As the mother of three daughters, I believe very strongly in religious freedom and pluralism. All people should be able to practice the religion that they believe, without persecution. This is true here in the US, and it should also be true in Israel.
And of course, I use the words "separate but equal" advisedly. In 1898 the US Supreme Court decided in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation, characterized by the court as "separate but equal", should be the law of the land in the US. It was not until that court reversed itself and decided Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, that our government even began to acknowledge that segregation should not be the policy of our country.
Unfortunately, this has not yet happened in israel. With increasing regularity, women who gather to pray at the Kotel to welcome Rosh Hodesh, the beginning of the month, have begun to wear a tallit, as many of us do - and take for granted - in defiance of the Israeli law that prohibits them from doing so, because they are women. Over the last few months a few women have been arrested for doing so. Some Israeli women, a Reform rabbi. Yesterday, it hit much closer to home when two Conservative woman rabbis, including one whose congregation is in Queens, R. Robin Fryer Bodzin, together with R. Debra Cantor, were arrested for the crime of wearing a tallit.
So what do we do as we stand, possibly, at the cusp of possible change? There is a possibility that the new government, for the first time in many years, may not include Haredim (the religious parties), which might allow for some changes in the way the government involves itself in excluding Conservative, Reform and even some Modern Orthodox rabbis, from Israeli religious life.
I propose that we organize an egalitarian Rosh Hodesh outdoor prayer service here in NY, in celebration of our religious freedom in this country and as a statement of encouragement to those who do not yet enjoy that freedom, hopefully attended by many Jews. As the new Israeli government forms, and we celebrate the next Rosh Hodesh on Tuesday March 12, welcoming the month of Nissan, biblically, our first month, and the month of our liberation from slavery, we shall not continue to remain silent.
--R. Iris Richman