July 25, 2024
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10,000 Girls Participate in Atzeret Tefillah at the Kotel

(Courtesy of Eretz Hakodesh) Ten thousand girls packed the Kotel plaza last Friday morning, Rosh Chodesh Adar Bet, for an atzeret tefillah arranged with the encouragement of gedolei Yisrael.

The gathering was orchestrated to coincide at a time when the leaders of the American Reform and Conservative movements were to be gathering at the Kotel. The atzeret tefillah served as a counter to the efforts being carried out by those from the Reform and Conservative communities and others who wish to compromise the kedusha of the Kotel.

This event was arranged and sponsored under the auspices of Eretz Hakodesh, on the instructions of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, and Rav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, rosh yeshiva of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Thousands of seminary girls in Yerushalayim, both native Israelis and those from abroad who are studying in Eretz Yisrael, participated in the tefillah rally.

“Friday morning’s tefillah event at the Kotel was so inspiring,” commented one menahelet of an American seminary. “Our girls returned on such a spiritual high that remained with them the entire Shabbos.”

This atzeret tefillah was designed, based on a directive handed down some years ago by Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, to Rabbi Pesach Lerner. At that time, Rabbi Lerner had an idea that he personally shared with Rav Shteinman: Instead of battling with those seeking to arrange all-female minyanim at the Kotel, why not simply fill the Kotel plaza with those who are chareidim l’dvar Hashem? By filling the women’s section and the plaza with true bnot Yisrael, by default there would not be room for others. Rav Shteinman liked the idea very much.

That atzeret tefillah, which was an assembly of kiddush sheim shamayim, was followed by several similar ones over the years, always at the direction of gedolei Yisrael.

Last week’s gathering was the latest such event, and the largest to date. A call went out in the Israeli Yated Ne’eman newspaper and elsewhere, asking bnot Yisrael to gather at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh morning. Rabbi Nechemya Malinowitz, of the Igud Yeshivot and Seminaries of Bnei Chul, reached out to all the seminaries in Eretz Yisrael with whom he has worked so closely over the last two years of COVID, conveying the desire of gedolei Yisrael for the girls to take part in this gathering. Arrangements were made by Degel HaTorah representatives to ensure that there would be sufficient Egged buses for those who would be taking public transportation to the atzeret. Preparations were made with the proper authorities to guarantee maximum security and decorum.

What was unique this time was that the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements from the United States had come to Israel to participate in the Jewish Agency for Israel annual Board of Governors meetings. Their agenda included an appearance at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh. They were not quite prepared for what they would encounter at the Kotel, a massive crowd of 10,000 bnot Yisrael, including close to 1,500 American seminary students—who had arrived by bus to daven Shacharit at the Kotel.

“I arrived at the Kotel at approximately 5:30 a.m.,” Rabbi Malinowitz related. “By 6:15 a.m. the women’s side of the Kotel, the plaza, every available space, began to fill up with girls, and the official Rosh Chodesh minyan for Shacharit, under the direction of Rav Shmuel Rabinovich, rav of the Kotel, complete with loudspeakers, began at about 6:40 a.m.”

Noted chazan Avremi Roth led the davening, which featured a beautiful, inspiring Hallel. Among those present were MK Yitzchok Pindrus, who was integrally involved in coordinating the gathering, and Rav Rabinovich.

“The gathering made a significant statement,” observed Rabbi Malinowitz. “The presence of so many frum American girls was significant.”

“At the same time,” added Rabbi Malinowitz, “the fact that the gedolei Yisrael’s statement encouraging this gathering resulted in the participation of 10,000 bnot Yisrael was a tremendous kiddush Hashem.”

It was just a couple of months ago that Rabbi Lerner, chairman of Eretz Hakodesh, shared, “It is critical at this point in time to recognize the vital role of Diaspora Jewry to raise our voices and prove to the Israeli government that Diaspora Jewry wishes to maintain the status quo at the Kotel and the Jewish integrity of Israel.”

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