Skip to main content

Anger and Awe

         It is 1:15AM, and I just returned home from the Hadassah and WOW Women’s Night at the Kotel so filled with emotion. At the same time, both anger and passion encompass me, and all I can hope for is that one day things will be different. However, all I can be sure of is that I will continue fighting for what I believe in.

        As an HUC-WOW liaison, I gathered about ten volunteers to help usher in the Hadassah women and song-lead for what was to be a spiritual and peaceful event. It may have not been peaceful, but it was definitely moving! This evening was supposed to commemorate the joining together of women from all different backgrounds to be one at the Kotel. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, has assembled in Jerusalem for Hadassah’s 100th Anniversary, and tonight we had hoped to celebrate womanhood together!

Our niggun came to an end without regard to the shushing noises coming from both the men’s section over the mechitza as well as some Orthodox women. It was then that Chairwoman of Women of the Wall, Anat Hoffman began with words of welcome in the women’s section of the Kotel. After she explained the mission we stand for and thanked everyone for coming, I began leading the communal Shema for all of the Hadassah women. I let out the starting “Shema” as everyone joined in praise around me! Wow! All of those voices together; so powerful! I stood next to her, so proud to be a part of this amazing organization. I looked around at the Hadassah women, and turning back, the next thing I knew, Anat was being arrested. From right next to me, she was taken away for singing the Shema out loud!                 
[Photography by Michal Fattal]
Anat Hoffman & I in awe!
   We continued with the V’ahavta and exited out after Anat singing “Ozi v'zimrat Yah” [defined as "My Strength (balanced) with the Song of God will be my salvation (Psalm 118:14 & Exodus 15:2)"] (Translation from Rabbi Shefa Gold). We stood in the main courtyard as tensions exacerbated. Security guards stood all around and Orthodox women yelled at us for singing out loud. One WOW representative explained to the Hadassah women what had taken place, thanking them for attending and supporting our cause.

 More buses had arrived and Hadassah women entered into the courtyard expecting to attend the spiritual, song-filled event, only to find shouting and chaos all around. I saw one Hadassah member, about my age, watching the yelling of the Orthodox women. I went up to her and asked if she could translate for me what exactly they were saying. She saw my WOW nametag, thanked me for supporting the organization and threw her arms around me. We were both so shaken, filled with rage at the hatred around us, but in that moment of uproar, two strangers stood united! Just then her mother came over and asked if we knew each other. The girl answered, “No” but that we had bonded. She was right! I looked about to see Hadassah women of all ages, mixed with HUC students, all in conversation. We truly were united.
I sit here typing further into the morning; my emotions trying to find space to settle. I cannot believe the actions I have witnessed this evening: the yelling, the arguing…all to point out our differences. One could not even begin to imagine how divided our people are, the Jewish people, until witnessing tonight. While I do not know what the future may bring, I do know that I will be back at the Kotel ready to prayer with all of my soul, at 7AM for tomorrow's Rosh Hodesh service… and sadly, mostly praying for the Jewish people.

“How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it! Blessed is the Eternal One, the holy G-d” (Gates of Prayer)!
awe: "an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)


  1. Thank you, Alli! A beautiful and heart-wrenching post. A powerful blog.

  2. Thank you for keeping this blog, Alli, and for writing about what you witnessed.

  3. Alli,
    Wow indeed! I"m speechless. Not only are you a part of some incredible events, but your recording of what you have been a part of is inspiring. Thank you for sharing.


Post a Comment

Leave a comment for Alli here!
She would love to hear your thoughts!

Popular posts from this blog

A Little Victory Thursday, June 21, 2012 – Rosh Hodesh Tamuz
     This past week, I experienced my first Rosh Hodesh service with Women of the Wall. I woke up early, excited to arrive at the Kotel for the 7AM service. Tallit in hand, I stood in the back of the women's section just about ready to pray, not knowing what was in store. After being handed a siddur, I placed myself in the middle of the cluster, surrounding myself with the women of the wall. Similar to the stones of the Western Wall, separated enough to fit a prayer into but united enough to withstand time, the Women of the Wall are an enduring group. While each woman came from a different background, we all joined together for a common purpose: freedom of religious expression.

     I had heard about recent detainments for wearing a tallit, a prayer shawl, and while I was a bit apprehensive, I was ready to stand up for what I believed in. I unfolded my tallit, made the blessing, and placed it over my shoulders as always.…

"Hamilton" meets the Torah

Parashat Chukat - Our Peacemaking Founding Fathers July 15th, 2016 Alli Cohen
[Sung] "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now. Look around, look around" (Miranda).
These lyrics are from the Tony award-winning musical, Hamilton, which tells the story of America’s less-acknowledged founding father, Alexander Hamilton, during the time of the Revolutionary War.
These words are sung as a reminder to be thankful for each day and as a reminder to make the most of each day. I felt they were appropriate for today, at a time when we are more keenly aware of life’s fragility and of our own mortality. 
How do we memorialize so many individuals who have been killed? How do we pay homage to their lives?
This week’s Torah portion may provide some answers for us, as we learn of Aaron’s death. In the Torah we learn that all of the house of Israel mourned the death of their leader Aaron. In one commentary, by Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz, which reads like a eulogy, we learn…

Dear G-d

Dear G-d,

           I write you once more just like I did when I first arrived in Israel in June of 2012. So much has happened since then, both to me and to Israel. I arrived with mixed emotions for my first year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. I expected to feel like an insider in what was so commonly called my “homeland”.            I recalled my rabbi’s words, “ כל התחלות קשות (Kol hatchalot kashot); All beginnings are difficult" (Rabbi Don Rossoff). I expected a challenging journey but had no idea what experiences would lie ahead, testing my beliefs as a Reform Jew.

           I had heard about the organization Women of the Wall whose “central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of [their] right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall” in Jerusalem (Mission Statement 1). In June, how unthinkable it was for me that women, Jews, could not pray fr…