Skip

Kotel everybody?
November 20, 2009 4:59 PM   Subscribe

A women's prayer group was expelled from the area of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Wednesday for wearing tallitot and reading from the Torah, in violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that restricts these activities to men in the area directly in front of the wall. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the majority of non-Orthodox rabbinical students are female, with the Reform movement being the most female-dominated, leaving some communities struggling to revitalize men's participation in the religion.
posted by albrecht (51 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Given a source of flowing water, many males will attempt to dam it.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:16 PM on November 20, 2009 [10 favorites]


Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz said in response that the women's actions were "a desecration of the sacred."

"They brought dissent and infighting to a place that is supposed to symbolize unity," said Rabinovitz.


Unity, eh?
posted by Salmonberry at 5:21 PM on November 20, 2009 [6 favorites]


It's actually heartwarming for me to see that I didn't grow up in the only crazy misogynistic religion in the world.
posted by Avenger at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2009 [7 favorites]


If you break religion down to its basic element, you'll find a frightened, impotent misogynist worried about how he's going to control the talking-stick. It is all based on the fear of actual dialogue and discussion - it skirts true communication and replaces it with the simulacra of ritual, dogma, funny hats and magical underwear. And all for the low price of one's gullible soul.
What a bargain.
posted by isopraxis at 5:40 PM on November 20, 2009 [15 favorites]


What I do like about Jews:don't like
one way there are other places ...
reform,conservative. In some religion (cults if you
will)you are right or out.
But then most of my jewish freinds
are seclular--Jews sans god
posted by Postroad at 6:00 PM on November 20, 2009


If you break religion down to its basic element . . . yadda yadda yadda.

It's nice to see there's a scholar among us.
posted by The World Famous at 6:02 PM on November 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


So, basically, a bunch of Jewish women got in trouble for behaving as silly and irrational as Jewish men in Israel?

And there's supposedly a problem, because there aren't enough silly, irrational Jewish men back in the US?

So... maybe some of the silly, irrational, judgmental Jewish men in Israel could come to the United States, then? After all, it appears we have a shortage of silly, irrational, judgmental people in this country to keep the merely silly and irrational in line.

...or was the point that we need to create more home grown silly, irrational, judgmental Jewish men? Because I don't think that works very well. They keep going over to Israel... at least before they illegally settle in Palestine.

How do you keep the silly, irrational, judgmental people in the big cities, when they'd rather run off to the farm/kibbutz?!
posted by markkraft at 6:06 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you break anti-religious hatred down to its basic element, you'll find a frightened, impotent narrow-mindedness worried about how to control the people's beliefs. It is all based on the fear of actual dialogue and discussion - it skirts true communication and replaces it with the simulacra feigned concern, pseudo free-thought, self-righteousness, and condescension. And all for the low price of one's inner beauty.
What a bargain.
posted by oddman at 6:08 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


A bit of tolerance would be nice from those of us who read Chuck Darwin. Israel is dominated religiously by the Orthodox...unlike the US and in other countries where conservative and reform have a voice on a par with that of the Orthodox, or even more so. Israel, founded by Jews who were secular and some who were religious, has long been in the thrall of the religious group, to the annoyance and sometimes to the amusement of the non-religious, but since the state was founded because in large measure Jews, no matter if secular or religious, were hounded and often killed (Holocaust), accomodations are made. We live elsewhere and have the right and the distance to be amused at what for many of us seems ludicrous.

Recall, though, that many did come to this country early on because those hell-bent on the Truth olf their religion tried mighty hard to impose it upon others.
posted by Postroad at 6:15 PM on November 20, 2009


> Surely you're not being dismissive of Judaism. Or Jews. Whose perspective on Israel you do not know. No. You meant something else I just don't understand.
posted by liketitanic at 6:16 PM on November 20, 2009


Funny I didn't read about this on Jorn Barger's blog before seeing it here.
posted by Catblack at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2009


"Recall, though, that many did come to this country early on because those hell-bent on the Truth olf their religion tried mighty hard to impose it upon others."

Then why shouldn't we, as fellow Americans, be a bit concerned when Jews in America who are allowed to be surprisingly reformist tendencies, have that freedom threatened by those who would want to keep them in line?

Anyone remember how popular the idea was recently on MeFi of the Pope putting on the pressure to encourage Episcopalian churches in the US to defect to Catholicism?

Americans fundamentally don't appreciate undue foreign influence, especially when it risks the freedoms of people in the US... and especially when it risks radicalizing them to behave in ways that are fundamentally opposed to our nation's goals.
posted by markkraft at 6:26 PM on November 20, 2009


This just in: Patriarchal oppression cuts across cultural boundaries.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 6:47 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


[few comments removed - take this gripe to metatalk, team.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:58 PM on November 20, 2009


FFF: You know, folks, when you use just a ">" to link to the comment to which you're responding, two things happen

It's a bookmarklet which many people have grabbed for firefox. I usually edit the output to put in the person's name or an abbreviation thereof.

Now, if someone could edit the javascript to output the person's name instead of the damned ">", that would be awesome--it appears in the (a ...)(/a) html, so it should be possible, but this is over my head.
posted by Decimask at 7:11 PM on November 20, 2009


Then why shouldn't we, as fellow Americans, be a bit concerned when Jews in America who are allowed to be surprisingly reformist tendencies, have that freedom threatened by those who would want to keep them in line?

Well, for one thing, your question sounds a bit like an American traveling abroad being outraged at having to comply with local laws and screaming "you can't treat me this way! I'm an American!"
posted by The World Famous at 7:25 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz said in response that the women's actions were "a desecration of the sacred."

"They brought dissent and infighting to a place that is supposed to symbolize unity," said Rabinovitz.


Not that I agree with the sentiment, but I think this is supposed to be in reference to an Orthodox notion that women are allowed to perform certain mitzvot, like wearing a tallit, if they do them solely with the intention of fulfilling God's commandments, rather than to make a political statement. Of course, it's kind of a logic trap when you have a rule that expressly forbids them from doing so, hence forcing any act they do perform to be political, almost by definition.
posted by albrecht at 7:28 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then why shouldn't we, as fellow Americans, be a bit concerned when Jews in America who are allowed to be surprisingly reformist tendencies, have that freedom threatened by those who would want to keep them in line?

At the risk of stating the obvious, this incident didn't happen in America, it happened in Israel. American Jews like myself are not being threatened by the Orthodox Union, its rabbinate or their faithful adherents -- here in America, or in Israel.

Jewish sects generally don't proselytize to each other (various efforts by Chabad notwithstanding,) and generally maintain their distance from one another. And an incident that took place in Israel doesn't threaten Reform or Conservative American Jews. Hell, this incident doesn't really threaten non-Hareidi Jews in Israel, either. Assuming they even care.

Anyone remember how popular the idea was recently on MeFi of the Pope putting on the pressure to encourage Episcopalian churches in the US to defect to Catholicism?

That's not what's happening here. Catholicism ≠ Judaism.

Americans fundamentally don't appreciate undue foreign influence, especially when it risks the freedoms of people in the US...

I agree with this statement. However, it has nothing to do with the context of the FPP.

....and especially when it risks radicalizing them to behave in ways that are fundamentally opposed to our nation's goals.

What in the world are you talking about? If you have something to say, please come right out and say it.
posted by zarq at 8:09 PM on November 20, 2009


Given a source of flowing water, many males will attempt to dam it.

Is this some sort of sexual reference?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:23 PM on November 20, 2009


It's actually heartwarming for me to see that I didn't grow up in the only crazy misogynistic religion in the world.

Worth noting that American Judaism has changed drastically in the last 150 years with the rise of both the Reform and Conservative movements, and their various offshoots. Approximately 10% of Jews in America self-identify as Orthodox. The other sects are far more egalitarian.
posted by zarq at 8:27 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]




Decimask: Now, if someone could edit the javascript to output the person's name instead of the damned ">", that would be awesome--it appears in the (a ...)(/a) html, so it should be possible, but this is over my head.

Plutor's got it covered in Mefiquote.

posted by hangashore at 8:57 PM on November 20, 2009


I like Greasemonkey but would appreciate people not making me have particular scripts for it in order to fully understand their comments.

Also holy shit folks, just because this is religious in nature doesn't make the staggering misogyny something to chuckle or scoff at.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:01 PM on November 20, 2009


Meanwhile, in godless Great Britain, a great rebbe preserves the sanctity of Jewish masculinity.

...An eminent rabbi was so exhausted after three days of constant cocaine-fuelled partying with escorts that his pimp grew worried and cancelled that day’s supply of girls, a jury was told....

Naw, it's just a viral for the next Coen Brothers movie.
posted by Avenger at 9:11 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


Americans fundamentally don't appreciate undue foreign influence

Unless, of course, WE are the undue foreign influencers.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:14 PM on November 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


A Jew walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder.

The bartender says "hey, where'd you get that?"

The parrot says "[squak!] Brooklyn! There's thousands of 'em!"
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:24 PM on November 20, 2009 [4 favorites]


Oh surprise, a post about Israel on MeFi ended up with people making THE DUMBEST COMMENTS POSSIBLE. The fuck is wrong with people?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:58 PM on November 20, 2009


The fuck is wrong with people?

People like...Jews?
posted by clockzero at 10:00 PM on November 20, 2009


There are a lot of things about religion that I don't understand, but the idea that one's connection to god is in any way related to the shape of one's genitals is among the most confusing.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:48 PM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I'll stay out of this thread.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:05 PM on November 20, 2009


D'oh!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:05 PM on November 20, 2009


"It is ridiculous that in a Jewish state that is supposedly democratic, women cannot pray the way they want to and only one definition of Judaism is accepted," said [Rabbi Felicia Sol, of the B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, who also said] that the attempt to read from the Torah was an experiment with "pushing the boundaries."

It seems to me that
1) she is admitting (with the "pushing the boundaries" statement) that the move was, in fact, political, not purely religious, thereby explicitly violating existing policy at the Kotel; and that
2) she is painfully ignorant of the political reality in Israel (evidenced by her "Jewish state that is supposedly democratic" comment). Israel is very much a democracy, but, just like in the US, there are special interest groups that wield seemingly (or obviously) more power than the numbers of people they represent would otherwise warrant. In Israel, first and foremost among these groups is the Ultra-Orthodox, who control virtually all aspects of state-sanctioned religious ritual (e.g., marriage) and exert tremendous influence on the vast majority of the population that outnumbers them (e.g, limited to non-existent public transportation on Shabbat in many areas of the country, etc.). This has a lot to do with Israel's specific flavor of democracy and historical factors going back to the founding of the state, not with whether or not Israel is a democracy or not.

For the record: I'm an Israeli-born dual Israeli-US citizen, egalitarian, Conservative-affiliated, and I love listening to people (who know what they're doing and saying) reading from the Torah, regardless of which naughty bits they possess. It's very sad for me to hear a rabbi from BJ (which I've attended as a visitor a couple of times) display the ignorance she did. Things may not be moving as fast in the direction of full inclusion as she (or I) would like, and sometimes it takes in-your-face protests like this to jump-start a revolution/paradigm shift, but she should at least be honest about her motives and direct in her rhetoric.

[radio voice]Shabbat shalom, ev'rybody![/radio voice]
posted by yiftach at 11:56 PM on November 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


"She was asking for it" is an asshole's response in every language, every country, every situation.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have a thumb rule that has served me well. If you don't want to be discriminated against, don't join an organization that has a couple of millenniums of tradition discriminating against your kind. It's a good rule, she should try it.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 1:40 AM on November 21, 2009


"Is this some sort of sexual reference?"
Yep (women were ever associated with water). And a nature/creative reference. And relations between the sexes. And a religious one, where literal interpretation occludes divine apprehension.
And a reference to a misposted comment in an earlier thread. And a comparative religious reference to (directly) a Taoist concept of wisdom (water) which adapts. And a more general mythological reference (Apollo obviously, but there are endless reiterations in myriad cultures worldwide).
And the metaphor of the wall itself as a type of dam for tears (water/wailing) with a kind of invisible wall that is the dam in reality, in this case built by men, with the inversion of men trying to stop women's tears compassionately vs. in this case preventing them taking part in the ritual/metaphoric weeping.
And a historic one with the siege of Titus that led to the destruction of the temple (and this last wall standing) where he allowed people in but not out and dammed the water supply, and too this stopped the flow of the divine presence in the physical world.
And a poetic one (generally - but Sir Walter Raleigh specifically The Nymph's reply "Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses - Thy cap, thy kirtle (in this case thy tallit), and thy posies - Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten- In folly ripe, in reason rotten. Thy belt of straw and ivy buds - Thy coral clasps and amber studs - All these in me no means can move - To come to thee and be thy love.)
Y'know, unity baby and the stopping of it.

...too arch? Ah, it was just a thought really. I suppose one could stretch it to some sort of menstruation thing, but I wasn't aiming for lowbrow.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:53 AM on November 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is ridiculous that in a Jewish state that is supposedly democratic, women cannot pray the way they want to ...

What a silly comment from Rabbi Felicia Sol. In fact the world's most famous egalitarian Orthodox Jewish synagogue is in Jerusalem, not that far from the Kotel. Besides Shira Hadasha there are of course Israeli Reform or Conservative congregations, including the one that Nofrat Frenkel belongs to.

What she means is that she wants egalitarian prayer services at the Kotel. I'm not unsympathetic to her wishes, but as it happens the Kotel is an Orthodox synagogue and it is run the way its rabbi (State appointed, but still) wants. Similarly, she can't lead prayer services at the other site of Jewish religious significance a few feet away - because it's a mosque and the people that run it wouldn't let her. Part of living in a democracy is accepting the fact that individual rights exist within a framework of balance and compromise, and that you don't get everything you want.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:09 AM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm not unsympathetic to her wishes, but as it happens the Kotel is an Orthodox synagogue and it is run the way its rabbi (State appointed, but still) wants. [...] Part of living in a democracy is accepting the fact that individual rights exist within a framework of balance and compromise, and that you don't get everything you want.

Yeah, hurry up and accept that women are lesser to men! Framework of balance! Compromise! DEMOCRACY!
posted by autoclavicle at 4:49 AM on November 21, 2009


"Don't try to change the status quo or to seek justice and equality: this is the way it's always been, and this is the way it should be."

Fair point if it wasn't for the fact that in this case we're talking about a organization that claims it represent the eternal truth that didn't even spring from human discourse in the first place. We're talking about the very organization we got the expression "written in stone" from.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 5:01 AM on November 21, 2009


kotel it on the mountain,
over the hill and everywhere
kotel it on the mountain
to let my people go
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 AM on November 21, 2009


Fair point if it wasn't for the fact that in this case we're talking about a organization that claims it represent the eternal truth that didn't even spring from human discourse in the first place.

I sincerely hope you don't think that your little interpretation holds any clout, because it doesn't. If it did, the only Judaism you would see would be the one that existed prior to 1840.
posted by autoclavicle at 5:25 AM on November 21, 2009


And the restriction of Judaism to mean one form of Judaism in Israel is the main reason I refuse to visit. I still don't understand why Reform Jews (and the organizations) in North America financially support Israel, given everything: why are you supporting a country which says that you're not real, that you can't perform conversions or marriages?

It doesn't "just so happen" that the Kotel is under control of the Chief Rabbinate, which doesn't "just so happen" to be Orthodox. Those two decisions are no less political than any of the things that the Women of the Wall do.
posted by jeather at 6:06 AM on November 21, 2009


Meanwhile, in godless Great Britain, a great rebbe preserves the sanctity of Jewish masculinity.

I realize you're being sarcastic, but feel obligated to say that he's not preserving anything. What's happened to that man is truly awful, and entirely of his own doing. His wife died of cancer and he seems to have reacted by spiraling onto a severely self-destructive path. It's sad and tragic.

Rabbis are supposed to be teachers, fallible and entirely human. Jews (with the exception of some fundamentalist sects) rarely believe their rabbis are morally superior to their flocks. They are expected to hold to a higher standard. They are supposed to be more educated and wiser about Jewish issues, spirituality and dilemmas. But no more than that.
posted by zarq at 7:01 AM on November 21, 2009


"It is ridiculous that in a Jewish state that is supposedly democratic, women cannot pray the way they want to and only one definition of Judaism is accepted," said [Rabbi Felicia Sol, of the B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, who also said] that the attempt to read from the Torah was an experiment with "pushing the boundaries."

In full disclosure, I'm a member at BJ and a big fan of Rabbi Sol, but I agree with some of the above posters that her issue isn't really with whether Israel is democratic so much as whether it's egalitarian. In the U.S. we tend to conflate these two ideas, but really they're often in opposition, e.g. the way that gay marriage continues to be struck down by majority vote in many states. The idea of a tolerant all-encompassing religion is a beautiful one but not expressly democratic.

It's also possible that her point is that the Ultra-Orthodox community wields a disproportionate amount of political power, and that if the laws in Israel truly reflected the will of the people then women wouldn't be so systematically marginalized. I think this is what you were saying, yiftach, but I don't see how this makes her ignorant of the political reality of Israel--if anything it seems like you're on the same page. If the government of Israel doesn't actually represent the people's desires because of undue special interests, then it's not truly a democracy. The analogue in the U.S., I suppose, would be the influence that lobbyists have in our political process, but it's hard to know where you draw the line between "passionate advocacy" and "disproportionate influence."
posted by albrecht at 8:20 AM on November 21, 2009


What I do like about Jews:don't like
one way there are other places ...
reform,conservative. In some religion (cults if you
will)you are right or out.
But then most of my jewish freinds
are seclular--Jews sans god

posted by Postroad


I count more than 17 syllables.
posted by gman at 8:48 AM on November 21, 2009


I count more than 17 syllables.

What confuses me is that they were able to use line-breaks (and English) as normal in their second post on this thread, but in that first post, everything just sort of went to hell.
posted by autoclavicle at 9:15 AM on November 21, 2009


[few comments removed - can folks please be decent or possibly take a walk? thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:22 AM on November 21, 2009


To be able to count that high is a very nice accomplisghmebnt!

note: I tapped out that brief note on ITouch, while watching tv...blame Steve Jobs.
posted by Postroad at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2009


and what did you type your last comment out on?
posted by gman at 2:36 PM on November 21, 2009


Oy, so what happened in here? Too many active reagents in the flask?

But what about the second half of the FPP and the harder/more important questions? There, non-Orthodox women are becoming empowered by occupying roles traditionally reserved for men. On the other side:

"men's decreased interest in Jews and Judaism walks hand in hand with apathy toward creating Jewish households and raising Jewish children."

So Judaism is becoming polarized in several directions -- between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox, and in the non-Orthodox, between the women, who are assuming leadership roles, and the men, who are leaving.

According to WP 52% of Amercian Jews are atheist/agnostic. So when I look at the breakdown of streams of Jewish religious affiliation:

"Conservative Judaism remained the largest Jewish denomination in America, with 43 percent of Jewish households affiliated with a synagogue belonging to Conservative synagogues (compared to 35 percent for Reform and 16 percent for Orthodox.)" (1990)

I'm not sure how to interpret the final totals, but it looks like assimilation is the biggest problem for Jewish faith in America, and family-oriented men another. This would seem to leave the high-reproduction-rate Orthodox less vulnerable to accelerating secular attrition.
posted by psyche7 at 2:57 PM on November 21, 2009


I can't help but read the post title to the tune of "You All Everybody" from Driveshaft (oh, Charlie, how we miss you). I don't know if that was the intent, but I'm going to be singing "Kotel everybody! Kotel everybody!" all day.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:03 AM on November 22, 2009


"If the government of Israel doesn't actually represent the people's desires because of undue special interests, then it's not truly a democracy. The analogue in the U.S., I suppose, would be the influence that lobbyists have in our political process, but it's hard to know where you draw the line between "passionate advocacy" and "disproportionate influence.""

The Federalist Papers describe that as "factionalism," and the authors believed it would be the single greatest threat to America.
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 PM on November 22, 2009


« Older Killer Clothes and Fine Cuisine   |   DIY Forge Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post