Dear parents, shnattim, bogrim, bogrot, communities and friends shalom rav,
We hope you are well!
This week has been the first "real" week of both Etgar and Machon- no more orientations and preparations- now it is the real thing. Without a doubt, one of the most powerful events that took place was the Woman of The Wall (WOW) Rosh Chodesh prayer at the Kotel. A lot of our shnattim attended that and had so much to say about it, that two of them wrote articles about it- below. The rest I will leave for the shnattim to tell :)
Our sages said "משנכנס אדר, מרבין בשמחה", meaning- as the Hebrew month of Adar begins, we must rejoice. May this month be a joyous one, with a lot of happy events for us all.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom!
Weekly update by Elinor Knox and Mili Haber
Weekly update by Abraham Rosa
Machon L’Madrichei Chutz LaAretz News flash:
This week was officially week 1 of the official Machon weekly class tochnit (schedule). The following is said to have occurred.
/Leadership Class: we decided upon the class environment and later revised a formula for learning from case studies of our past leadership mistakes.
/Hebrew Class: we learned about travel or the aleph bet.
/Zionism and Israeli Society: We examined the histories of our own personal Zionism and discussed when Zionism really began.
/Some of us had the eye opening experience of attending or standing vigilant at the Women of the Wall Rosh Chodesh service at the Kotel Ha'Ma'aravi, which can be read about in the below articles.
/Jewish studies: As well as evaluating our experiences at the Women of the Wall, we the learned about the history of Judaism and discussed our opinions of the relative importance of significant events, or considered demographics of Jewish denominations and the effects of the societies of each denomination on growth and decline rates of their populations.
/Yom Tnua: We ditched Hebrew Class to drive with Etgar up to the Michve Alon training base in the Galilee to see Sharon (alumna of Shnat Ma'ayan) graduate basic training. Unfortunately, we missed it. The ceremony. Its entirety. Sharon gave us a short tour of the base after we enquired at length about making Aliyah and doing national service. I look forward to learning more of her experiences later on her journey.
/Global Studies: We considered the merits of being a global citizen and reflected on global issues affecting our generation, or pondered what exactly gender is and explored the experiences a transgender Hasidic woman, or worked on reigniting our own creativity.
/Yom Yisrael: We went on a tour of the City of David, exploring and learning the history of its subterranean tunnels. Following this we investigated the archaeology and architecture of the south western sections of the temple walls. The day was capped off by a visit to the Kotel.
/Netzer Track: We spent the day with just our Machon mandem. In the morning we studied an excerpt by Amos Oz on the Talmud’s Baba Mezi’a 59b, as well as the The Jews by Yehuda Amochai, and a letter to the Christian prince of Braunschweigwolfenbuettel from Moses Mendelssohn defending his Jewish faith. In the afternoon we explored our Judaism with the charismatic Rabbi Michael Kline-katz; Rabbi by day, Medical Clown also by day. Who taught us with enrapturing Talmudic stories and educated us on the history of reform Judaism.
/Oscars® in the evening: Recording our own short films in a variety of genres, we dressed up in grand attire for the big night.
Weekly update by the Machon staff
It has been a fascinating and inspiring start to Machzor 129. As we all know this is a small year. This has presented us with lots of opportunities forc developing the group as a productive learning community and an intimate space for both personal growth, and ideological exploration.
The first few days were spent down at the educational community of Nitzana. Here we had an exhilarating 3 days of getting to know each other, bike riding in the desert, cooking our own dinner outside and team building. Back in Jerusalem the guys spent the rest of week getting orientated in their new surroundings, and choosing courses for the program.
For the whole of week two the group participated in a new educational “lift-off” seminar, which saw us delve into the topics of the Machon in different ways, introducing them to the style of learning and experiential tone of what is to come. We opened up ideas about Israel, Leadership, Jewish identity and community, along with passionate discussion about how much we love our movements and care about their success. We spent the day on Tuesday exploring different communities in Jerusalem and hearing stories from local people about the city, their lives and aspirations, whilst considering what type of community we are building here for this machzor.
Since the machoniks have arrived they have been empowered to get involved and run programs for each other, inspiring vibrant and energizing discussions. In addition everyone has been given the opportunity to present ideas in small groups, whilst committees have been formed to prepare and run programming for future shabbatot, haggim and other special days. As we begin the new week here and the next stage of the program, spirits and motivations are high. We are really looking forward to continuing our work together!
Ilan and the Machon team
Simon Lipson: Rosh Havura
Dana Rainsbury: Rosh Havura
Netta Kruger: Madricha
Roni Ben Zikry: Madricha
Why do you care how I pray?
Today was the first day of a new month on the Jewish calendar. I attended an early morning service run by Women of the Wall at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem. I went to actively push for gender equality and freedom of religious expression that I believe is just. But also today the Kotel was inundated with protesters against Women of the Wall. The experience has left me feeling deeply connected to and somewhat ashamed of Judaism.
I’ve only been to the Kotel once before and I chose to pray at the egalitarian section. All of the services I attend at home are mixed, and I believe that gender shouldn’t obstruct or affect religious expression. I was taken aback by the size of the women’s section of the Kotel; it’s less than a quarter the space of the men’s section and is obstructed by a large footbridge overhead. The newly established egalitarian section of the Kotel is 3 or 4 minutes walk beyond the women’s section, through another security check and a set of uneven stairs. This section is 10 metres below the rest of the plaza, cold and empty. No prayer books and no chairs are provided, quite unlike the set up in the men’s section.
So this morning I returned to pray at the Western Wall with around 20 other students (from Netzer Australia and England, Habonim Dror South Africa and Noam Masorti England) to observe the new moon, a time traditionally associated with women. We woke up much earlier than we usually do for a day of classes and made our way to the old city. We were, surprisingly, the first people to gather. We were stopped by a security guard from entering the main women’s section and redirected. We thought this was his own form of protest, but it turned out to be a prior arrangement with the organisers of the Women of the Wall. The designated space for our service was barred by 2 layers of a metal barrier: to both separate and protect us from the orthodox women in the women’s section.
To get into this section where we were allowed to pray, we had to push through walls of Orthodox girls who were shoving and yelling at us. We waited for the leaders of Women of the Wall to arrive and were told by an American man that there was nothing the Security could do to prevent us from praying in the way that we felt was right and authentic. In contrast, an Orthodox woman directed us to the egalitarian section and screamed at us in Hebrew that we are a shame to Judaism and to women.
According to traditional Jewish law (Halacha) women are not permitted to read from the Torah (bible), wear Tallitot (prayer shawl), or Kippot (skull cap), religious expressions permitted to men. Reform Jews believe in egalitarian practice and therefore women may choose to participate in all ways. The Western Wall is regarded as perhaps the most holy Jewish site on Earth. Jews come from all around the Diaspora to pray and leave notes for God within the cracks of this enormous outer wall of Herod’s temple, which has endured the hardships of the Jewish people since 19 BCE. Women of the Wall is an organisation, headed by Anat Hoffman, which aims to bring equality of access to the Wall. They run services at the commencement of each month at the Wall and also offer a Bat Mitzvah. These women bring Tallitot, Torah and Tefillin to the Wall in order to show that women can also practice their Judaism as they choose. I went to the service to actively participate in something important to me and my movement.
Today I was exhilarated, excited, and slightly terrified. I was tired from the early wake up, nervous that we wouldn’t be able to sneak our tallitot through the security, hungry because we didn’t eat before leaving the flat and quite concerned that we’d be detained or arrested. Our program directors’ only instructions for going to the service were: “Enter through Zion Gate, and don’t get arrested or detained!”.
Once our service started the women’s section began to fill up, not only with people coming to pray, but also women coming to protest against us. Women from age 10 to 70 were screaming at us while we were peacefully trying to pray. One woman (around 60) was wearing a piece of fabric fashioned like a cape, with the words “We are the women of the wall. You are not real women” and was blowing a whistle as loud as she could for the entirety of our service. Women stopped their praying to take photos of us, stare, scream and cry. One woman screamed at the top of her lungs what seemed to some of us to be a bird call but was probably just an attempt to make as much noise as possible to drown us out. At one point, the men brought out giant speakers and the leader of the men’s service used a microphone so that I couldn’t hear our cantor who was standing less than a metre away from me. I was astounded that these people, men and women, so dedicated to religion, preferred to stare, scream and interrupt a peaceful, unobtrusive service because it was lead by a woman wearing a tallit.
Not all of my group were female. Some of the boys came with us to support us while we prayed. They were met with incredibly harsh criticism from Orthodox men. One of my friends was asked if he was transgender, one had a cigarette stubbed out on him. They were pushed, shoved and yelled at while standing outside our designated prayer sections. I felt immense pride when we walked out and the cheers of our boys were louder than the screams of the orthodox men. They worked with security guards and IDF soldiers to protect us from these aggressive men and women.T
he Kotel should be a place of peace. A place for Jews to pray, regardless of what stream they align with and regardless of gender. This should not be a place of hatred, prejudice and fear. It’s not about the wall itself, but about practising my religion in a way that is meaningful for me and combatting the inequality that exists in Judaism. I felt that I was really helping to make change. I know for sure that I never felt so connected to Judaism and to being a woman as I did this Rosh Hodesh morning.
We are women — hear us pray
By Emma Jacobs, Shnat Netzer Nof participant
Today one of the holiest sights in Jerusalem was engulfed in protest. It helped me connect with religion in a way I never have before. I’ve never felt a spark at the Kotel. Maybe a bit numb or judged but never special. At the little, hidden enclave that is Robinson’s Arch (the egalitarian section) I usually feel semi- acceptable but never respected or enough. As a woman, I’ve always had to dress according to how the religious rabbinate who control the Kotel want me to. To pray quietly and not exist loudly.
That changed when I attended my first Rosh Chodesh (Adar) with Women of the Wall (WOW). 19 years old and away from London for the year I had no idea what was coming my way.
Along with other gap year kids from South Africa, Australia and the UK around 20 of us headed down to the old city en masse- donned out in chultzot (youth movement shirts) with heads full of concerned comments from parents back home. We weren’t sure if we were more scared of the risk of getting detained/ beaten up or being late for class. But we knew we needed to take this risk to fight for our right to pray.
Arriving at quarter to seven in the morning still blurry eyed and hungry we were met with a lovely pat down by security. Unsure if we could take tallitot (prayer shawls) in we contemplated a technique picked up from club nights- stuffing the contraband object in our skinny jeans. However, instead of water bottles full of carefully decanted cheap vodka our rebellion involved sneaking in prayer paraphernalia. Thankfully we got the tallitot in but only after a slightly violating and incredibly degrading security search. None of the men got searched.
We were then led towards a kettled in area where you couldn’t touch the Kotel. We thought we were being screwed over by security but it was, unfortunately, the best compromise the leaders of WOW were able to come to. There was a small piece of Torah and several tallitot/ teffilin bought in. A bat mitzvah also took place but the girl looked terrified. It must be hard to celebrate coming of age in the middle of a protest.There were also allies on the other side of the mechitzah (separation wall). When we first arrived an American man helped us as security were reluctant to even let us in to our kettled spot. We had to walk through a wall of shouting, insulting, pushing girls around our age who’d been carted in from seminaries around the country to counter our prayer with shrill noise and a pinch of xenophobia.
Once inside our tiny, isolated spot patrolled by security guards (partially for our protection, partially to contain us) the abuse increased. Some religious men had bought a speaker to drown out our voices. Women had bought whistles that have left my ears ringing hours later and made it hard to follow the cantor. Everyone bought some horrid slurs to the party.
I was told by a charming woman (who’d brought along her child) that she’d “rip the nose piercing off your (my) face”. She also told me that “Jews did not die in gas chambers “for us ‘lesbians’ to pray like this. Anat Hoffman told me the woman was a ‘taliban Haredi woman’. A rare and unpleasant breed. Another woman screamed “missionaaaaries” at us for the whole of shacharit (morning prayer service) and I’m still not entirely sure what she meant by it. My friend on the men’s side had a cigarette put out on him. He said it was ok and he felt worse for us. I guess a cigarette burn heals faster than social inequality.
My time at the kotel was simultaneously the most liberated and oppressed I’ve ever felt. It showed all the divides within Israeli society. Liberalism vs social conservatism. Government vs rabbinette. The only consistency was elitism which came out in its full form- within gender and religion. We managed to compete the double whammy of offensiveness, being female and wanting to pray out loud.
I’m not sorry our peaceful teffilah (prayer) got in the way of your speakers, whistles and slurs. I’m not sorry our smiles and relief at finally learning what it is like to be a religious Jewish man countered you calling us Hitler.
At the end of the service the security, IDF and male allies created a path for us as the ‘righteous’ tried to attack and literally crush us. Walking next to two other girls from UK youth movements, behind two leaders of women of the wall, singing a beautiful song of prayer, I got a taste of what it is to be an equal within your religion. And boy did equality seem sweet.
Hundreds of Orthodox protesters try to block Women of the Wall service
Progressive Jewish women held a prayer service at the Western Wall on Monday in defiance of hundreds of Orthodox men and women who attempted to disrupt the event.
Several hundred female seminary students, primarily from religious Zionist schools, attempted to block the women, who carried Torah scrolls to pray at the holy site for their monthly service. Many hundreds of male students standing in the men’s section of the plaza attempted to drown out the women’s prayers.
Some 150 women of the Women of the Wall group congregated at the women’s prayer section at the wall to celebrate the beginning of the Jewish month of Adar with prayer, songs and reading from a Torah scroll. One girl also celebrated her bat mitzvah during the service. Their entrance to the plaza was blocked by a chain of religious women, which police broke up so that the service could take place. Police also erected barriers to protect the Women of the Wall, confining them to a small area and preventing them from praying up against the wall itself.
Members of the Women of the Wall movement hold a monthly prayer service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, February 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
While the women’s service was taking place, men in the men’s section of the plaza shouted and cursed them. One man prayed through a microphone, making it difficult for the women to hear their own service.
The women said they were also jostled and verbally abused, with people whistling and yelling at them.
One Women of the Wall activist, Rabbi Susan Silverman, tweeted that they were targeted by a “mob of mean black hats,” adding that “people who ‘know’ God’s will and enforce that in civil law and violence are fascist idolaters.”
Rabbis from the ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist communities called on students to come to the Western Wall to protest. They included a former chief rabbi of Jerusalem’s Old City, Avigdor Nebenzahl; the main spiritual adviser to the Shas party, Rabbi Shalom Cohen; Rabbi Haim Druckman, the head of Bnei Akiva yeshivas; and Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
The student protesters came from across the country and, after the prayers were completed, attended specially arranged classes in the Jewish Quarter, the religious news site Srugim reported.Last month a High Court ruling ordered the immediate halt of the practice of searching women on their way into the Western Wall plaza for ritual items such as Torah scrolls, and gave the state 30 days to find “good cause” why a woman may not read aloud from a Torah scroll as part of prayer services at the Western Wall.
Also last month, the Shas party proposed a bill that would define the entire area as a holy site governed under the same definitions of religious practice and law set by Israel’s rabbinic courts and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Prayer services would thus be limited solely to state-approved Orthodox practice.
Members of the Women of the Wall movement hold a monthly prayer service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem Old City, February 27, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
HUC- JIR - SPRING OPEN HOUSE
THIS ONE YOU SHOULD BE AT!!
In the Parashat Hashavu'a corner, we will direct you to the World Union for Progressive Judaism's column "Torah from around the world", where each week another Progressive Rabbi writes about the weekly portion. For this week's portion click here.
Could not be prouder!!!
Not only are our Shnat Netzer Nof participants AMAZING (and know how to write and reflect on their experiences!!), but also, Sharon Patrizia, a Shnat Ma'ayan bogeret (graduate) completed her IDF Hebrew course as the honorary soldeir of the group!!!
SO SO PROUD!!!
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,
Lior and the Netzer staff
This may be the first weekly update you receive directly from us, and is part of our goal to have more direct and open communication with all our partners in this program
if you think there is anyone else that should receive this weekly updates, please send me their details
As always, the local Netzer Branch is always there for you as well