More than 40 women took part in the Rosh Chodesh Sivan service of the Cleveland Women of the Wall Solidarity Group May 10 at Park Synagogue East in Pepper Pike.
The same morning, conflict was reported at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem as the Women of the Wall group attempted to hold a non-traditional prayer gathering. Three people were arrested in connection with the disturbances, which included women being insulted and reports of objects being thrown at women.
“The events of this morning at the Western Wall dramatically reinforce the urgent need for a sustainable solution which will allow any Jew, group of Jews or Jewish community to pray at the Western Wall according to their own custom,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said in a statement.
Sharansky also praised police at the scene for their “level-headed action in the very difficult circumstances.”
Mia Buchwald Gelles, a member of Beth El-The Heights Synagogue in Cleveland Heights, said she attended the service at Park Synagogue because “it’s important for us to show solidarity with Women of the Wall.”
“I believe strongly that the Kotel should be accessible to all who wish to come to pray, to participate and to share our Jewish heritage,” said Gelles, of Cleveland Heights. “It’s an honor to be able to support them and make a difference from Cleveland and throughout the world.”
Women of the Wall is an organization of Jewish women worldwide who strive to secure the rights of women to pray aloud, read from the Torah and wear religious garments at the Western Wall. The group has held monthly prayer services at the Wall for almost 25 years.
Luisa Aviv, of South Euclid, was one of three organizers of the Cleveland WOW event May 10. She said this was the fourth consecutive time in which the local group has met on Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the month in the Jewish calendar) as part of a minyan at various synagogues.
“I’ve been a supporter of Women of the Wall for a long time,” said Aviv, a member of Congregation Shaarey Tikvah in Beachwood. “In February, when arrests were made merely because there were women praying at the Wall, I just felt like we needed to do something.”
So in February, with the support of Shaarey Tikvah Rabbi David Kosak, Aviv organized the first Cleveland WOW Solidarity Group service at her synagogue.
“We had standing room only, and we’ve held a service every Rosh Chodesh since then,” she said. “We try to have it at a different synagogue each month.”
Rabbi Sharon Marcus, associate rabbi at Park Synagogue, also helped organize the latest service.
“We have a regular morning minyan, and we thought that would help get a core group of people here,” she said. “So we advertised it, and it was a wonderful response. Now I feel like I’m going to go in the future each month.”
The third organizer, Fran Gordon of Beachwood, also has a home in Jerusalem. The member of Shaarey Tikvah said when she’s in Jerusalem, she leads prayers with the WOW group, just as she did at Park Synagogue.
“What’s really exciting is the news out of Jerusalem this morning, that the police protected the Women of the Wall,” she said. “It was historic. So the crowd here (May 10) was really a celebration.”
Aviv said attedance at the monthly services has varied, depending on the day of the week on which Rosh Chodesh falls. She said the group plans to continue meeting monthly, rotating the synoguges.