Women of the Wall

Women of the Wall, or Nashot Hakotel, is a group of Israeli women from multiple Jewish denominations, joined by Jewish women from around the world, who strive to achieve the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.

Location: Jerusalem
Year founded: 1988

Description

For 27 years, Women of the Wall have been the leaders in fighting for gender equality at the Western Wall. Through our efforts we advocate for, educate, and empower women to define their religious identities.  

The mission of Women of the Wall is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (the Kotel) - one of Judaism’s most holy sites and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty.

Grant awards would help us continue with our mission to compel the government of Israel to allow all female worshipers to practice according to their own custom at the Western Wall. 


Claiming What's Ours

About

“Claiming What’s Ours” emphatically asserts that despite the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel - which insists that women pray only by ultra-Orthodox norms - there is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women access to Jewish learning, leadership and public involvement. With WOW’s encouragement, women are empowered to find fulfillment in their spiritual lives which has ripple effects personally and societally. In this way, women claim what is rightfully theirs.


Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Women of the Wall is deeply rooted in Jewish feminism. By focusing on creating social change, WOW works tirelessly for equality and justice - the heart of the matter. There is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women’s full participation in Jewish ritual. The prohibitions at the Kotel are a way for religiously extreme men to maintain control. Women are forced to be silent and to worship by specific ultra-Orthodox rules, thereby making women second-class Jews.

Women, when encouraged to participate in Jewish tradition and ritual, reach new spiritual levels. Leading prayers, wearing tallit and tefillin wrapped around their shoulders, arm, hand and head and proximity to the Torah scroll and reading from it, add powerful dimensions to prayer.

Like anything that brings joy and meaning to one’s life, the ability to fully participate in ritual through empowerment is very moving. Constantly increasing numbers of women, from all streams of Judaism, ages, occupations, walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, have joined WOW's struggle for complete equality at the Kotel.

WOW understands that women’s spiritual needs and desires are no lesser than men’s. WOW caters specifically to fulfill women’s religious and spiritual needs at the holiest site to all Jews and thus influence social change.

Back to Top

Program Description

The programming aspects of “Claiming What’s Ours” include:

  • engaging Israeli women/girls to participate fully in religious rituals;
  • creating easily-accessible educational materials for social media platforms;
  • sponsoring unique holiday events for women;
  • expanding audiences for lectures and interactive seminars to various demographic groups;
  • assisting groups with transportation to attend WOW’s prayer services to worship with like-minded women;
  • sponsoring a kiosk in public space whereby use of tallit and tefillin is demonstrated and practiced;
  • mobilization and encouragement of teenage girls and women of all ages to become Bat Mitzvah or to have an Aliyah to the Torah either at a WOW service or another religious venue.

Beneficiaries of "Claiming What's Ours" are women and girls from Israel and the Diaspora.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

The Western Wall, which is a public holy site in Israel, has been turned into an ultra-Orthodox-style synagogue ruled by a group of religiously extreme men who are imposing their brand of Judaism and rigid rules on all who visit.

WOW aims to change the existing situation: the Western Wall Heritage Foundation which controls the Kotel, prevents women from praying according to their own traditions and expression - with kippot, prayer shawls and with a Torah scroll. Men are allowed complete freedom of expression on their side of the Kotel, yet women are denied the same right.

The male-dominated monopoly at the Kotel is a result of the interwoven bond between State and religion in Israel. This relationship has tremendous repercussions on women’s rights – especially the silencing of women in the public sphere. Through in-depth education and outreach, WOW does consciousness-raising about this inequality and garners support for much needed change.

All Israeli schoolchildren visit the Kotel on field trips. They cannot avoid the male, ultra-Orthodox dominance of the site. They encounter boys celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs with music, singing and dancing with the Torah. On the women’s side, all they encounter is eerie silence because women are forbidden to pray as a group. Women are not allowed to pray out loud and to sing at all. This disparity is supported by governmental authorization, and this vision becomes ingrained in the children’s psyche, such that they do not see the injustice. This is the status quo that the children observe and absorb: men boisterously praying and rejoicing, while women are silenced and denied the opportunity to pray freely, of their own expression. As a result, the discrimination at Judaism’s most sacred site filters into Israeli society and becomes the norm.

In August 2016, WOW hired a Director of Education and Community Outreach to execute a plan to engage and empower Israeli women and girls in order to present a new reality: equality at the Kotel. The educational plan raises awareness and creates lasting relationships with Israeli women and girls. Our work encourages participation in the WOW community (kehillah), as well as other religious communities, to enrich and expand their religious horizons.

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

Women of the Wall has achieved tremendous success over the past three decades, but the struggle still continues.

The group began as a small prayer group of 10-15 women 28 years ago and now hosts 150 women per month at Rosh Hodesh prayer services. WOW also offers opportunities for women to participate in ritual throughout the year by sponsoring programs at the Western Wall, in the women’s section, at Selichot, Hanukkah and Purim.

WOW has paved the way for women to wear tallit and tefillin at the Western Wall without women being arrested. This is being put to the test, however; recently a Knesset member proposed a bill that would make worship that is not of the ultra-Orthodox tradition a crime punishable by jail time or a hefty fine. Though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of WOW’s freedom of expression, as far back as 2013, the situation remains precarious.

WOW has become a social media powerhouse, with a support base that has exponentially grown because of its web presence. WOW reaches upwards of 40,000 people through social media platforms. WOW recently upgraded its website to include countless educational resources. WOW has active Facebook pages (both English and Hebrew) utilizes for live-streaming and constant updates, content generation. WOW has Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat accounts.

WOW can often be found in the print media, on television and on radio as well, representing women’s rights in Judaism and an inspiration to women of other religious who wish for progress. Almost no week will pass without exposure via interviews or exposes on our work. Most recently, WOW was featured on CNN’s “Believer” with religion scholar Reza Aslan, a major investigative report which focused, in this particular episode, on the uncomfortable and undemocratic bond between religion and state in Israel.

WOW also played a very significant role in the landmark government agreement passed on January 31, 2016 whereby the Israeli government promised to create a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall. WOW was a partner in the negotiations with the Reform and Conservative movements in North America and Israel, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America. Although the agreement has not yet been implemented due to inexplicable delays by the Israeli government, WOW actively participates in constant petitions to the Supreme Court to force the government to fulfill the agreement and stand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words that Israel will be a place which “welcomes all Jews.”

WOW has become a powerful international movement over the past 28 years, making massive impact Israel and the Jewish community. It has tremendous name recognition and is highly respected for its educational efforts in the realm of achieving equal rights for women at Judaism’s holiest site.


Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

Evaluation of “Claiming What’s Ours” will include:

• Review of every Rosh Hodesh service by WOW staff and attending Board members to consider modifications for the following month;

• Accurate recording of number of attendees at all programs;

• Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of WOW’s holiday celebrations and activities by staff and volunteers;

• Review of each Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Kotel to determine means to improve the experience from training to implementation;

• Regularly scheduled monitoring of WOW's social media outlets, tracking number of followers and online reactions to WOW's postings;

• Tracking of lecture and seminar data (number of attendees, demographics, location).

The data and results analyzed by staff and board will guide WOW’s subsequent efforts and determine the scope of WOW’s activities, focusing on creating personal connection to the struggle, encouraging participation and helping participants feel their actions will bring about successful change.

Back to Top

Claiming What's Ours

About

“Claiming What’s Ours” emphatically asserts that despite the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel - which insists that women pray only by ultra-Orthodox norms - there is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women access to Jewish learning, leadership and public involvement. With WOW’s encouragement, women are empowered to find fulfillment in their spiritual lives which has ripple effects personally and societally. In this way, women claim what is rightfully theirs.


Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Women of the Wall is deeply rooted in Jewish feminism. By focusing on creating social change, WOW works tirelessly for equality and justice - the heart of the matter. There is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women’s full participation in Jewish ritual. The prohibitions at the Kotel are a way for religiously extreme men to maintain control. Women are forced to be silent and to worship by specific ultra-Orthodox rules, thereby making women second-class Jews.

Women, when encouraged to participate in Jewish tradition and ritual, reach new spiritual levels. Leading prayers, wearing tallit and tefillin wrapped around their shoulders, arm, hand and head and proximity to the Torah scroll and reading from it, add powerful dimensions to prayer.

Like anything that brings joy and meaning to one’s life, the ability to fully participate in ritual through empowerment is very moving. Constantly increasing numbers of women, from all streams of Judaism, ages, occupations, walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, have joined WOW's struggle for complete equality at the Kotel.

WOW understands that women’s spiritual needs and desires are no lesser than men’s. WOW caters specifically to fulfill women’s religious and spiritual needs at the holiest site to all Jews and thus influence social change.

Back to Top

Program Description

The programming aspects of “Claiming What’s Ours” include:

  • engaging Israeli women/girls to participate fully in religious rituals;
  • creating easily-accessible educational materials for social media platforms;
  • sponsoring unique holiday events for women;
  • expanding audiences for lectures and interactive seminars to various demographic groups;
  • assisting groups with transportation to attend WOW’s prayer services to worship with like-minded women;
  • sponsoring a kiosk in public space whereby use of tallit and tefillin is demonstrated and practiced;
  • mobilization and encouragement of teenage girls and women of all ages to become Bat Mitzvah or to have an Aliyah to the Torah either at a WOW service or another religious venue.

Beneficiaries of "Claiming What's Ours" are women and girls from Israel and the Diaspora.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

The Western Wall, which is a public holy site in Israel, has been turned into an ultra-Orthodox-style synagogue ruled by a group of religiously extreme men who are imposing their brand of Judaism and rigid rules on all who visit.

WOW aims to change the existing situation: the Western Wall Heritage Foundation which controls the Kotel, prevents women from praying according to their own traditions and expression - with kippot, prayer shawls and with a Torah scroll. Men are allowed complete freedom of expression on their side of the Kotel, yet women are denied the same right.

The male-dominated monopoly at the Kotel is a result of the interwoven bond between State and religion in Israel. This relationship has tremendous repercussions on women’s rights – especially the silencing of women in the public sphere. Through in-depth education and outreach, WOW does consciousness-raising about this inequality and garners support for much needed change.

All Israeli schoolchildren visit the Kotel on field trips. They cannot avoid the male, ultra-Orthodox dominance of the site. They encounter boys celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs with music, singing and dancing with the Torah. On the women’s side, all they encounter is eerie silence because women are forbidden to pray as a group. Women are not allowed to pray out loud and to sing at all. This disparity is supported by governmental authorization, and this vision becomes ingrained in the children’s psyche, such that they do not see the injustice. This is the status quo that the children observe and absorb: men boisterously praying and rejoicing, while women are silenced and denied the opportunity to pray freely, of their own expression. As a result, the discrimination at Judaism’s most sacred site filters into Israeli society and becomes the norm.

In August 2016, WOW hired a Director of Education and Community Outreach to execute a plan to engage and empower Israeli women and girls in order to present a new reality: equality at the Kotel. The educational plan raises awareness and creates lasting relationships with Israeli women and girls. Our work encourages participation in the WOW community (kehillah), as well as other religious communities, to enrich and expand their religious horizons.

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

Women of the Wall has achieved tremendous success over the past three decades, but the struggle still continues.

The group began as a small prayer group of 10-15 women 28 years ago and now hosts 150 women per month at Rosh Hodesh prayer services. WOW also offers opportunities for women to participate in ritual throughout the year by sponsoring programs at the Western Wall, in the women’s section, at Selichot, Hanukkah and Purim.

WOW has paved the way for women to wear tallit and tefillin at the Western Wall without women being arrested. This is being put to the test, however; recently a Knesset member proposed a bill that would make worship that is not of the ultra-Orthodox tradition a crime punishable by jail time or a hefty fine. Though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of WOW’s freedom of expression, as far back as 2013, the situation remains precarious.

WOW has become a social media powerhouse, with a support base that has exponentially grown because of its web presence. WOW reaches upwards of 40,000 people through social media platforms. WOW recently upgraded its website to include countless educational resources. WOW has active Facebook pages (both English and Hebrew) utilizes for live-streaming and constant updates, content generation. WOW has Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat accounts.

WOW can often be found in the print media, on television and on radio as well, representing women’s rights in Judaism and an inspiration to women of other religious who wish for progress. Almost no week will pass without exposure via interviews or exposes on our work. Most recently, WOW was featured on CNN’s “Believer” with religion scholar Reza Aslan, a major investigative report which focused, in this particular episode, on the uncomfortable and undemocratic bond between religion and state in Israel.

WOW also played a very significant role in the landmark government agreement passed on January 31, 2016 whereby the Israeli government promised to create a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall. WOW was a partner in the negotiations with the Reform and Conservative movements in North America and Israel, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America. Although the agreement has not yet been implemented due to inexplicable delays by the Israeli government, WOW actively participates in constant petitions to the Supreme Court to force the government to fulfill the agreement and stand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words that Israel will be a place which “welcomes all Jews.”

WOW has become a powerful international movement over the past 28 years, making massive impact Israel and the Jewish community. It has tremendous name recognition and is highly respected for its educational efforts in the realm of achieving equal rights for women at Judaism’s holiest site.


Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

Evaluation of “Claiming What’s Ours” will include:

• Review of every Rosh Hodesh service by WOW staff and attending Board members to consider modifications for the following month;

• Accurate recording of number of attendees at all programs;

• Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of WOW’s holiday celebrations and activities by staff and volunteers;

• Review of each Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Kotel to determine means to improve the experience from training to implementation;

• Regularly scheduled monitoring of WOW's social media outlets, tracking number of followers and online reactions to WOW's postings;

• Tracking of lecture and seminar data (number of attendees, demographics, location).

The data and results analyzed by staff and board will guide WOW’s subsequent efforts and determine the scope of WOW’s activities, focusing on creating personal connection to the struggle, encouraging participation and helping participants feel their actions will bring about successful change.

Back to Top

Claiming What's Ours

About

“Claiming What’s Ours” emphatically asserts that despite the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel - which insists that women pray only by ultra-Orthodox norms - there is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women access to Jewish learning, leadership and public involvement. With WOW’s encouragement, women are empowered to find fulfillment in their spiritual lives which has ripple effects personally and societally. In this way, women claim what is rightfully theirs.


Back to Top

What is the mission and purpose of this program?

Women of the Wall is deeply rooted in Jewish feminism. By focusing on creating social change, WOW works tirelessly for equality and justice - the heart of the matter. There is no halachic (Jewish law) basis for denying women’s full participation in Jewish ritual. The prohibitions at the Kotel are a way for religiously extreme men to maintain control. Women are forced to be silent and to worship by specific ultra-Orthodox rules, thereby making women second-class Jews.

Women, when encouraged to participate in Jewish tradition and ritual, reach new spiritual levels. Leading prayers, wearing tallit and tefillin wrapped around their shoulders, arm, hand and head and proximity to the Torah scroll and reading from it, add powerful dimensions to prayer.

Like anything that brings joy and meaning to one’s life, the ability to fully participate in ritual through empowerment is very moving. Constantly increasing numbers of women, from all streams of Judaism, ages, occupations, walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds, have joined WOW's struggle for complete equality at the Kotel.

WOW understands that women’s spiritual needs and desires are no lesser than men’s. WOW caters specifically to fulfill women’s religious and spiritual needs at the holiest site to all Jews and thus influence social change.

Back to Top

Program Description

The programming aspects of “Claiming What’s Ours” include:

  • engaging Israeli women/girls to participate fully in religious rituals;
  • creating easily-accessible educational materials for social media platforms;
  • sponsoring unique holiday events for women;
  • expanding audiences for lectures and interactive seminars to various demographic groups;
  • assisting groups with transportation to attend WOW’s prayer services to worship with like-minded women;
  • sponsoring a kiosk in public space whereby use of tallit and tefillin is demonstrated and practiced;
  • mobilization and encouragement of teenage girls and women of all ages to become Bat Mitzvah or to have an Aliyah to the Torah either at a WOW service or another religious venue.

Beneficiaries of "Claiming What's Ours" are women and girls from Israel and the Diaspora.

Back to Top

Demonstrated Need

The Western Wall, which is a public holy site in Israel, has been turned into an ultra-Orthodox-style synagogue ruled by a group of religiously extreme men who are imposing their brand of Judaism and rigid rules on all who visit.

WOW aims to change the existing situation: the Western Wall Heritage Foundation which controls the Kotel, prevents women from praying according to their own traditions and expression - with kippot, prayer shawls and with a Torah scroll. Men are allowed complete freedom of expression on their side of the Kotel, yet women are denied the same right.

The male-dominated monopoly at the Kotel is a result of the interwoven bond between State and religion in Israel. This relationship has tremendous repercussions on women’s rights – especially the silencing of women in the public sphere. Through in-depth education and outreach, WOW does consciousness-raising about this inequality and garners support for much needed change.

All Israeli schoolchildren visit the Kotel on field trips. They cannot avoid the male, ultra-Orthodox dominance of the site. They encounter boys celebrating their Bar Mitzvahs with music, singing and dancing with the Torah. On the women’s side, all they encounter is eerie silence because women are forbidden to pray as a group. Women are not allowed to pray out loud and to sing at all. This disparity is supported by governmental authorization, and this vision becomes ingrained in the children’s psyche, such that they do not see the injustice. This is the status quo that the children observe and absorb: men boisterously praying and rejoicing, while women are silenced and denied the opportunity to pray freely, of their own expression. As a result, the discrimination at Judaism’s most sacred site filters into Israeli society and becomes the norm.

In August 2016, WOW hired a Director of Education and Community Outreach to execute a plan to engage and empower Israeli women and girls in order to present a new reality: equality at the Kotel. The educational plan raises awareness and creates lasting relationships with Israeli women and girls. Our work encourages participation in the WOW community (kehillah), as well as other religious communities, to enrich and expand their religious horizons.

Back to Top

Program Accomplishments

Women of the Wall has achieved tremendous success over the past three decades, but the struggle still continues.

The group began as a small prayer group of 10-15 women 28 years ago and now hosts 150 women per month at Rosh Hodesh prayer services. WOW also offers opportunities for women to participate in ritual throughout the year by sponsoring programs at the Western Wall, in the women’s section, at Selichot, Hanukkah and Purim.

WOW has paved the way for women to wear tallit and tefillin at the Western Wall without women being arrested. This is being put to the test, however; recently a Knesset member proposed a bill that would make worship that is not of the ultra-Orthodox tradition a crime punishable by jail time or a hefty fine. Though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of WOW’s freedom of expression, as far back as 2013, the situation remains precarious.

WOW has become a social media powerhouse, with a support base that has exponentially grown because of its web presence. WOW reaches upwards of 40,000 people through social media platforms. WOW recently upgraded its website to include countless educational resources. WOW has active Facebook pages (both English and Hebrew) utilizes for live-streaming and constant updates, content generation. WOW has Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat accounts.

WOW can often be found in the print media, on television and on radio as well, representing women’s rights in Judaism and an inspiration to women of other religious who wish for progress. Almost no week will pass without exposure via interviews or exposes on our work. Most recently, WOW was featured on CNN’s “Believer” with religion scholar Reza Aslan, a major investigative report which focused, in this particular episode, on the uncomfortable and undemocratic bond between religion and state in Israel.

WOW also played a very significant role in the landmark government agreement passed on January 31, 2016 whereby the Israeli government promised to create a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall. WOW was a partner in the negotiations with the Reform and Conservative movements in North America and Israel, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America. Although the agreement has not yet been implemented due to inexplicable delays by the Israeli government, WOW actively participates in constant petitions to the Supreme Court to force the government to fulfill the agreement and stand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words that Israel will be a place which “welcomes all Jews.”

WOW has become a powerful international movement over the past 28 years, making massive impact Israel and the Jewish community. It has tremendous name recognition and is highly respected for its educational efforts in the realm of achieving equal rights for women at Judaism’s holiest site.


Back to Top

How do you measure the success of your program?

Evaluation of “Claiming What’s Ours” will include:

• Review of every Rosh Hodesh service by WOW staff and attending Board members to consider modifications for the following month;

• Accurate recording of number of attendees at all programs;

• Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of WOW’s holiday celebrations and activities by staff and volunteers;

• Review of each Bat Mitzvah celebration at the Kotel to determine means to improve the experience from training to implementation;

• Regularly scheduled monitoring of WOW's social media outlets, tracking number of followers and online reactions to WOW's postings;

• Tracking of lecture and seminar data (number of attendees, demographics, location).

The data and results analyzed by staff and board will guide WOW’s subsequent efforts and determine the scope of WOW’s activities, focusing on creating personal connection to the struggle, encouraging participation and helping participants feel their actions will bring about successful change.

Back to Top

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