The Women of the Wall voted to “lead the Jewish people toward change” by accepting three equal sections at the Western Wall as the response to their request to be allowed to daven in an egalitarian manner.
Anat Hoffman, one of the WOW leaders, said: “We are not leaving the women’s section right now and we reserve the right to pray freely at a public holy site. However, we are prepared to be the catalyst and leaders of building a new, equal third section for all Jews to pray and celebrate at the Western Wall. When that is completed to our satisfaction, we will pray there.”
The central mission of Women of the Wall is “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” On November 4, 2013, they held a Rosh Chodesh service at the Wall followed by study sessions at the Fuchsberg Center in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of pluralistic davening at the Western Wall. BaOlam Editor Marilyn Wind, Nativ students and staff, and students and staff from the Conservative Yeshiva were among the 1000 people in attendance. According to Marilyn, “It was a day of incredible celebration since we were able to daven according to our own customs and I was able to wear tallit and tefillin without being harassed. Since it was Rosh Chodesh, we chanted Hallel and we did with incredible spirit and kavannah.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly on October 1, 2013, although coverage of the address was largely eclipsed in the US media by the Federal government shutdown.
Netanyahu made it clear that Israel was prepared to act on its own, without the US, to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. He also made it clear that were Israel to act alone, it would be acting for the good of all. Access Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address here.
Some Thoughts on the UN from our representatives:
We would like to tell you that even though the UN gets a bad rap because the General Assembly and Human Rights Commission automatically bash anything that Israel does, we also must realize all the good that the UN does accomplish.
In September 2000, Member States adopted a declaration committing their countries to reduce extreme poverty and promote basic human rights. The Millennium Development Goals had major victories. Although they fell short on many counts, there are a billion fewer people living below the international poverty line. Child mortality rates have decreased by more than 30 percent and Malaria deaths are down 30 percent.
Much more needs to be done, and the UN is now formulating a post 2015 agenda. Among the areas of interests on this agenda are the rights of women and children as well as maintaining sustainable energy and promoting peaceful and stable societies to achieve lives of dignity for all.
Sandy Koppell, Lucy Becker and Barbara Glass
Women’s League UN Representatives
The Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms graded 45 schools in its 2013 Campus Freedom Index, and 23 of the schools received at least one failing grade.The report indicates that more than half of Canada’s universities fail to adequately protect free speech and the Arab-Israeli conflict looms large over these failures.
When the United States Supreme Court began its new term on October 7, 2013, it had a number of cases to hear of vital importance:
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION The question in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is whether a state may amend its constitution to prohibit the consideration of race or sex in public university admissions. Michigan passed a constitutional amendment banning the use of race as one consideration in acceptance at the University of Michigan Law School after the court affirmed its right to do so.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE In McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the court will consider the constitutionality of overall limits on how much an individual donor may give directly to federal candidates, party committees and PACs in a two-year election cycle.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION In McCullen v. Coakley, anti-abortion protesters are challenging a Massachusetts law that sets a 35-foot “buffer zone” around health care clinics where abortions are performed.
In Town of Greece v. Galloway, the court will decide whether the First Amendment permits a prayer before a town board meeting.
ABORTION Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice deals with the constitutionality of an Oklahoma law that requires doctors to use abortion-inducing drugs precisely as the Food and Drug Administration approved them 13 years ago. Doctors have developed experience since the drugs were approved and are using them in a way that causes less pain for the women using them and have been prescribing them “off-label.”
PRESIDENTIAL POWER National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning involves the president’s constitutional power to make appointments “during the recess of the Senate.”
In addition to these cases, which the court has already accepted, it is likely they will also accept an appeal of whether the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that the health plans of private for-profit employers cover birth control is constitutional.
The National Council for Jewish Women (NCJW) hosted a call with Dahlia Lithwick, Slate Magazine’s senior editor, who discussed these cases. You can listen to the recording of the call online. You can also learn more about the cases by checking out SCOTUSblog.
The World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel will be holding their meetings in Israel in early November. Prior to those meetings, MERCAZ Olami and Masorti Olami will convene on November 4. They will present the Third Annual MERCAZ Olami award to Gloria Cohen, former International President of Women’s League, for her work in strengthening the Conservative/Masorti movement worldwide. Mazal tov to Gloria!
The Pew Research Center’s new study contains some interesting results, particularly in areas where Jews are compared to Christians. More Christians than Jews believe that Israel was given to the Jews by God. The study also shows that a significant number of Jews believe you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus.
October is Domestic Violence Month
Information for programs can be found on the National Council for Jewish Women webpage. Visit the website to learn how to get involved in promoting economic security and supporting survivors of violence.
Day of the Girl Child
The UN declared October 11 the International Day of the Girl Child! Its mission is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” Read the resolution on the International Day of the Girl Child.
Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children
According to Forbes (October 2, 2013) the government shutdown will affect “over 8.9 million moms and kids under five living near or below the poverty line [who] rely on supplemental vouchers for healthy food, breastfeeding support, infant formula and other necessities dispensed at clinics nationwide [through Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC].” There likely will be funds to run many of the programs for about a week, at which point an already vulnerable population will not have the support they need.
With the shutdown well into the second week, this has become an issue in many states.
Affordable Care Act
The provision of contraception under the Affordable Care Act was an area of controversy. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Contraception plays a pivotal role in women’s lives. And for millions of U.S. women, it’s the nationwide network of publicly supported family planning centers that allows them and their families to reap the significant health, economic and social benefits of contraceptive use. This highly successful effort is supported by programs like Medicaid and the Federal Title X family planning program. The Guttmacher Institute created a video to help put facts squarely back into the debate.