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North American federations back Sharansky’s Kotel compromise

JTA

June 3, 2013 | 2:23 pm

A group of Orthodox Jewish men stand in front of the Western Wall on Oct. 22. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

A group of Orthodox Jewish men stand in front of the Western Wall on Oct. 22. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

The Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees passed a resolution supporting Natan Sharansky’s proposed compromise on egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

Monday’s resolution, according to a JFNA statement, says the compromise “develops a pathway whereby the Kotel will once again become a spiritual center for all Jews and a symbol of unity for the entire Jewish community world-wide.”

Announced in April, the proposal would expand and raise the area adjacent to the current Western Wall Plaza known as Robinson’s Arch and create a unified entrance for both sections. Robinson’s Arch has been used as a prayer space by non-Orthodox groups for about a decade.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, to formulate a plan in December that would satisfy haredi Orthodox leaders who wanted to maintain exclusive control of the site and religious pluralism activists who wanted it opened to egalitarian prayer.

“By issuing this resolution, the Jewish Federations are giving voice to the strong desire across our community to resolve this critical issue and ensure that all Jews can experience the most spiritually powerful place in Judaism,” JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman said in the statement.

Sharansky’s plan, which was greeted at first with some enthusiasm by both sides of the debate, has lost support recently from both sides.

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