Kotel rabbi protests Conservative movement prayers

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
The Chief Rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, said on Monday that those who conduct services not in line with Orthodox customs should not pray anywhere along the length of the Jewish holy site.

Rabinowitz was referring particularly to Conservative and Reform customs where men and women have equal roles and pray together.

The movement has free access to the southern tip of the southern wall, which is known as Robinson’s Arch, for morning, Sabbath and holiday prayers. Non-Orthodox prayer sessions have been held for the past seven years at Robinson's Arch, inside an archeological park at the southern tip of the wall.

“Whoever wants to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, but does not want to do it according to Jewish custom, should go elsewhere,” said Rabinowitz. “It makes me sad that there are people who do not want to respect the Kotel (Western Wall) as a place of unity and togetherness for the entire Jewish people.”

The Conservative movement has slight liturgical changes in their prayers, but the main area of concern is its lack of gender separation.

“The Fund for the Traditions of the Kotel provides guides who can help families celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in accordance with tradition or put on tefillin (phylacteries) or read a Torah scroll,” said Rabinowitz. “Many Reform and Conservative families use our services.”

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