Advancing the cause of feminism is not the purpose of a Shul. The purpose of a Shul is prayer. A Minyan enhances our prayer. That’s it. Everything else is peripheral. Not that peripherals are bad. On the contrary. Many of them are very good. But not all of them.
One of the points made by Mr. Gordan is the following:
Partnership minyanim have gained support from some rabbis and opposition from many more. The debate they have inspired reflects how central the public prayer service is to the identity of Orthodox Jews. Apologists for the current state of affairs in Orthodoxy will contend that the true seat of Judaism is the study hall, but the resistance to allowing any change in women’s roles in the synagogue makes clear the importance this institution has in Jewish life as well.
Perhaps this is where the problem really lies. As important as a Shul is – it is not the central focus of Judaism. But in Heterodox movements this has certainly been the case. Just as the church is the central focus of most Christians so too has the Shul been the focus in Heterodoxy. I think this is one reason Orthodox feminists are so focused on the Shul – seeing it as a central defining part of religion.
The truth is that Orthodox Judaism is a full time religion. Halacha mandates that we pay attention to God throughout our day and provides many rituals for both men and women to do so. The Shul is a place where one of those rituals take place. It is our house of prayer. But it does not define us in our totality.
As I said I would not ban these Minyanim. I would even encourage Jews who might be attracted to the egalitarianism of Conservative and Reform Judaism to give these Minyanim a try first. But in my view these Shuls are not the wave of the future. Nor should they be.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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