Hadassah Applauds Historic Decision to Expand the Kotel for Egalitarian Prayer

Wednesday, Feb 3 2016

On January 31, the Israeli government voted to approve the expansion of the Kotel/Western Wall plaza to accommodate a space for egalitarian prayer.  In response, Hadassah National President Ellen Hershkin released the following statement:

As the President of the largest women’s Zionist organization, I celebrate this major step forward for women’s equality, religious pluralism, and the preservation of Jewish unity.

We have long advocated that the Kotel remain a source of cohesion for world Jewry, rather than of division. This decision ensures that Judaism’s holiest site is accessible to all Jews.  

Hadassah leaders and members have been vocal and active advocates -- from the U.S. and on the ground in Jerusalem -- for all women’s right to pray, individually and collectively, freely, without harassment, and in accordance with their own religious practices. 

We thank the Israeli government and Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky for their leadership and commitment to examine prayer at the Kotel, and their inclusion of Diaspora Jewry in these important discussions.

As a member agency, Hadassah joins with the Jewish Council of Public Affairs and the greater Jewish community in marking this historic decision. 

Ellen Hershkin
National President


From: Ada on February 6, 2016
Dear Ms Hershkin, I read your statement with ambivalent emotions. When I first went to the kotel I was very moved by the unity of Jewish women there. They represented diverse communities and countries, ages and backgrounds all in the same space respecting the decorum and the ancient traditions. At the kotel we had our own women's space just as there had been in the bet hamikdash thousands of years ago - long before Viginia Woolf , Madden and Levy wrote about the desirability of women's space. Yet in our space near the kotel we had a common denominator. I felt a sense of unity and a bond with all these women. With those who prayed the three prayers a day and those who maybe went to the synagogue three times a year. Full disclosure I do not always pray three times a day and weeks may go by without my going to a synagogue. The women spoke different languages, came from communities very different from each other. But we stood or sat together at the kotel - the closest we could get to the Temple Mount- and pray next to each other with respect, in our different accents. We could honor our ancient Jewish tradition even though many no longer practiced traditional Judaism. We could show respect for those observers of tradition who, for generations, braved dangers, by going to the kotel among hostile elements who took away their benches, chairs, and even the mehitza. Thanks to them the kotel area was not turned over to the Wakf. Now we have people who wish to pray in a new way that would disturb the tradition. So while I am saddened that no longer will all Jewish women stand in the same space to pray I am happy that they have a space at the kotel. Ada Jacobowitz
From: VERA on February 4, 2016
From: Karen on February 4, 2016
Thank you for your leadership and great statement.
From: Neil on February 4, 2016
I will now go out of my way not to support Hadassah
From: Barbara on February 4, 2016
Proud of you Ellen and Hadassah for taking this stance.
From: Bernice on February 4, 2016
Am Israel chai. Haiwing
From: vanessa on February 4, 2016
Now Hadassah members will be arrested if they pray at the Kotel in tallitiot. I am ashamed to be a member of an organization that supports a deal knowing full well there will be such dire consequences for Orthodox feminists and those who prayed with them who are not willing to give up the historical Kotel. We can call Robinson's Arch the Kotel, but it is not, just as calling the Empire State Building the Statue of Liberty does not make it so.
From: NT on February 4, 2016
Does that mean women can pray out loud now at the Kotel?
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