Girls, women alienated at Kotel

I was distressed reading the article “Kotel rabbi offers blessings to Canada” (Oct. 25). Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz speaks nicely, but his words contain continued al-ienation for a majority of our people. Rabbi Rabinowitz said, “Every Jewish child should have their bar mitzvah at the wall.” In 1981, my family travelled to Israel on a synagogue bar mitzvah trip. I watched from afar as the boys in the group cele-brated their b’nei mitzvah at the Kotel. For the girls, a service was held atop Masa-da. Bat mitzvah at Rabbi Rabinowitz’s Kotel was not, and still is not, an option for every child. 

The Kotel is a special site for me. Unfortunately, on my last trip to Israel, I felt so disconnected from the site. I had no feeling at all. Rabbi Rabinowitz calls the Kotel “the Grand Central Station of the Jewish People.” I grew up in New York. Never in Grand Central Station did I feel I needed to suppress my Jewish identity and practice. I was never made to stand in a separate subway car. In Grand Cen-tral Station, I am not afraid to have my tallit and tfillin.

Rabbi Rabinowitz states that “his responsibilities include ensuring sanctity of the Kotel,” and that “every note [placed in the Wall] is treated as if it were a sefer Torah.” Sanctity includes caring for people at least as much as those notes. Sancti-ty means that all can daven at that wall, for God’s house should be a house of tfil-lah for all people. Fortunately, today there is another option. The Robinson’s Arch section of the Kotel, overseen by the Masorti movement, is open to all to gather, to pray, and to celebrate coming of age as a Jew.

Rabbi Jennifer Gorman


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Minority monopolizes holy site


It was strange for The CJN to print a front-page photo of the smiling chief rabbi of the Kotel, welcoming Canadians to celebrate bar – but not bat – mitzvahs at the Kotel, in the same week that a woman was roughly arrested for reciting the Shema at the Kotel (“Kotel rabbi offers blessings to Canada,” Oct. 25). The rabbi may be happy that he is able to treat the Kotel as an ultra-Orthodox synagogue and pre-vent women from praying aloud, carrying a Torah or even wearing a tallit. But most of us should be outraged that the holiest site in Judaism is monoplized by a small minority and unwelcoming to most Jews. This would be a better topic for a front-page story.

Jeff Denaburg


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Need to counter Arab propaganda


I am afraid that Lawrence Hart’s call in his column for vociferous reaction to the art exhibition, A Child’s View from Gaza, at the Hamilton Public Library is too little, too late (Where is our advocacy?, Nov. 1). The public was already influenced by the exhibit, and objecting to it would be viewed as “muzzling the voice of the poor people of Gaza.” A more effective way is to demand an equal space and equal time to display our exhibition. Such exhibit should be readily available and should follow to counter any Arab propaganda exhibit.

Ami Farkas


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Torah not susceptible to impurity


I want to clarify one point that was made in the article “Course brings Jewish and Muslim women together” (Nov. 1). Nevin Reda commented on the fact that both Judaism and Islam share similarities as far as menstrual laws go. Indeed, there is a strong taboo on sexual relations during menstruation in both traditions.  However, while Islamic law exempts menstruating women from prayer and fast-ing and prohibits them from touching the Qur’an, there is no halachic prohibition against Jewish women praying or reading from the Torah while menstruating. Nonetheless, in some Jewish communities, such customs did persist at certain points in time, and often women did refrain from entering the synagogue during their periods. There is a persistent myth that it is because of women’s “impure” status that they were prevented from reading or touching the Torah, but the Tal-mud is quite clear that the words of the Torah are not susceptible to impurity.

Shari Golberg


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Israel can’t afford to ‘bleed a little’


I don’t think Henry Kissinger is in a moral position to be giving the State of Israel any advice on when and how to deal with its mortal enemy, Iran (“Iran strike is U.S. call, Kissinger say,” Oct. 11).

When Israel was completely taken by surprise by its Arab neighbours in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, sustained heavy casualties and was in desperate need of American military supplies, the then-secretary-of-state Kissinger advised U.S. president Richard Nixon to wait and “let them [the Israelis] bleed a little first.”

Today, Israel can no more afford to bleed a little than it can allow Iran, a worldwide sponsor of state terrorism and a country that has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and called for Israel’s destruction, to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Nor can Israel totally rely on international sanctions and/or the promises and reassurances of its friends and allies, such as the United States, to prevent that from occurring.

At the end of the day, Israel may very well have to take matters into it’s own hands by taking pre-emptive military action against Iran to ensure it’s own survival and to protect the liberty and security of its citizens.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has succinctly stated in the past, “Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself.”

Ralph Schleichkorn