In this episode we talk with Rachel Cohen Yeshurun of Women of the Wall in Israel who regularly reads the Torah at the Western Wall in defiance of law on the New Moon with other women. We talk about the history of why women haven’t been allowed to pray equally at the Wall, the role of the current government in that discrimination, and how it relates to Israeli LGBTQA rights. What does it mean to be able to pray together? Why is it important to have equality for all genders in religion?
Note: This interview was recorded at the beginning of October. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it released before the prayer times mentioned in the interview. However, Rachel does mention that the prayers at the Wall happen monthly, and that you’re welcome to join them on the new moon from wherever you are to pray in solidarity with them.
Rachel Cohen Yeshurun was schooled at Bais Yaakov of Montreal and was active with Beth Ora Synagogue youth. Rachel made aliyah in 1989 but took 22 years to discover Women Of the Wall! She received a Bsc. in Mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is currently studying towards a second degree in Computer Science. Rachel works as a computer programmer and is chair of Kehilla Masortit Ma’aleh Adumim. She was the chair of Women of the Wall, and more recently taking on the role of gabbait for the group.
Blowing the shofar – with Rachel pictured on the left with the Torah scroll they managed to smuggle in: https://www.facebook.com/womenofthewall/photos/pb.319876005672.-2207520000.1444147646./10153504442510673
Video (with English subtitles) where you can see Dana Sharon, the chair of Jerusalem Open House, in tears as she’s honoured with the Torah scroll reading in memory of Shira Banki who was murdered the week before at the Jerusalem Pride parade by an Ultra-Orthodox fanatic:
Here’s one of my Rachel’s favourite videos. This has music produced by Women of the Wall’s chair Anat Hoffman’s daughter who is an aspiring movie producer: https://youtu.be/KUmxZT9PWY0
An education video done by Women of the Wall intern and HUC-JIR Rabbinical Student Allison Cohen: