Reform Leader Rick Jacobs Backs Compromise Prayer Plan for Western Wall

Amid Doubts, Natan Sharansky Kotel Plan Wins Support

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By JTA

Published May 05, 2013.
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The head of the Reform movement endorsed a plan for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

“At this moment I believe our path forward and our path is to support the bold, audacious proposals by Natan Sharansky,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Friday at Connections 2013, the 36th International Conference of the World Union of Progressive Judaism being held in Jerusalem.

Rick Jacobs
Rick Jacobs

Under the plan, recommended last month by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an existing egalitarian section of the wall known as Robinson’s Arch would be expanded and a unified entrance to the Western Wall Plaza would be built leading to the wall’s traditional and egalitarian sections.

In recent days, Sharansky has met with senior staff at the Prime Minister’s Office for consultations including outgoing Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser and National Security Advisor Yaacov Amidror, according to the Jewish Agency. In addition he has met with archeologists and other relevant experts. Late last week Sharansky also met with Jacobs and Union for Reform Judaism Board Chair Stephen M. Sacks.

Jacobs on Friday called the proposal “a unique opportunity” for the Reform movement.

The rabbi pointed out that several weeks ago when Sharansky first presented the proposals to a group of rabbis in New York spanning the religious spectrum that no one left happy.

“We all were hoping for more,” he said. “But because we all left unhappy, Natan Sharansky had done a very good job. What he did was he stretched every single one of us to a place where sometimes Jewish leaders, especially rabbinic leaders, don’t like to go. It’s a little place called compromise. And somehow he understood that whatever solution he would bring not only to the Diaspora leadership but also to the leadership here, it had to make everybody a little bit uncomfortable, to move everybody off their place of comfort and righteous demand to a place where we could all be together.”

The rabbi added that it is “not just the Kotel that needs to be liberated,” referencing discrimination by the haredi Orthodox against women on buses and in public forums, as well as discrimination against non-Orthodox movements of Judaism.


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