By Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov
I am not a morning person. I’d rather stay up very late than get up very early. However, when I lived in Israel there were certain days I’d gladly get up early. Those were the days of Rosh Chodesh- the beginning of the month- the days when I would go to the Kotel-The Western Wall and pray with Women of the Wall.
Some of my Rabbinical School classmates felt that praying at the wall was akin to idolization, but to me it was being able to stand in a sacred place- the same place my ancestors have stood and prayed for generations upon generations upon generations. For me and so many Jews the wall is sacred. The wall is a reminder of the past and a promise for the future. My trips to Israel are not complete without at least a quick visit to the Wall. I often take prayers and notes from my congregants, family and friends to place in the Wall as a way of letting them experience the power of the Kotel, as well.
As you know from reading this blog, our rights as women are significantly diminished at the Wall- at OUR wall. We have only 1/4 of the space to pray as the men do and if we raise our voices we hear complaints, taunts and obscenities from other women, men and even police. And God-forbid we try to wear our tallit at the Wall!
Earlier this morning as women gathered at the Wall to pray and celebrate this new month of Tevet, once again some of our fellow sisters were detained for merely trying to pray as a Jew! For more information on this detention, you can read the press release here.
One of the women detained was Rabbi Elyse Frishman, who is the editor of our Reform Siddur- “Mishkan Tefillah.” Rabbi Frishman prayed at the Wall as she always prays- wearing her Tallit, observing a commandment from the book of Numbers. Her experiences this morning are detailed in a beautiful letter she wrote to her Congregation, which is available here.
I pray for the day when I will be able to pray as I wish. When I will be able to reclaim the Western Wall as MY WALL, as MY HOLY PLACE. I pray for the day when I will be able to freely raise my voice to God in prayer and in Thanksgiving.
As we celebrate the end of Hanukkah- a holiday in which the Maccabbees reclaimed the Temple, I pray that the time will come in our own day when all Jews will be able to reclaim the Wall. I pray for a time when the Wall will be truly dedicated – the meaning of the word Hanukkah- as a place for all Jews.
Rabbi Emily Ilana Losben-Ostrov is the Rabbi at Sinai Reform Temple in Bay Shore, NY and an avid supporter of Women of the Wall!