Women of the Wall, the feminist prayer group that holds a monthly service at the Western Wall, launched on Sunday a new bus campaign to encourage young Israeli girls to hold their bat mitzvah ceremonies at the Jewish holy site.
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Most Israeli girls do not celebrate their bat mitzvahs by reading from their Torah portions, as is customary outside the country. Under the Hebrew slogan, “This is the Torah, now is my turn,” the campaigns ads features girls, ages 11 to 14, wearing prayer shawls and holding a Torah scroll in front of the Western Wall.
The ads read: “Mom, I also want a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.”
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which oversees events at the Kotel, runs an active business of bar mitzvahs for boys at the site but nothing parallel for girls.
Controlled by the Orthodox establishment, the foundation bans women from bringing in Torah scrolls to the women’s sections of the Western Wall. “These brave young girls and others have the right to have their bat mitzvah at the holiest site for Jews,” said Lesley Sachs, director of Women of the Wall spoke at the campaign launch. “That is one of the things we are fighting for, and that is why we have launched this campaign.”
Most months when Women of the Wall activists hold their morning prayer services at the Kotel, they are joined by at least one or two young girls marking their bat mitzvah ceremonies. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation does not permit worshippers to bring their own Torah scrolls to the premises, so the Torah is not read during theses ceremonies, as it traditionally is during bar- and bat-mitzvahs that take place in synagogues.
Women of the Wall activists have occasionally attempted to sneak Torah scrolls into the women’s section but with little success.