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Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1580231619
ISBN-10: 1580231616
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For the past 14 years, a multidenominational group of women has tried to conduct a women's prayer service-Torah scrolls, prayer shawls and all-at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Since their first attempt to pray there in 1988, Women of the Wall (WOW) has engaged in a political, legal and religious struggle against the State of Israel that continues today, though the group is hardly anti-Israel or anti-religious. This anthology traces the genesis, history and impact of what is now an international grassroots effort on behalf of Jewish women's religious rights. Haut, an Orthodox Jew, and Chesler, a feminist author and psychologist, present essays from 30 women who recreate the drama of praying together; explore the Jewish legal issues around women wearing and using ritual objects, and express their deep connection to the Wall. The essays reflect the diversity of voices, but the repetition of basic information in almost every piece slows the narrative flow and dilutes the book's power. The first two descriptions of the first prayer service, at which the women were "cursed, threatened, pushed, shoved, spit upon and bitten," injured by heavy metal chairs thrown at them, hospitalized and arrested, are horrifying. By the fourth mention, however, it's almost old hat. Still, the universal themes that erupt in this specific context are worthy of broad reader interest: discrimination, democracy, religious pluralism, anger at the silencing of women, solidarity, sisterhood and the sacredness of place.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

On the morning of December 1, 1988, an international, multidenominational group of Jewish women approached the Kotel (formerly known as the Wailing, or Western, Wall) in Jerusalem to conduct a women's prayer service. The women-including editors Chesler (a psychotherapist and author of Women and Madness) and Haut (coeditor of Daughters of the King: Women and the Synagogue)-were jeered at, cursed, threatened, and assaulted: "proper" Jewish women do not pray aloud in public, carry or read from the Scroll, or wear ritual objects. WOW-Women of the Wall-was born. For the next 14 years, they fought for their right to continue prayers at the Kotel in this way, which is not prohibited by Jewish law but was banned by Israeli law because it caused such a riot. This is the story of WOW's continuing struggle. Divided into four sections, it contains thoughtful personal accounts by participants, keen legal and political analysis, various denominational views, and discussion of halakhic theory and ritual objects. This is the first book-length treatment of this landmark case in Jewish women's spirituality, feminism vs. Orthodox tradition, pluralism in Israeli society, and basic human rights. Highly recommended for Judaica collections.
Marcia Welsh, formerly with Guilford Free Lib., CT
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580231616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580231619
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,917,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Barbara Cohen on May 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of stories pertaining to the very public struggle that Jewish women face in an attent to pray together at the Western Wall (Kotel). Women do have their own separate section to pray at the Western Wall, but there are certain activities from which they are prohibited by Israel law. Each story is more powerful and passionate than the next, describing how these women still today are prohibited from praying as a group, praying aloud,singing collectively, using a Toral scroll or wearing talliot at the wall. In fact, the Israeli Court has prohibited such activities by law. These stories set forth in heartfelt detail the contridictions that these women face within their own religion in an attenpt to be a part of the same spiritual groups who are confronting and challenging their very efforts. Women of the Wall (WOW) have been involved in this struggle since l988, and the stories in this book show, with clarity and beauty how these women still today respond to these prohibitions. This is a book that must be read.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfully powerful, passionate and frightening book about the roots and struggles of Women of the Wall who are seeking to this day to be able to wear a prayer shawl and read from Torah in the women's section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Accounts of physical violence and intimidation are balanced by heartwarming stories. The presentations about Israeli civil law and Jewish religious law help to clarify the juxtaposition of those who support a woman's right to pluralistic religious freedom and those who believe that such freedom is dangerous. This is a book that can be read from cover to cover or a little here and a little there. It is a must read for men and women who are curious about, or engaged in, the dynamic tension between the pull toward increased religious orthodoxy and the pull toward religious modernity and renewal in every generation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These essays express the yearning felt by Jewish women from all walks of life living in Israel and in America to be able to freely participate in traditional prayer at the Western Wall where they experience the all powerful Presence of Shakhina. This reader is in awe of their persistence, commitment and respect for the law in spite of years of harrassment and marginalization.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
not quite i expected, but very informative.
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