of the Court’s decision.

    I previously stated that the timing of Rosh Chodesh is an attempt to hijack the unique halachos of that day that many men and women are ignorant of into some sort of feminist solidarity day at the Kosel. IMO, it is no different than an externally gorgeous Conservative house of worship in a RZ/Charedi area that sits forlorn and empty, while the surrounding RZ/Charedi shuls and Batei Medrashim hum on a 24/7 basis with tefilos, shiurim and lectures. IOW, Torah observant women have rejected the feminist critique of halacha in the same manner that secular Israelis have rejected Reform and Conservative — as a foreign import that offers nothing of substance in improving the spiritual life of a Jewish woman.

    As far as who comprises WOW, the presence of two militantly anti-Orthodox Reform female clergymen speaks volumes. Moreover, the notion that the majority of its members are “mitzva-observant” cannot be reconciled with the fact that the overwhelming majority of MO and Charedi women have rejected the power-based feminist agenda and critique as irrelevant to their lives as Torah observant women.

  26. Rahel says:

    Steve, the court ruling forbids WOW to do specific things in the women’s section of the Kotel. But we are still permitted to gather there and pray as a group, and that is what we do. I understand that you and others are trying hard to push us away from there entirely, but your efforts have no basis in fact.

    I understand that you are strongly opposed to women’s tefilla groups and have a low opinion of them. Nevertheless, I can say from direct experience of quite a few of them that the women who attend them are as devoted to halakha as anyone could wish and possess a high level of Jewish learning as well.

    As for the presence of women from the Reform movement in WOW, we don’t run background checks on women who want to pray with us. As long as they accept that we use the Orthodox form of prayer, they are welcome. I must say that I find the emphasis on their presence a particularly distressing form of innuendo, but I console myself with the knowledge that people frequently resort to innuendo when they have no facts to serve them.

    Finally, my name is Rahel, not “Rachel.”

  27. Yaakov Menken says:

    This has gone around enough times, so I’m going to take the publisher’s prerogative to have the last word.

    Rahel, I think you need to look back at what you yourself wrote. First you insisted that the WoW doesn’t want to change anything. But now you concede that in order to skirt the Supreme Court’s prohibition of your practices, you start off at the main Wall plaza and then move to Robinson’s Arch. You could, of course, simply pray at the Arch, which has all of the same inherent Kedusha as far as being part of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Instead, you want readers to believe that you start off at the Wall plaza even though you cannot pray there as you truly wish to, and which simply inflames the passions of Mrs. Schmidt and the “intolerant charedi masses” — and yet you have no agenda. This defies logic. No one moves their organized service from location A to location B in the middle unless they have a reason to be in both places, and when praying in location A provokes controversy while location B does not it has to be an especially good reason.

    Additionally, you first accused commenters of having pre-judged the WoW without having “ever spoken to a member of Women of the Wall and listened to what she had to say.” But when I then quoted two examples, including the only member of the group whom I know well personally, you dismissed them as somehow unrepresentative. You did so despite the fact that the other of the two was the group’s appointed representative to the media.

    You now say that you of the WoW “don’t run background checks,” but you are certain that “quite a few” of the women are “as devoted to halakha as anyone could wish.” Perhaps you recall something about Torah sages as the arbiters of modern Halachic issues being itself part of Halacha, at which point the unanimous opposition of all Torah sages (including the Roshei Yeshiva of RIETS (YU)) to your activities might ring a dissonant chord.

    But I am amazed at your assertion that to “emphasize” the presence of two women — two women who share the desire to remove the Torah’s distinctions between men and women in Judaism — is merely to “resort to innuendo.” It is entirely legitimate to seek to reconcile their feeling that to participate in the WoW is a worthwhile activity with your own insistence that their agenda plays no part in the WoW.

    If you can come up with a viable explanation as to why they might have participated, that would be worth posting. Otherwise, as I said, I think we need to end the discussion here.

  1. October 11, 2006

    […] Before the gates and books are closed on Hoshana Rabba, I would like to make the following amends. 1) Apologies to Rahel Jaskow . Yaakov Menken and others were unfairly harsh with Rachel Jaskow in the discussion below on Beinisch the bane of the Supreme Court . My primary focus in my posting was on the Supreme Court and Justice Beinisch. I think the Court used Women of the Wall to promote the Court’s activist agenda. The WOW were a pawn in a struggle between the judicial and legislative branches. That stuggle was my primary interest – I too didn’t care that much per se about WOW but rather felt that the Court should not be interfering with religious matters. Rachel Jaskow is one of the most sincerely spiritual people I know. She has a beautiful voice (I bought her CD Day of Rest) and Rahel wants to use her voice to worship Hashem. Although I think the Wall is not the venue for this, I realize that she and many of the women in WOW got caught in the aforementioned power struggle. It is the Court I wanted to criticize, not specifically WOW. […]

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