Despite the seven hour-time difference, residents of the Ring House “shared” a Rosh Chodesh service with the Women of the Wall this week by praying, blowing the shofar and singing songs.
But for the 65 people gathered at the Charles E. Smith Life Community complex in Rockville on Tuesday of last week, the ritual and discussion were upbeat and happy. Their praying was in sharp contrast to their counterparts at the Wall in Jerusalem who, on that same day, while under police barricade, were harassed and shouted down as they attempted to pray wearing ritual garments and hold high the Torah.
“All they want to do is to be able to go to the Kotel and be able to pray,” said Linda Yitzchak, a member of Washington Friends of Women of the Wall who led the short service at Ring House. She told the group that she feels incomplete while praying without her tallit, and that on the men’s side of the Wall, there are many Torahs for all to use while the women have “zero. There are no Torahs on the women’s side.”
Finally, she noted, three-quarters of the space at the Wall is dedicated for men and only one-quarter for women.
Legally, as of April, women have the right to wear tallitot while praying at the women’s section. But they are forbidden to enter the area carrying a Torah.
Yitchak’s group has been conducting Rosh Chodesh services around the area — in synagogues and the Israeli Embassy — to show support for Women of the Wall, a group in Israel that has been going to the Wall each new moon for the past 25 years.
For Judye Groner, the experience was “very spiritual.” She has been to the Wall and knows what it feels like to be watched and photographed and not feel welcome while trying to pray.
“They are not pleasant people,” she said of the ultra-Orthodox who crowd the Wall, making sure Women of the Wall participants can’t get too close, wear religious garb or read from the Torah while at the Wall.
Noting it was her first experience with Women of the Wall, Marjorie Kravitz said she was happy to show her support. “We wish them good luck. They should have the freedom to pray,” said the Ring House resident.
“I loved it. I thought it was great, because it gives more women the power and the freedom to do what they want to do,” said Anne Levine, who came to the service from her Rockville Jewish Foundation for Group Homes residence.
One Ring House resident, who did not wish to be identified, said she didn’t really know about Women of the Wall before this service. “I am going to go on the Internet and learn what I can. I am interested,” she said.
“I just feel it’s a Jewish state, and it should be a state for all Jews, not just the ultra-Orthodox. It’s a home the Jewish people should go to and feel free.”
The service included a short video explaining what has been happening at the Wall each Rosh Chodesh. Then the women held a “tallit solidarity ceremony,” holding their tallitot above their shoulders in empathy for those who cannot put on theirs.
The Ring House group, largely female, then sang songs of Hallel and read a Prayer for Women of the Wall, which was written by Virginia Spatz, a member of Washington Friends of Women of the Wall.
As the women sang, Yitzchak paused to ask, “What could be better then being with women, singing together?”
These services held in many cities throughout the United States are important, Yitzchak said. “The idea is for them not to feel so lonely,” she said of the women in Israel.