Women of the Wall

In recent Israeli history Anat Hoffman, member of the controversial group, Women at the Wall was arrested for performing a Torah service in the woman section of the Kotel (western wall)
A huge uproar from the Israeli and Diaspora progressive communities resulted protesting the rights of egalitarianism and gender equality within Jewish ritual practices.

As Progressive Jewish youth, Netzer has a tricky place in this debacle. Firstly it has an obligation to support the wider Progressive community at large (its parent body). Secondly, it has to defend its ideology of egalitarianism in Judaism. Thirdly it upholds the notion of social action, which in essence means we take a stand against injustices and inequalities both in Israel and Diaspora communities as well.

So why hasn’t Netzer South Africa or Netzer Olami spoken out? We were even given the opportunity to pray with The Women at the Wall group earlier last year. Well, to put it bluntly we are actually very much conflicted on our role.
Netzer is a religious youth movement, not a politically affiliated one. So it is also part of our jurisdiction NOT to take a stance on politicised issues, except this one is an amalgamation of the two. Anat Hoffman protested through prayer, she made her political statement of allowing progressive Torah services to take place.

There is another pressing issue, should prayer be used as a political tool? In my opinion, prayer is a very personal, sacred aspect of our religion and to use it to make a statement feels improper. Would it not be more sufficient to lead by example? To be a genuinely pious Jew would make you a passive ambassador of your beliefs and encourage others to follow your lead.

Then again, do we really know what happened there? After all none of us were present at the arrest and South Africa is very far away, leaving us to be on the receiving end of a broken telephone. Anat could have merely been expressing her spiritually in a non – provocative manner, which could draw into question who is at fault here.
So do we stand up and support her and all her beliefs like the rest of the Progressive world Jewry, do we criticise her behaviour or do we remain apathetic and Apolitical to it all?

This is a conflict that far surpasses the Anat Hoffman arrest. Netzer often has to ask the question, how do we take a stand? How or who do we support? Do we blindly support Israel in all her endeavours as a Zionist movement (which partially makes us politised) or do we allow ourselves some scope for debate, critique and even apathy?
We are a movement that pushes and fights for multiple agendas but what those agendas are or mean is often very difficult to articulate and define.
Lauren Kessler
Rosh Chinuch, Netzer Cape Town