Think of it as an Olympic Torch for pluralism: A Torah scroll scheduled to be read by women at the Western Wall, before finding a home at a Reform congregation in Israel, will make three stops in New Jersey along its journey.
Dubbed Torateinu ARZA — after the Association of Reform Zionists of America — the scroll is being passed from congregation to congregation (50 in all) in support of the Reform movement’s efforts to promote religious pluralism in Israel. After stops in New Brunswick and Marlboro it will visit Temple Emanu-El of West Essex in Livingston on June 4.
It will arrive in Israel in time for Rosh Hodesh on June 29, when women plan to read from the scroll at the Kotel — a practice currently forbidden by Israel’s Ministry of Justice and the Orthodox authorities who supervise the Wall — before donating it to Sha’ar HaNegev, a Reform community in the northern Negev.
Not everyone — and not even all of its supporters — agree with the goals of Women of the Wall, which advocates for women’s and egalitarian worship at the Western Wall. Some are satisfied with a compromise reached earlier this year that led to the creation of a pluralist prayer area at the Wall. WOW wants more, including the ability to access Torah scrolls at the Kotel’s women’s section for women’s Torah readings. The issue will be addressed by Israel’s democratic system — messy and often unsatisfying, like most democracies, but a democracy nonetheless.
You don’t have to support the goals of the Torah relay to respect this statement of deep attachment between American congregations and their fellow Jews in Israel. At a time when apathy seems the enemy, those who believe in expanded opportunities for Jewish worship in Israel are educating a generation to care.