Religious Pluralism at the Western Wall

Background

In 1990, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism affirmed by resolution that religious pluralism is essential to Jewish unity, that the Western Wall in Jerusalem is a cherished holy place for all Jews of all shades of belief, and that women have the right to worship at the Western Wall free from intimidation and harassment.

Since then, Women of the Wall (a pluralistic group of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform women), along with the Masorti and Reform movements and other progressive organizations, have struggled for women’s right to pray at the Western Wall with tallit and tefillin and read the Torah, and perform ritual celebrations such as lighting a Hanukkiah.

Women’s prayer at the Western Wall is governed by “local custom” as defined by the government appointed ultra-Orthodox Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites.

In January 2016, the Israeli government approved a negotiated plan (Mandelblit Plan) for a third, pluralistic and equal section of the Western Wall.  Unlike the current orthodox controlled separate men and women’s sections, this new section would be a prayer space accommodating both egalitarian and women’s prayer.

Whereas, the Mandelblit Plan has been approved by the Conservative/Masorti Movement, Reform Movement, Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Women of the Wall; and

Whereas, the Netanyahu government has not implemented the plan and has been rebuked by the Supreme Court of Israel for this failure; and

Whereas, women seeking to join in egalitarian prayer and celebration at the Western Wall continue to suffer harassment, assault and arrest,

Therefore, be it resolved that Women’s League for Conservative Judaism believes that:

  1. The government of Israel should act to implement the Mandelblit Plan swiftly and without further delay;
  2. This plan for progressive and egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall represents a positive step toward inclusiveness and recognition of the legitimacy of Masorti Judaism and other progressive movements of Judaism in Israel;
  3. This plan represents empowerment of Jewish women in Israel as they seek to lift their spiritual voices and express meaningful Jewish identities, a goal shared by Jewish women in the Diaspora;
  4. Limiting, by government action or nonfeasance, Jewish women’s right to pray at Judaism’s holiest site is a violation of civil and human rights and the right to religious freedom.