I once queried a young granddaughter of mine about what she brought to school for lunch. She listed an assortment of sandwiches but an iconic one was missing. “What about peanut butter?” I asked. Her eyes widened and she said, “Oh, no. We don’t bring peanut butter into the school. Some kids are lergic to it!”
The following week I was interviewed on a Jewish television program about the “Women of the Wall.” I had not planned to recount my conversation with my grandchild but it unexpectedly sprung to mind and I did. It surely inconveniences children with a fondness for peanut butter, I mused to the interviewer, to be unable to enjoy it for lunch. But concern for the sensitivities of others trumps our personal preferences, as it should. I suggested that sensitivities come in different colors. A halacha-abiding man may not be literally lergic to women’s chanting. But in a way he is.
For more than forty years, the Kosel has been a place perhaps the only one in the world where Jews of all affiliations and persuasions have regularly prayed side by side. That has been possible because of the good will of non-Orthodox Jews Israelis and Westerners alike who, although they may opt for very different services in their own homes, synagogues or temples, have considered the feelings of those who embrace the entirety of the Jewish religious tradition.