No Strings Attached

Flash! As a result of fearless and intelligent intelligence, your intrepid reporter has uncovered an authentically fictive memorandum from the inner sanctum and nerve center of Women of the Wall, presented here exclusively for the faithful readers of this column:

Top-Secret Memorandum to WoW:

We are winning the battle for the Wall, but we must not rest on our laurels. The next major battleground involves not merely our right to wear a Tallis at the Wall, but our right to wear a proper modern Tallis, one that is appropriate for the 21st century. And a modern Tallis is one without those strings — what the ultra-Orthodox call “tzitzis.”

This is a cause whose time has come. We must fight for the right to wear our own kind of Tallis, one that is stylish and fashionable — not the kind dictated by the ultras. No longer shall they decree what is, and what is not, acceptable prayer attire.

In addition, we demand custom made Tallises for every individual. We will no longer tolerate the current one-size-fits-all Tallis absurdity. Our feminine self- respect demands individualized Tallises.

Remember several crucial points:

  1. During prayer at the Wall, be sure to hold your Siddur right side up. Photos of women holding a Siddur upside down do not help our cause. If you don’t know which side is up, ask a haredi woman or seminary girl.
  2. Some of our women are trying to read the Hebrew from left to right. Note: Hebrew is written from right to left. If you cannot read Hebrew, then mumble something: on TV it will look like you are praying. Light swaying to and fro and from side to side will also demonstrate that we are devout women who are interested only in reaching out to God.
  3. When the large scroll is lifted up and read during the service, do not refer to it as the “Bible” or the “Old Testament.” Sefer Torah is the preferred term.
  4. The Tallis is not to be worn like a sash around the waist, although that is quite attractive. It is to be worn like a cape, over both shoulders. It is not really appropriate to drape it only over one shoulder, chic though it may be.

Talking Points For Media Interviews: 1) The Tallis must be liberated from the iron grip of haredi control. Women must be freed from outdated haredi practices like prayer shawls with strings which have no religious significance whatsoever, and are an anachronism from medieval times when clothing tassels were all the rage. 2) The strings drag under our feet, catch in our shoes, and make the footing very hazardous – especially when wearing 6-inch heels.

Important: Be sure to stress: 1) female victimhood; 2) you wish to reach out to God in your own way, not in ways dictated by women-hating, insensitive, and intolerant haredi men; 3) it is time to break away from the chains of the past and to liberate the Wall from the haredi stranglehold; 4) religious freedom is at stake. (Use the words “ God,” “ liberate,” “intolerant,” and “stranglehold” repeatedly.)

Tip: Bring along tissues so that you can dab at the tears in your eyes as you talk to the media. Cameras will be on you, so appropriate lip gloss, blush, eye shadow, and water-proof mascara are recommended. And remember: blue outfits photograph the best.

Next Confrontation: Progress Report:

  1. Chairs thrown at us are invaluable in projecting our victimhood. In order to leave nothing to chance, we are now negotiating with Rumble Seats Inc., the professional chair-throwers. to guarantee at least three chair throwings per confrontation. Haredi youth will quickly join in, creating a melee that plays very well on TV.
  2. We are supplementing the chair-throwers with a group of professional spitters, the well-known Great Expectorations Ltd. Spitters will spit at women only when cameras are present. Our contract stipulates that chair-throwers and spitters be outfitted with large black hats.
  3. For a small extra fee, the spitters will also heckle and curse. Once they start, others will inevitably join in. The resulting sound bites will be heard round the world. Offers by the media to help pay the costs are under consideration.

Everything will be camera-ready for the media.. Press kits are prepared, including prewritten articles describing heroic women facing down a screaming mob of chair-throwing, spitting, cursing, black-hatted haredi men.

Be there next Rosh Chodesh. Our giant banner, placed high on the Wall, will greet you with our new motto in huge red letters:


This column first appeared in Mishpacha.

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24 Responses

  1. Yair Daar says:

    Why would you waste your time writing this? Rehashing an old argument in a sarcastic and demeaning manner does nothing except inflate the egos of those who already believe your message.

  2. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    I am no supporter of the Women of the Wall, or of Orthodox feminism in general, but this is way over the top. We can be certain that nearly all of the women who take part in this know that a tallis exists for its tzitzis, know how to read Hebrew and which side of the siddur is up, know what a sefer torah is, and how a talis is normally worn. A column like this shows a deplorable ignorance of our opponents, and in the end will play right into their hands. While I would never question the stupidity of the editors of Mishpacha to publish this, I do question what possessed the editors of this blog to publish it.

    [Ed.note: Senior Contributors to Cross-Currents post their submissions directly, without the assistance of the editors.]

  3. Barry Dolinger says:

    Dear Rabbi Feldman,

    With all due respect, I find this article incredibly offensive. The tone is one that seeks to mock the women of the wall, and that tone is simply not one that observant Jews, especially important religious leaders, should be employing. The main point seems to be that the women aren’t educated in the basics of tradition to understand the changes they’re suggesting. This may or may not be true; I simply don’t know. If it is, however, and I have my doubts, this kind of a tone won’t do anything to convince them. I think such arguments should be made with love and sensitivity, not by mocking.


    Barry Dolinger

  4. mb says:

    “This column first appeared in Mishpacha.”

    And that’s where it should have stayed.

  5. Raymond says:

    I happen to think that Rabbi Feldman’s sarcastic tone is an ideal way to respond to the Women of the Wall. I hardly think that a movement whose true aim is to defile and destroy the most sacred place in the world for us Jews, is worthy of anything but our deep contempt. Short of violence, the worst thing that we can do in response to the Woman of the Wall, is to grant them any legitimacy at all. They are what quack doctors are to traditional medicine.

  6. David says:

    From this morning’s keri’a: רב לכם בני לוי. Chazal were critical of Moshe Rabbenu for saying this, even though he was certainly correct for not allowing Korach’s followers serve as kohanim. Even when objecting to wrong behavior, we have to speak with dignity and avoid offensive rhetoric.

    I have to agree with the previous commenters that this post does nothing to help resolve this unfortunate conflict, and I’m afraid does quite the opposite. I’ve always admired Rabbi Feldman’s writing, but I am very disappointed by this piece.

  7. Simi Peters says:

    I am firmly opposed to the WoW, but articles like this do more harm than good, as do protests that cannot be guaranteed to be completely peaceful. The idea of flooding the Kotel with sincere haredi daveners on Rosh Chodesh is absolutely brilliant, but even one violent or abusive incident renders the protest a hillul Hashem and undermines what it is designed to achieve.

    Perhaps it would have been better to simply ignore the WoW from the very beginning, since what they seek most of all is publicity, as is evidenced by their unwillingness to stay at Robinson’s Arch and the shenanigans they have employed to get media attention. We should not stoop to their level. An article like this does not add honor to our cause.

  8. Charlie Hall says:

    We need to turn down the volume. This does not.

  9. Baruch Gitlin says:

    That’s just lovely. Haredim commit violence against women attempting to pray, and haredi apologists find a way to blame it on the victims. Is that what haredi Judaism has come to? Looking for enemies to hate, and more creative ways to hate them? Whatever happened to mussar and self-improvement? Or does the self-improvmenet consist of finding more creative ways to identify and mock your alleged enemies?

    Cross-Currents usually presents cogent and well reasoned opinions, and I say that as someone who probably disagrees with those opinions more than I agree. This article is, in my opinion, very unworthy. And I would add that the entire obsession with Women of the Wall makes me wonder who sets the priorities in this world, and how. I’ve never been a supporter of WoW, but I’m curious what exposed nerve they are touching for this small group of women doing acts that are not violent, do not hurt anybody, and strictly speaking, do not even violate halacha, to create such an enormous and angry reaction. Or is this all just a power game? At any rate, if victimhood is what WoW is seeking, the haredi community of Israel is doing a phenomenal job on their behalf.

  10. YS says:

    As to Baruch’s comment about the exposed nerve, I believe I can help clarify what that nerve is, and I write this as someone who does not support the Women of the Wall: The nerve is the uncomfortable feeling some Bnei Torah have with what even they perceive as a certain backwardness in the attitude of the Torah and Chazal towards women. Instead of tackling this very difficult issue in an open and thoughtful manner, they take the easier path, which is to attack those with whom they disagree.

  11. Reb Yid says:

    R. Adlerstein’s comment in an earlier post about the FORWARD needs to be stated here as well–why would the Cross Currents editors allow such a post in the first place?

    But just as we should not castigate Cross-Currents as a whole because of this one rather unfortunate post, R. Adlerstein should not have written an inflammatory headline attacking the FORWARD in general because of one column. Indeed, as has already been noted, the FORWARD’s editor subsequently wrote a piece that was highly critical of that one particular columnist.

  12. Ben Bunim says:

    The post was excellent. There are things, as per the Gemara, that merit leitzonus, and here wielded with great skill. It raised important issues having to do with the “women of the wall” leadership’s ultimate intentions.

    Kudos to Rabbi Feldman.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    If there are still Jews who haven’t picked a side in this dispute, Orthodox articles and speeches on the topic should address them and their likely concerns.

  14. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    I find it sad that someone who has perhaps a couple of years “Rabbinic” experience has the temerity to scold a successful, respected Rov with over 60 years experience.

    Rabbi Feldman has a Doctorate in Religion as well, if one is so bent on secular education. Though, I haven’t been able to determine if his interests include such lofty subjects as percussion, or jogging.

    עולם הפוך ראיתי.

  15. cvmay says:

    Women of the Wall are a vicious group of Anti-Torah females.
    They are angry about everything religious and male gender.

    Feel that Rav Feldman is lowering his intelligence, inspiration and creativity to go this way. What exactly is the END RESULT?

  16. Lawrence M. Reisman says:

    To Ben Bunim: Shouldn’t leitzonus have some truth to it? The “crucial points” and “talking points” have no basis in fact whatsoever.

  17. Yaakov Menken says:

    Rabbi Feldman shared with me a very interesting point, and asked me for my opinion. He noticed a very sharp continental divide, as the responses from North America were mostly negative, and those from Israel overwhelmingly positive. Here’s what I told him:

    People in Israel are much closer to the events. People in Israel recognize this group’s true agenda. They have not been so thoroughly sold a bill of goods as those like Baruch Gitlin, who really seems to believe it’s about women coming to pray and “haredim” committing violence against them.

    Even those in the Orthodox community see the group as little more than a group of Reform women who want to pray in their own style — misinformed, but entirely genuine. They do not recognize that the group is trying to impose their religion on others — which Israelis do, having had the opportunity to see them in action for themselves, without the gloss placed upon their activities by their allies in the Jewish media.

    Rav Feldman told me “Gut Gezugt,” which is high praise given the source.

  18. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Rabbi Yaakov Menken, I think the culture in the US vs. Israel also has something to do with it:

    1. In the US, “do whatever you want, as long as you’re not bothering me” is a lot more accepted than in Israel.

    2. It seems to me that people in the US are a lot more likely to judge charitably than in Israel.

  19. Aharon Haber says:

    I came to Israel with a mildly positive view of Hareidim. I grew up on the fringes of Hareidism and have fond memories of learning in Camp Morris and visiting Ner Yisrael for Yom Kippur and other weekends (to connect to the recent post by Rabbi Shafran). There are many Chareidim that I admired back then and I believe I would still admire if I was still in touch with them. Unfortunately being so close to the events, with my 4 boys army bound (one just finished his army service in Hesder), beginning aliyah with seven years in Bet Shemesh, I have grown to resent Hareidism and some (but not all) of the philosophy behind what is considered the Hareidi way of life.

    You and Rabbi Feldman show considerable and sometimes fairly snide disgust for the Women of the Wall. I do not know who they are and cannot vouch for their sincerity but what you miss is that to me (and I assume others like me) it is pretty much besides the point. Arguing over and over again that they are doing it for publicity, true or not (I would imagine true for some, not for others) wins you no points with me. People should be allowed to pray the way they want. The kotel should not be owned by one group of Jews or another no matter the history. What is left is finding a compromise that makes the most people the most happy. Not easy necessarily but not something that needs to be seen as the last stand for the army of Hashem before the enemy storms the barricades. Which is clearly how you see it.

  20. dina says:

    the issue isn’t women in judaism etc.
    the issue is reform and conservative approaches to judaism attempting to gain a foothold in israel.

    nonetheless this was a particularly unhelpful post.

  21. cvmay says:

    You are right there is a huge huge cultural/attitude difference between American & Israeli Jews.

    In addition to Ori’s responses, the American Torah Community doesn’t just yell, scream and see every action as ‘shmad, kofer b’iyar, avodah zara, etc.’….. we pick our battles and ignore others. Israelis have the tendency to go for the jugular and attack asking questions at the finale.

  22. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    R Yaakov,

    Perhaps it’s just another manifestation of אוירא
    דערא מחכים.

  23. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Actually, R. Menken, just add another Israel-based dissent… I get satire, but I truly would have expected much better from R. Feldman and I don’t see this at all as his style.

    I believe, as usual R. Menken, your analysis of the Israel scene is quite flawed. Most of the people I know, while not necessarily rah rah supportive of the WoW, are mature enough to understand that they should have been left alone. We understand their “agenda” and actually agree with parts of it (ie that Israel needs to be liberated from the highly fanatic and coercive Rabbinic establishment.) We also know that the wild overreaction to a small group of women wearing talitot and tefilin is more about this creeping fundamentalism and less about the WoW’s “agenda”. “Normal” orthodox people here are fed up with bearing the brunt of a religious outlook that has no room for the “other” and tolerates, if not encourages, despicable behavior by its “warriors”. The 20 or so comments here are NOT indicative of anything.

  24. Baruch Gitlin says:

    People in Israel are much closer to the events. People in Israel recognize this group’s true agenda. They have not been so thoroughly sold a bill of goods as those like Baruch Gitlin, who really seems to believe it’s about women coming to pray and “haredim” committing violence against them.

    Just for the record, Rabbi Menken, I have lived in Israel for close to 20 years.

    It’s interesting to see how you manage to criticize me, without addressing in the slightest the substance of my comment. And by the way, as I noted in my comment, I do not support WoW. I do not particularly like them, never have. But I do believe they should have the right to pray at the kotel. And as an Israeli, and a resident of Beit Shemesh, it bothers me very much when haredim try to intimidate others who are deviating from what these haredim consider the frum norm, because I see this becomming more and more common, and I believe it endangers the future of Israel as a free country. I suppose you will take issue with my singling out haredim. I have nothing personal against haredim. I was one myself for many fine years, have many haredi friends, and number several haredim among the finest people I know. But I do not know of any other group that attempts to impose their standards on the public domain as some haredim do. People from no other group would presume to tell my wife or daughter where to sit on a public bus, coerce storeowners to put up signs in front of their stores telling people how to dress, disrupt a performance of a boys choir in a public park because the crowd was not sex-segragated to their liking (as happened in Ramat Beit Shemesh several years ago), etc.

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