Brighton Reform votes for equality

July 28, 2011

Brighton and Hove Reform members have voted narrowly in favour of equal rights for women congregants.

A motion to support the "implementation of egalitarian rights for men and women in respect of religious practice and participation in services" was passed by a 36-28 majority at the synagogue AGM.

In a letter to congregants, warden Tony Rosenfield explained: "We are probably the only Reform synagogue in this country where women are not afforded the same and full religious rights as men.

"Religious practice and worship must adapt to a changing Jewish world and we must now move forward and allow women to joyously and meaningfully express their Judaism in the same way as men."

In an opposing missive, board member Stewart Macintosh argued that he and other "more traditional'' members cherished the mixture of Reform and Orthodox practices that had led the shul to be referred to as "Refrum".

Changes would be made with ‘sensitivity’

Miriam Book told the meeting: "I became a member of this synagogue 22 years ago after getting married, moving from Alyth [Golders Green], where women had full equality with men in all aspects of the services.

"It was a real shock to find myself in a Reform community where women were still prevented from full participation."

Initially strongly against the proposal, Lydia Stanford was swayed by the arguments of the pro camp. "I came here to vote against the change due to my Orthodox roots and my emotional attachment to them. But during the meeting, and in particular listening to the argument that we should 'vote with our heads, not necessarily with our hearts', I changed my mind and voted for the change."

Shul chair Michael Harris said afterwards that "the board will now have to discuss the next steps.

"I am sure that any implementation will have to be undertaken with great care and sensitivity.

"One positive outcome to a change in our approach to treatment of the different sexes is that we would be in a much better position to extend a welcome to Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the newly appointed movement rabbi."

Last updated: 2:14pm, July 28 2011