Tel Aviv is a city known for its beautiful beaches. Our beaches might look like many other Mediterranean countries, but there is something very unique about the beaches in Tel Aviv. We have one that is segregated.
Usually when I write about segregation you can expect me to rail against it, but this is different. I think it is wonderful that Israel has one beach that is segregated by gender. While 95 percent of Tel Aviv’s beaches are mixed areas where men and women enjoy the sun and surf together, there is one walled off section where religious Jews can come and swim in a setting that is comfortable for them. Israel’s beaches are a resource for all Israelis, so having a place for Haredi Jews alongside secular Jews shows that the potential for compromise actually exists (at least at the beach).
Travel one hour to Jerusalem and that spirit of compromise disappears. The Kotel (Western Wall) is run by one group, and they are Orthodox. Efforts to set up areas for mixed services have sometimes met with violent opposition from Haredi Jews. Why is there no other representation on the Western Wall Heritage Council? The Kotel is holy to all Jews but decisions about it are made by a very few.
For too many years we have simply accepted this status quo, but the time has come to stand up and stake our claim at Judaism’s holiest site.
IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center) is launching a major campaign to compel the Western Wall Heritage Council to appoint members that represent Jews from all backgrounds and not just the ultra-Orthodox. As we prepare to go to court, we need your help to demonstrate how significant this issue is for Progressive Jews all over the world.
The first step in this campaign is to show the Israeli government clearly that the current situation does not reflect the wishes of the majority of world Jewry. We have made a petition, and we are going to spend the next two months trying to collect 50,000 signatures. We will present it to the government as part of our campaign to gain non-Orthodox representation on the Western Wall Heritage Council.
Working together we will see our Kotel become a place that, just like the beaches in Tel Aviv, represents the kind of thoughtful compromise that defines a mature democracy.
(The author is executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center. She spoke at an April 30 function at Rodef Shalom Congregation sponsored by the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, J Street Pittsburgh, Rodef Shalom, Temple Sinai and B’nai B’rith.)
On behalf of Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice, and the millions of Jews whose ancestors came to this country fleeing desperate circumstances and seeking a better life, I applaud President Obama’s decision to cease the deportation of law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have grown up within our borders.
The president’s decision to relieve these 800,000 men and women from lives of fear, and to begin issuing work permits, is a significant step. It is our hope that the president’s leadership on this issue will encourage a recalcitrant Congress to move forward to enact long-overdue comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Alan van Capelle
(The author is chief executive officer of Bend the Arc, an organization that engages Jews and other communities in the United States on social justice issues.)
What a season!
I simply want to say thank you to Jeff Stein and the entire 14th Ward Baseball organization for the wonderful experience my son, Leo, had during the spring season.
One of the youngest and smallest on the team, Leo was encouraged to try his best and be a true team player. The coaching he and his teammates received taught them baseball basics, supported them to be self-assured and strong, and created a sense of teamwork and friendship. From the most talented to the least talented, each player was given the attention he needed to be successful. Leo grew tremendously throughout the season, both in his skill level and his confidence.
Leo’s team, The Cubs, won the 14th Ward Little League World Series. Of course, it was a very proud moment. However, I was most impressed and proud of the humble manner in which they enjoyed their victory. They appreciated each other’s contributions to their winning season, honored their opponents, and thanked their coaches for their time, instruction and dedication.
The 14th Ward coaching staff should be commended for helping our children learn to be confident, humble and respectful.
Looking forward to another great season.