Is Women of the Wall a Front Group?

wow

Women of the Wall has gotten a lot of press in recent years. The group claims to be a non-partisan collective of women from different streams of Judaism who just want to pray at the Western Wall; the holiest site in traditional Judaism.

The reality is seemingly more complex.

Women of the Wall is organizationally intertwined with the Israel Religious Action Center, the World Union of Progressive Judaism and the New Israel Fund.

WOW’s director, Lesley Sachs was the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center. Its chairwoman Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.

When an organization is run by the directors of another organization, it’s reasonable to question whether they aren’t really the same organization.

Women of the Wall solicits local donations to “Women of the Wall, P. O. Box 31936, Jerusalem, 91319, Israel”

The Israel Religious Action Center solicits donations to “Israel Religious Action Center P.O.B. 31936 Jerusalem, 91319 Israel”

It would appear that not only is Women of the Wall run by IRAC leaders, but that they share a post office box.

 

Leora Bechor, another board member, appears to be a staff attorney at the Israel Religious Action Center. Additionally Leora Bechor appears to have worked/be working for a number of militantly anti-Israel NGOs, some funded by the New Israel Fund, including Hamoked where material bearing her name denounces the “the unilateral and illegal annexation of East Jerusalem”.

In Women of the Wall propaganda, Bechor is described as Orthodox, but her work for the IRAC raises some questions about that. And her hostility toward the Jewish presence in Jerusalem raises some questions about the credibility of her concern about praying at the Western Wall.

Batya Kallus, the second-in-command at WOW, helps fund anti-Israel groups through her work with the Fohs Foundation and the Moriah Fund. Both Fohs and Moriah fund the New Israel Fund. Moriah also funds the Israel Religious Action Center.

The New Israel Fund in turn funds Women of the Wall. Not only is WOW a grantee, but its website invites donors to send donations to it directly to the New Israel Fund.

Meanwhile the Israel Religious Action Center invites donors to send money through the World Union of Progressive Judaism. The director of Women of the Wall is also the former Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and Vice President of the World Union For Progressive Judaism.

Its only other staff member, Shria Pruce, its director of public relations, also worked for the World Union For Progressive Judaism and the New Israel Fund.

 

Shira Pruce has written a defensive post claiming that Women of the Wall is “non-partisan” and ” diverse”. “We are left and right and center.”

There isn’t a lot of center or right in WOW’s leadership, but there is a lot of left. More specifically there are repeated ties to three organizations, one of which Women of the Wall shares a mailing address and leadership with.

It might be best if Women of the Wall came clean about its interconnections with the Israel Religious Action Center and the New Israel Fund because it looks a lot like WOW is acting as a non-partisan front for some very partisan and not particularly diverse organizations.

  • herb benty

    All the NGO tentacles, “progressive”(commie), in reality and anti-Israel in substance, They’ve learned well from George Soros, who is busy dismantling the U.S.A. and prepping America for global government. Israel! Keep an eye on these folks.

  • Rachel

    Is there a law against two organisations sharing a Post office box? Considering that the offices of both organisations are small and in the same building, it makes economic sense to share.
    Women of the Wall is a registered non profit organisation in Israel . Our finances are in order and we pass our yearly audit with flying colours . All is legal and above board.
    In fact, all the organizations mentioned are legal, registered NGOs.
    Women of the Wall has a small staff and leadership, but our supporters number in the tens of thousands. We are so proud of our pluralism and diversity.
    Our leadership served and serves in the IDF, we pay taxes, we volunteer for a myriad of causes that strengthen Israel’s democracy and society. We strengthen the Jewish presence in Jerusalem bringing thousands of Jews to pray at the Kotel. We patriotically say the prayer for the State of Israel and pray for the welfare of our soldiers. We end each Rosh Hodesh service with Hatikva.
    I think that if Women of the Wall are anti Israel then we are doing a lousy job of it!

    • Daniel Greenfield

      It’s not against the law, but it does indicate that WOW is not an independent non-partisan group, but that it looks a lot like an outgrowth of IRAC.

      And there’s a certain amount of dishonesty in that.

      As for WOW’s leadership, it consists of a woman who was in Women in Black, another woman who helps fund anti-Israel groups and a third woman who gave the UN guidance how to attack Israel for “its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem”

      That may be more significant than a showy public Hatikvah

    • A Z

      See Gideon Jones comment above.

      At best I can attribute fear as a motive. That is they want to pray at the wall but they would rather give Jerusalem to the Palestinians so that they “won’t hurt us” mentality.

      The worst motive I can attribute to them is that they are are bunch pf left wing activists throwing up one front group after another to fool at least some people (enough of them) to win politically.

      I am of the mind that it is the latter motive.

      This is the same tactic ACORN used. I don;t think much of them and I don;t think much of you.

    • TheOrdinaryMan

      “Our leadership served and serves in the IDF, we pay taxes…We patriotically say the prayer for the State of Israel and pray for the welfare of our soldiers. We end each Rosh Hodesh service with Hatikva.” Fine, but you’re just going through the motions. Do you really mean it? I, for one, am not sure. Leora Bechor’s statement to the effect that Israel is trying to create “a silent deportation,” because of what was probably a small spike in the yearly deportation number(4,577 in 2008), is not only very irresponsible, it does, as Daniel says, show hostility towards Jewish presence in Jerusalem. And I don’t believe Ms. Bechor when she stated that the 4,577 Palestinians deported in 2008, represented “35% of the total deportations since 1967.” That’s an incredible and irresponsible statement to make, and it simply doesn’t ring true. Notice, Bechor doesn’t mention what the total number of deportations is. Mr. Greenfield is right to have suspicions about WOW.

  • Gideon Jones

    Wait a minute. If Bachor is a part of a group that is against Jews being in “east”ern Jerusalem as a part of IRC, that means that as a part of WOW she is fighting against her fellow Jews to allow women to be allowed to wear tiffilin at a part of Jerusalem she believes NO Jews should be in to begin with.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Yes that’s the ridiculous aspect of the whole situation.

      Shouldn’t Bechor be petitioning Hamas or the PLO for permission then?

    • Rachel

      Have you studied logic? When you reach a contradiction it means that your premise is false.

      • Daniel Greenfield

        Or that the subject of the paradox is being dishonest and is not actually interested in Jerusalem or the Western Wall, but in defaming Israel.

      • Chavi Beck

        Hey Rachel, there is a difference between reaching a contradiction and exposing a contradiction.

  • Lars

    Their smile is their umbrella, but the crap falling ain’t rain.

  • SC

    WoW has already caused much damage by making Jews in the diaspora feel unwelcome at the Kotel. Instead of giving them the experience of coming to the Kotel and having an uplifting spiritual experience that is more traditional then they have at home- they have convinced many women in the diaspora that if you participate in traditional services you are being treated poorly and being excluded. They have also portrayed Israel as misogynistic in the international media- equating Traditional Jewish behavior with religious persecution. Their connections to pro-Arab, anti-Israeli organizations just clarifies the reasons behind their dangerous and sinister practices.

  • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

    The question I have to ask is why people have chosen this moment to get personal in their attacks on women at the wall.

    It seems that having lost the argument over whether women should be free to daven freely (in a way that men have taken for granted for years), now the argument has shifted to a campaign of character assassination — an attempt to prove that WOW have been campaigning for the right to daven simply as a front for some conspiracy to destroy the State of Israel.

    Whatever disagreements one might have with the politics of certain people, I ask if anyone really can argue that WOW were not set up to fight for the right of women to pray freely with a sefer Torah. I know for a fact that this is why the organisation started because I know personally several people who were active in WOW at its inception, and their desire was purely the desire to pray and be left alone to do so without being harassed or attacked.

    It may be that because of the often violent opposition to WOW, it has over time come under the leadership of hard-nosed women who are politically active in other respects, but that does not mean that the goals of WOW are any less laudable or that we should be any less vocal in protecting women from being attacked for the apparent sin of wishing to daven normally at the kotel and read from a sefer Torah.

    What I hope is that as the politics dies down, the organisation can become depoliticised and focus on the real work: that of organising inspiring prayer services for women at the kotel on Rosh Chodesh without fear of attack or harassment. Please God may this goal be achieved bimheirah beyameinu.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’re getting “organizational” on Women of the Wall not personal.

      WOW is run by IRAC directors and shares a mailing address with them. That strongly suggests that WOW is a front for IRAC and you’re going to have to address that if you want to be taken seriously.

      • Steven

        I think you are trying to find conspiracies where none exist. Come by the office and say hello sometime. Write us at pluralist@irac.org and we will make a time to show you around.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          Thanks for the invite, but why not just discuss now what role your organization has in running Women of the Wall?

      • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

        Daniel,
        Although I am a bit concerned about the activism of WOW folk in some organisaations, the link with IRAC is perfectly understandable. IRAC campaigns for religious freedom in Israel, and since WOW have had their religious freedom suppressed, they have received support from IRAC.
        The real point is to understand that it is perverse to strike out at WOW for being too political when they were forced into being so.
        If women had been allowed to daven in peace according to their traditions like men are allowed to do, in the first place, the polticisation would never have have occurred and WOW would have been able to focus on more spiritual matters such as how to create better services and encourage people to attend (like any shul, minyan, or chavura does).
        Because women were so badly attacked, they turned to politics to defend their rights, like many oppressed groups have done. The result has been that those who don’t have a stomach for politics have stayed away from WOW, and this has of course skewed its membership. But I suspect that now, with the politics (Please-God) behind them, they can become more of a normal prayer group and attract more less political people who simply want to daven and have previously not attended. The large attendance for Rosh Chodesh Kislev seems to show that this is already happening.
        I also must emphasise that one of the most upsetting thing to women who seek spiritual rights, is actually the fact of having to campaign for those rights, as this campaigning is exhausting and distracts from our desire to connect with God.
        But someone has to have the stomach to deal with the politics so that future people can just get on with being religious.
        I believe that this is what has now been achieved and this is a result that we should celebrate.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          It seems like more than support, when a group shares its two heads with another group. And a mailing address too.

          I support women being able to daven at the Kotel, but WOW to me seems like a left-wing front group whose leaders don’t really care about the Kotel, but seem driven to do as much damage to Israel’s image as they can.

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            As I’ve said, the link with IRAC is understandable and I can’t see why this is criticised. IRAC exists to defend the rights of people like women of the wall and so it has helped WOW by sharing an office with them.

            The matter of other political activity is much more of a concern, but even then, it is a very strong and unsubstantiated accusation to say that WOW exists simply to make trouble and not to protect the rights of women to daven.

            It is also a tremendous non-sequitor to respond to the political activism of certain WOW members by ceasing to support the right of women to daven without threat of attack. You yourself say that you support the right of women to pray at the kotel, so you should support the goals of WOW even if you might not like some of its leaders. The two issues have become muddled in a way that is very unhelpful.

            No doubt, due to its long struggle, WOW has accumulated a leadership of political activitists, and people who are politically active in one way tend to be active in others. This does not mean that one activity is a front for another or that people’s motives are wrong.

            If in fact the leadership of WOW is problematic, now that the battle has been won, this is a wonderful opportunity for new women, who do not have a stomach for poliitics, but who want to pray in peace, to perhaps organise other women’s prayer groups at the kotel, perhaps for benot mitzvah. The battle was won by WOW but it was won for all Jewish women.

            Perhaps if I come to Israel on holiday, rather than staying away from the kotel and feeling unfree when I visit it as I did last time, I can now come to the kotel some morning with my daughters, and daven and sing (I cannot daven without singing) with them without being afraid that some right-wing nutter willl attack us.

            However I might disagree with the politics of certain people in WOW, the above is an outcome for which we should all be truly thankful, and we should all help to defend these new rights so that they are never again taken away by men in black hats who act like they have a monopoly on Judaism.

          • Daniel Greenfield

            IRAC actually exists to promote the Reform movement in Israel. It’s an arm of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism which is the name of the Reform Judaism branch in Israel.

            I support the right of women to daven. I don’t support left-wing groups that are anti-Israel using that demand to create constant conflict, which is what WOW and its backers appear to be doing.

            And they’re the ones doing damage to the credibility of that cause.

            I fully support traditionally religious women organizing prayer groups. I don’t support WOW and I believe their organization and ties are worth examining.

    • Bat Zion Susskind-Sacks
      • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

        I am not accusing any journalist of having bad motives.
        I am questioning how people are responding to the accusations being made.

        People should not respond by stopping their support for religious freedom in Israel. The victory of WOW is to be celebrated whether or not you or I agree with the politics of certain people involved in it.

        If in fact the leadership of WOW is problematic, now that the battle has been won, this is a wonderful opportunity for new women, who do not have a stomach for poliitics, but who want to pray in peace, to perhaps organise other women’s prayer groups at the kotel, perhaps for benot mitzvah. The battle was won by WOW but it was won for all Jewish women.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          The problem is making WOW inseparable from women’s prayer. That’s what its backers want so they can push an entirely different agenda while hiding behind that.

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            I am not a member of WOW as I have not lived in Israel as an adult. I am also an orthodox Jew.

            I ask you a question Daniel:

            My family will please-God visit Israel at some point. When we do, my husband and son would go to the kotel to daven during the trip. It’s a wonderful experience, at least it is if you are male. I and my daughters might also want to do this but I would be afraid.

            Do you think that I should be able to daven at the kotel with my daughters (who know to daven)? Do you think we should be able to do this with raised voices (singing) as is our normal manner of davening together, without fear of being attacked or arrested or removed from the kotel by force? Would your answer be different if I wore tallit (I do not but I have friends who do)?

          • Daniel Greenfield

            I’ve already said women should be able to daven at the Kotel.

            That is not the issue.

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            Now you are really getting me confused.
            So are you saying that if another group of nice normal yir’ei shamayim women who were not politically incorrect in any way, got together one Rosh Chodesh to daven at the kotel with a sefer Torah and tallit and tefillin, you would defend them against attack or disturbance?

          • Daniel Greenfield

            That’s what I’ve been saying all along

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            But if that really is the case then surely, however much you might dislike certain mebers of WOW, you should celebrate the victory of WOW as this makes it possible for sucn a group of women to do just this. Now the whole things can be depoliticised and women can get on with davening as they wish. Am I missing something?

          • Daniel Greenfield

            WOW’s goal is not to make it possible for women to pray there, it’s to stir up constant conflict and hostility over the issue… ultimately making it harder than ever for women to pray there.

            Because its endgame is something else entirely.

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            Daniel, you are making a lot of claims here but I don’t see any evidence for them, just a conspiracy theory which appears more and more paranoid as our conversation continues.
            You say WOW have a hidden agenda, but all you have shown is that the leadership of WOW might be involved in other political activity that some people might disagree with. There is no evidence that WOW is a front for anything, just, as I said, that politcally active people are involved.
            If you are going to accuse people of having a hidden agenda, I could just as well say that the opponents of WOW have a hidden agenda: to keep the kotel under the control of a certain special interest group. But I am not assuming this. I am struggling to understand how the opponents of WOW, such as yourself, can feel so strongly about their position, lesheim shamayim.
            However, I am beginning to give up, and it seems more and more to me that you are determined to think ill of WOW because you perhaps have a hidden agenda of your own.
            If not, then please explain to me why you are so opposed to WOW winning their fight, when you claim to support their stated goal.
            What is your agenda Daniel? If you ran the kotel, what would you do to make peace?

          • Daniel Greenfield

            Pointing out that the leadership of an org is tied in with anti-Israel left-wing groups by citing actual facts, including their roles in such groups, is not a conspiracy theory.

            It’s a fact.

          • Shira Batya Lewin Solomons

            I am not disputing your claim that leaders of WOW might be involved in other things that you or I might find distasteful. This on its own is not proof that WOW are pushing their stated goals because they have some hidden agenda. That is an accusation of dishonesty which you would have to provide evidence for. As I have said, it is much more likely that poltical activists have been attracted to the WOW cause because the whole thing has become politicised. This politicisation happened as a result of opponents of WOW who fought to stop them from praying in peace. I have explained this to you now several times and unless you show some sign of understanding me I will have to conclude that you are being deliberately obtuse.

            It is equally true that the leaders of the opposition to WOW are politically active, and one could argue that they themselves have a hidden agenda and are not being fully honest. Again, I am struggling to find what their motive could be lesheim shamayim and every time you dodge my questions you convince me more and more that the real hidden agenda is on the other side.

            I ask you again, why, if you support the right of women to pray at the kotel with tallit and tefilin and a sefer Torah, why you are not happy that women have won this right, how ever much you might dislike the particular women who are taking advantage of this right at present. Saying that you think they have ulterior motives is again not an adequate answer as this assertion is pure supposition not supported by facts. Moreover, with the poltical victory won, those who have become involved in WOW for poltical reasons will in all likelihood get bored and find other causes to fight for, leaving room for less political leadership to emerge.

            If you fail once more to answer me satisfactorily then I will take this as proof that you are not being fully honest about your motives and that you actually do not support the right of women to pray at the kotel with tallit, tefillin and a sefer Torah.

            Daniel, if you ran the kotel, what rules would you make to achieve shalom between the competing factions?

          • Chavi Beck

            Why are you afraid? I haven’t heard this from any other female acquaintances visiting Israel, all of whom davened at the Kotel and found it a wonderfully special experience.

  • http://glezelevayne.wordpress.com Glezele Vayne

    Wait a minute. “Women of the Wall solicits local donations to “Women of the Wall, P. O. Box 31936, Jerusalem, 91319, Israel”

    The Israel Religious Action Center solicits donations to “Israel Religious Action Center P.O.B. 31936 Jerusalem, 91319 Israel”

    It would appear that not only is Women of the Wall run by IRAC leaders, but that they share a post office box.”

    Is there a typo there?? Please fix it, as the point might be lost on some.