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In growing numbers, Jews throughout the world are seeking to take the wounded feelings described by Ima Shalom and turn them into effective action. Tikkun olam isn’t only needed in the developing world or in places of overt oppression, but in Israel, too.
Last October on Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, Anat Hoffman, the leader of the Israel Religious Action Center, the social action arm of the Reform movement, as well the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, was arrested and treated harshly for the crime of wearing a prayer shawl, a tallit, and praying the Shema out loud at the Kotel.
By Rosh Chodesh Kislev, as global outrage grew, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Natan Sharansky to resolve the growing divide between the State of Israel and world Jewry.
Women’s struggle for equality includes the Western Wall, but our struggle does not end there – it is only the beginning of the fight for desperately needed changes.
Also among the gates of wounded feelings is the case of Rosie Davidian, a traditionally observant woman from the Negev. Rosie is a single mother who wanted to say Kaddish for her father buried in Ofakim. She also spent the night writing his eulogy. But at the cemetery there was a mechitzah, a barrier, separating her from her brother and the other men attending the funeral.
At Rosie’s turn to speak, the officiating rabbi asked her brother to read the eulogy.
“In our tradition, women are not allowed to speak at funerals,” the rabbi said.
Rosie’s brother declined; it was their father’s wishes for Rosie to read. Still the rabbi refused and suggested that he read the eulogy. Rosie cried from behind the partition, “Are you going to say ‘my beloved father’?”
The Israel Religious Action Center took her case to small claims court and won. But how distressing is it that her claim is a “small claim?”
From the Western Wall, to rabbinical courts, to the bridal canopy, to the cemeteries, to the workplaces of Israel, women are not yet treated equally. Haredi Orthodox Judaism is a legitimate choice for those who choose it, but it must not remain the default position of the Jewish state.
As a country that aspires to be guided by Jewish values, the State of Israel must fight for the equal rights of women. As long as Orthodoxy is the only expression of Judaism deemed legitimate by the State of Israel, women’s equality will be elusive and illusory.
God didn’t decree the current inequality; men did. Judaism has changed throughout history. So, too, the State of Israel can change. The time for change is now.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism. This Op-Ed, which first appeared on JTA.org, was based on his remarks on a panel at the recent Israeli Presidential Conference.