Photo Credit: Mike Kelly / JTA
Ruth Lockshin of Toronto leads a partnership minyan at a conference in New York of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, December 2013.

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.

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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.”

(JTA)

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Judaism has survived 2,000 years of persecution by adhering to the traditions. Those Jew's who feel that tradition is not important have assimilated out of Judaism. Many world leaders have Jewish ancestry but are no longer Jewish. Women who find this important will have gentile grandchildren.

  2. Judaism once allowed "polygamy" so why would later outlaw such marriages? YU is a modern institution which has changed so much (for the worse) since its founding as a Rabbinic Ordination and Preparatory Seminary Rabbi Bernard Revel, that today's YU is run as a (pretty poor) business in which top-level administration executive make huge amounts of money for nothing more that "cutting expenses" of teachers, departments, a legendary sporting coach, all in an effort to cede control to a bunch of right wingnut dingbats who don the latest in CharediWear, but have left their brains and heart at the Sephorim Store in San Francisco.
    THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT YOUR FATHER'S YESHIVA UNIVERSITY!

  3. I have known for a long time Ruth Lockshin who is featured in the photograph. She is a very fine and knowledgable woman. She is married to Rabbi Marty Lockshin, who for many years has given outstanding shiurim in English and in Ivrit to people in his own shool, to many different audiences, and is world-renowned as the author and translator of a critical edition of Rashbam's commentary on the Torah. Marty, though, 'politically' is on the far-left of Modern Orthodoxy – he was a signatory to the ill-advised Helfgot statement on same-sex issues – and not surprisingly he is very encouraging of his wife's greater participation in services. One of my own daughter's has been a beneficiary of the positive side of Ruth's activities, having chanted one of the parshiyot of Megillat Esther a few years ago at a reading organized by Ruth. These are good people and even those who may disagree with their interpretations should be aware that they have brought understanding and inspiration to many other Jews of very different backgrounds.

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