In first person… Torah service with Women of Wall transforms feminist spirit

I was six months into a yearlong program in Israel in my early 20s when I heard about a group of women at the Western Wall, who were violently assaulted for holding a prayer service. I decided on a whim to attend the following month. More than any other single experience, that decision left a profound mark on my life and the direction it would take.

Having come from an egalitarian, Reform background, I was blissfully ignorant of the limited status of women under halachah when it came to religious participation. The violent, hate-filled reaction to the presence of modestly dressed women davening on the women's side of the wall shocked me to my core. We had done nothing offensive that I could identify, merely prayed aloud instead of silently and attempted to hold a Torah service. But this was enough to generate thrown chairs, curses and ultimately tear gas.

Upon returning to the United States I began to explore Jewish feminism and have since built a career upon writing liturgy and midrash, creating women's rituals and teaching about the women of the Bible. Had I not dragged myself down to the Kotel that morning, my life would look nothing like it does today.

The Israeli Supreme Court recently handed down another decision against the Women of the Wall, who have continued their struggle to pray as Jews, in Jerusalem, for 14 years. My prayers are with them.