These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

25th anniversary of WoW at the Kotel

Posted on November 8, 2013 by Jessica Baverman

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From my blog:

Jessica BavermanThis Monday, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, I went to the Kotel to pray with Women of the Wall (WoW). This is the second time I’ve gone to pray with the group but I wasn’t successful in finding them last time. This time, I went with Andrea, who is a WoW veteran, and Emet. In addition, another group from Pardes met us there.

I was not sure what to expect this Rosh Chodesh. In May, it was crazy. People were shouting angrily, and the entire plaza was filled with seminary girls who had been bussed in. This Monday, we showed up and there was already a group of police surrounding members and allies of WoW. While there were many orthodox women and girls praying already, they didn’t seem to be attempting to prevent us from praying. There were many photographers on the men’s side looking over the mechitza, and there were even a good amount of men allies listening for the service to start. At the same time, the Rosh Chodesh service for the men’s side was blasting through the loud speaker and as soon as we started, I felt it was difficult to hear what was going on. A few women on chairs would yell out the page numbers based upon what the leader was calling out on earpieces. A few orthodox girls were standing in front of us, seemingly mocking us as we began, and one tugged at the tallit Andrea wore. Soon, though, the loud speaker was quiet at the conclusion of the service for the men’s side, and a modern orthodox woman began speaking to the girls near us in Hebrew to calm them.
I had come that morning not sure if I was going to be able to pray in a calm environment, but I ended up having a really nice experience.

I think back to what it was like in May, both the situation in the plaza and what it was like for me personally to pray. Six months ago, I read a lot in the English and didn’t understand much of what it was that I was reading in the siddur or why it was important to me. I also didn’t understand the Halacha around prayer and how that affected how I prayed. This Rosh Chodesh, I realized how far I have come in 6 months. I am still very slow at reading in the Hebrew, but I have advanced so much. I wasn’t able to pray in Hebrew before. I have so much more knowledge of what I’m praying, why I pray, and how I feel when I have a good prayer experience. In fact, it was interesting to me to notice the women who came to pray and were very excited about being a part of the service but had no idea where we were in the service or what was going on. They were very interested in being there but I realized they didn’t have a relationship to the prayer service.

I’m glad I went this Rosh Chodesh and had a good prayer experience. I think it’s really important for is as the Jewish community to continue to support alternative prayer services at the Kotel, which is a symbol of our community. I have written about my difficult relationship to the Kotel in recent months, but I felt for the first time in a while comfortable praying at the Kotel. I can only imagine where I will be in another 6 months in my prayer. Rosh Chodesh tov!