The Wall and I

I finally made my way to Jerusalem and to the Western Wall. Ignorant Reform Jew, I was shocked to find women separated from men. Temple Israel Religious School had not prepared me for the Jewish State. (Think 1950s assimilated suburban Judaism. My friend’s father, attending a bar mitzvah at Temple Israel, was told to remove his yarmulka.)

My touchdown in Israel was in 1968, one year after the Six-Day War. Israelis were heady with joy – the Western Wall was accessible at last, along with a glorious new day for Israel and the rest of the Jewish world. Israelis were shocked that I wasn’t staying. 

Four years later, 1972 – the Women’s Movement had blown open my mind. Working on Wall Street Week at Maryland Public Television, I asked to have my writer credit removed from the show. I didn’t want anyone to think I had anything to do with host Louis Rukeyser’s not-amusing sexist banter. I did birth control and abortion counseling from behind my office doors. I inserted Dalkon Shield IUDs at the People’s Free Medical Clinic. I went to Israel to check out my Jewish roots.

The Wall and I Part Two

I arrived in Israel just after the Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli team members in 1972 and the bombing of the Super Sol in Jerusalem. This distracted me for a while from realizing that once again Temple Israel had not prepared me for Israel. In post-confirmation class in the rabbi’s study, we had learned that Orthodox Judaism was in the museum, gathering dust.


Orthodox Judaism was alive and well and running much too much of the Jewish State. And this was in the relatively benign days when the first religious settlement was just making its fledgling start on the West Bank outside Hebron. (Who knew from Judea or Sumaria.)

Even though I stayed away from the Wall, that seemed the place to go on Yom Kippur. In the women’s section, Yom Kippur 1973. I was probably one of the last in Israel to know the Yom Kippur War had broken out.

I went back to New York early the next year and became part of Lilith – thrilled to discover all these super knowledgeable women had been worrying about the second rate status of women in Judaism long before my awakening.

The Wall and I Part Three

My one ongoing – up to the present – connection to the Wall has been my diminishing supply of Women of the Wall cards with a black and white photograph by Barbara Gingold dated 1989. In this first gathering, women sweetly read from prayer books in front of the Wall. At least one is wearing a traditional tallis and a kippah. A modestly wrapped Torah occupies the foreground. I’ve probably had these cards for more than 20 years. On the back: “Proceeds from the sale of this card help support the Women of the Wall in their efforts to advance the status of women in Judaism.” 

Thanks for hanging in there, Women of the Wall. 


Learn more at the Facebook page for “Wake Up for Religious Tolerance! Rosh Hodesh Sivan.”

3 comments on “The Wall and I

  1. Barbara Gingold, Jerusalem on

    And thanks, Amy, for another perspective on the Wall — though I’d say that Rivka Haut (l.) and Geela Rayzel Robinson (r.) were reading the Torah that remarkable day with more determination than sweetness. When I shot that picture — after years of photographing Jewish women’s events from the late ’60s on, including the first Jewish women’s prayer group and women laying tefillin on the Upper West Side (NYC), the first Jewish feminist conference in NY and the first in Israel and even the first meetings of Lilith’s future editors and staff — I knew that that moment at the Kotel was an historic one. The thought went through my head: “This is it, the culmination. Now I can stop taking pictures.”

    Little did I imagine that 25 years or so of battles over the Wall would follow, leaving me (and many other Israelis) alienated from the place, furious that the ultra-Orthodox appropriation of what had been the national as well as the spiritual heart of Israel led the rest of us to simply abandon or flee it. The battle’s not won yet. But I want to thank you and all of WoW’s overseas supporters for their help and support all these years. This has been a classic, empowering example of Israel-Diaspora relations and interdependence (not to mention sisterhood!) — none of us could have done what we did without our counterparts over the seas. Though we may have come a long way, baby, we’ll still count on you to keep going! (And if you want to replenish your stock of WoW cards, let me know.)

  2. Anna Maranta on

    Barbara, If you do have more cards, I’d like to have some. Please contact me maranta dot anna at gmail dot com. Thanks, Anna

  3. Barbara, Jerusalem on

    Shalom, Anna, Apologies for not answering
    sooner; it never occurred to me to check Lilith’s website for replies & I just found your note by chance.

    Yes, I do have more cards (in deep storage) and am
    hoping to get them out before WoW’s anniversary celebration next month.
    Please confirm that you’ve gotten this message, and I’ll let you know as
    soon as I have them in hand. Barbara

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