About the Founders
The idea for Western Wall Prayers originally came from Gershon Burd. Gershon left his family's insurance business in Chicago in 1999 to pursue full-time Torah studies at the Center Program at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva in Jerusalem. After 2 years, he moved to Yeshivas Bircas HaTorah in the Old City where he learned full-time until he became its Executive Director in 2004, after which he divided his time between a rigorous personal learning program and running much of the yeshiva's day-to-day business and management affairs.
Gershon founded Western Wall Prayers together with his wife Batya Burd, a former lawyer who moved from her hometown of Toronto to Israel in 2001. She studied full-time at the Neve Yerushalayim and Eyaht seminaries before meeting and marrying Gershon in 2003. She also trained and certified as a spiritual therapist at the psychospiritual therapy institute in Jerusalem. She brings these skills to her role at Western Wall Prayers, using an understanding and intuitive approach to help applicants articulate their personal prayers.
Batya and Gershon setup their home in the heart of the Jewish quarter, had five children and fast became active members of the local community, regularly hosting Shabbos guests from Jerusalem and around the world. Tragically, Gershon passed away just 10 years after their marriage, in late 2013. After his death, stories began emerging of the many hidden kind deeds and secret acts of charity he had performed. The incredible amount that he accomplished in so short a time has inspired thousands, and numerous charitable projects have been established in his memory. To read more about his legacy, click here.
In the meantime, Batya proved herself to be a bastion of faith, inspiring the masses with her incredible inner strength and continuing in her mission to help people get closer to their Creator and develop their power of prayer through Western Wall Prayers. Click here to browse Batya's reflections on this difficult time period. (This will bring up an archive of blog posts in backward chronological order.)
A year later, Batya decided to follow in Gershon's footsteps and pray 40 days at the Kotel to merit to marry her second soul mate (zivug sheini in Hebrew). On the 40th day, which happened to be Yom Kippur, an acquaintance and friend of Gershon's named Ephraim, volunteered to be Batya's prayer agent while she fasted at home. Ephraim woke up at sunrise and prayed near the Holy of Holies for her to marry a man that had the qualities for which she was looking. 3 months later his prayers were answered and Batya married him! Batya became Batya Crane and both know they have Gershon upstairs to thank for interceding on their behalf. They hope and pray that Gershon continues to support Western Wall Prayers from his resting place by interceding on everyone's behalf as well.
How WWP began
After 5 years of searching for his life partner through countless dates, Gershon Burd decided to try the 40-days-at-the-Wall segula in 2003. Unbeknownst to him a friend was also praying 40 days at the Wall for him at the same time.
During the same period of time, Batya, who had not even been dating, was experiencing many life tests that made her realize she was ready to get married. After Gershon completed his 40 days, a mutual friend introduced them and two weeks later, Gershon and Batya were engaged.
Batya's friend Lia, who lived in Toronto, arranged to travel to Jerusalem for the wedding. Like Gershon, she too has having difficulty finding her soul mate. Batya convinced Lia to take 40 days off of work to pray at the Wall for her zivug (soul mate). Upon her arrival in Israel, she rushed from the airport to reach the Wall by Sundown and visited everyday thereafter. On the 40th day, a man she had previously dated flew in to see her and they became engaged later that week.
After seeing such wonderous blessings granted to them, Gershon inspired Batya to offer people around the world access to the power of 40 days of prayer at the Wall. In light of the financial struggle experienced by so many Kollel families in Jerusalem, the Burds decided to launch Western Wall Prayers as a way to raise money for them. By Divine Providence, Lia's husband Daniel owned a website-business and he agreed to donate a website and services to the Western Wall Prayers venture. Today, Batya and her assistant, Shira, help people to formulate their prayer requests, suggest positive practices that they may take on, and coordinate the rabbis, yeshiva students, and kollel wives who pray daily at the Wall.
Eleven years on, Western Wall Prayers has attracted international attention and prayer requests from every corner of the Earth – and the result have been spectacular (thank G-d). But the essence of Western Wall Prayers remains the personal attention and guidance that Batya and Shira give to every single donor. Many of them stay in touch long after their 40 days have ended and their hearts' desire has been fulfilled.