Western Wall Negotiation
Women of the Wall did not decide to pray on [Religious Affairs Minister Naftali] Bennett’s sun deck (“A Kotel Platform for No One?” Oct. 25). We decided to negotiate with the government on the creation of a third section at the Kotel. This section will have to accommodate our women’s-only prayer group as well as egalitarian services. Bennett certainly did take risks — one big risk was not getting a building permit for the deck. Women of the Wall will be involved in the planning of the third section and will take architecture, aesthetics and utility into consideration. If and when this new section is ready, we will decide whether to move our prayer service from the women’s section to the pluralistic section. I think that an 85 million shekel budget over five years (as was given to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in 2010), spent judiciously on infrastructure and educational programs, should go a long way toward making the pluralistic section attractive and lively.
Rachel Cohen Yeshurun, Women of the Wall
University Not at Fault
Attacking the university, writ large, as “indoctrination centers designed to discredit religion and morality in order to advance their leftist agendas” must be challenged (Letters, Oct. 25).
It is the writer, Mike Mains, who suffers from blinding ideology because he can’t separate what he thinks about universities and the educational system as a whole from what Erica Hooper (the woman referred to) actually said. Her complaint simply was that no one was addressing the disconnect she felt between her early Catholic education and the questions she had as she came of age. There are no grounds to indict the university for this disconnect. Where people take their questions is a complex and personal matter. She could have sought answers in many different institutions and individuals.
That said, her struggle is surely an important challenge for all religious traditions. Taking her testimony seriously means that all who care about and foster the Jewish religious and moral tradition need to bravely step up and boldly deal with the issues of the day and those of eternity that are so much on the minds of the successive generations of young adults in college. I have seen the constancy of this issue for the 38 years I have been affiliated with UCLA.
Lastly, I think it is probably true that at the university as wide an array of opinions as have been developed is available for the seeker and that makes it an attractive place for seekers to go.
Doreen Seidler-Feller, Associate Clinical Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Department of Psychiatry
Outmoded Divorce Law Enslaves Women
The recent arrest of a gang of get (religious divorce) enforcers has engendered a torrent of articles, letters and columns on the sad fate of Jewish women when it comes to seeking justice in their divorce proceedings (“Outmoded Divorce Law a Real Shandah,” Oct. 18). Because the get must be approved by the husband, he has an effective veto power and can prevent the legal terminations of the wedding. Rabbis have addressed this injustice for centuries with little to show for it.
That failure is not due to a lack of solutions. Prenuptial agreements, binding arbitration, conditional marriages and civil penalties have all been suggested and attempted, but they fail when it comes to enforcement. The Orthodox rabbinate has been unable to agree on a solution. The result is the thuggery that has been recently reported, but which is new only in its notoriety. Are the only solutions to this injustice choices between religious vigilantism and feckless conferences?
Lost in this is the fact that the Conservative movement solved this problem years ago. Using the talmudic principle of hafka’at kiddushin, which is well attested in the Talmud and Codes, a certified mesadder gittin authorized by the Joint Bet Din of the Conservative movement may, after investigation and documentation, annul a marriage retroactively when a get is refused. This procedure is, and ought to be, rare, but it is entirely effective. There are no agunot — chained women — in the Conservative movement.
I hope that those who define themselves as Orthodox will find a solution that makes violence and extortion a relic of history. In the meantime, a halachic and ethical solution is readily available.
Rabbi Daniel R. Shevitz, Venice
Gifting the Art of Giving
I read a neat Jewish Journal article a few months ago about Dorothy and Ozzie Goren (“Family Keeps Tzedakah Tradition Going With Funds,” Aug. 30). We are going to try to duplicate a lesson they taught their kids and grandkids about the joy of giving.
We plan to give our kids and grandkids money this Chanukah and allow them to make donations to the charity of their choice throughout the year. We are asking to see a list of recipients at the end of the year.
We think it’s a great idea. Spread the word!
Sara and David Aftergood via e-mail
“Quiet Neighbors” (Nov. 1) refers to “forged discharge papers, made to look like they were printed at a Syrian hospital” for Syrian patients leaving the Western Galilee Medical Center. However, the hospital itself does not forge any documents. Patients are released to the Israel Defense Forces with accurate discharge papers, according to Sara Paperin, who is charged with coordinating international relations between the hospital and the global community.