In partnership minyans, women may open the holy ark, lead the Kabbalat Shabbat hymns on Friday night and the early morning Psukei D’zimra prayers, read from the Torah and get called to the Torah. But they may not lead the Shacharit or Mussaf services because that would violate Jewish legal precepts requiring prayer leaders to be obligated themselves in the recitation of those prayers (only men are obligated to recite the Shacharit and Mussaf prayers at their appointed times, according to Jewish law).
Because partnership minyans have mechitzah dividers, managing the egalitarianism can require some delicate choreography. The table where the Torah is read must be located in a neutral area accessible by both men and women. Depending on who takes the Torah out of the ark, it may be passed from one side of the room to the other on its way to the table. Some minyans have two lecterns for prayer leaders, one on each side of the mechitzah.
While partnership minyans have made inroads among Orthodox Jews, they’re still kept at arm’s length by Orthodox institutions. A recent article published in Tradition, the journal of the Rabbinical Council of America, the mainstream Orthodox rabbis’ association, concludes, like Rabbi Schachter, that partnership minyans violate Jewish law.
In a statement issued to JTA, the leaders of the Orthodox Union said they reached the same conclusion.
“The consensus of the rabbis to whom the Orthodox Union turns to for halachic guidance is unequivocal, that partnership minyanim are improper,” said the statement, signed by rabbis Steven Weil and Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. ”It is our goal to assert this position in a way that strives to maintain the unity of the Jewish people.”
The only Orthodox institution in the country that seems open to the minyans is Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the liberal Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Riverdale, New York. Chovevei’s president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin, says partnership minyans are within the bounds of Jewish law.
“There’s a lot of disagreement about it, but it’s well within Orthodoxy,” Lopatin said. “It’s just not normative yet.”