After chairing shuls, women could soon be US trustees

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has been asked to lift one of the last remaining bars to women assuming leadership roles in the United Synagogue by allowing them to become trustees of the central Orthodox body.

US president Stephen Pack told a meeting of its lay council on Monday that Rabbi Mirvis had been asked to give a decision in time for next July’s election of trustee officers.

Mr Pack was “quite confident that he is aware of our timetable and he will come up with something sooner rather than later”.

In May, a number of women were elected to chair their local US congregations for the first time after Lord Sacks and the London Beth Din approved the move in his final year of office.

At present, the US is governed by seven male trustees — a president, three vice-presidents and three treasurers — while four women attend meetings as observers.

US leaders were considering cutting the number of seats on the top table to “eight or thereabouts” and scrapping designated posts except for president and treasurer, Mr Pack said.

The proposal to allow women trustees raised issues of Jewish law, which were now under consideration by the Chief Rabbi and Beth Din. But his personal view was that US rabbis had been, “much more concerned about women chairs than they were about women trustees”.

Hampstead Garden Suburb representative Simon Johnson suggested that, unless some seats on the trustee table were reserved for women, “then the odds are — from my general experience of how elections go — you will end up with eight men. At that point, you are starting to look at quotas and that is also a dangerous route to go down.”

But Golders Green delegate Jonathan Davies disputed the argument that women would not fare well in an open election.

Mr Pack also told the council that Rabbi Mirvis’s decision to be the first serving Chief Rabbi to attend the Limmud winter conference had been “very well received. I think what we will probably see is a lot of our rabbonim going there to support him — and maybe even more of our community will go as well.”

Last updated: 10:45am, October 14 2013