Federation shul is pushing to get women on board

Edgware’s Yeshurun Synagogue is bidding to become the first Federation congregation to elect women to its board of management.

Yeshurun president Russell Grossman will propose the historic move at an extraordinary meeting next Wednesday.

In an email to members, Mr Grossman said that it had been “a source of frustration to many women in our community for a long time that they are not permitted to have a vote in the annual elections or be members of the shul in their own right”.

It had been five years, he noted, since the head of the Federation Beth Din, Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, had issued a ruling which “paved the way for women’s full involvement in synagogue affairs, subject to certain halachic conditions”.

The shul’s officers had been “repeatedly implored by a large number of women within the community to address this issue in practical terms for Yeshurun”.

While the Federation collectively was heading towards greater participation of women, he explained, “progress has ended up being too slow and my honorary officers and I feel that we need to go faster”.

Under the proposed revisions, married women will be able to take out membership separate from their husbands and have voting rights.

Up to five places on the board of 12 will be available to women, preserving a male majority. The offices of president, warden and financial representative will continue to be reserved for men.

Papers sent out in advance of the meeting note that one reason given by potential members for not joining Yeshurun was the “perceived treatment of women”.

One Yeshurun congregant, Miriam Gitlin-Leigh, reflected this week: “We have been working for this for many years and hopefully it will come to fruition.”

Mr Grossman reported that the synagogue’s rabbi, Alan Lewis, had been consulted and was “fully supportive” of the changes.

The Federation, meanwhile, is in the process of adopting a new constitution will which enable women to join its council.

Currently all council members are trustees.

But in future only the seven male honorary officers will be trustees, ensuring that the ultimate authority of the organisation remains vested in men, in accordance with the halachic requirements laid down by its Beth Din.

Last updated: 11:45am, May 6 2013