Chief warns against women leading prayers

By Marcus Dysch, December 23, 2013

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has warned rabbis that partnership minyan services — where women can lead prayers — should not be allowed to take place in Orthodox synagogues.

In a message sent to leading rabbis and rebbetzins, Rabbi Mirvis said the services were “not something that can take place within our synagogues”.

The United Synagogue rabbinate has previously expressed concern about the introduction and growing popularity of partnership minyans.

Rabbi Mirvis said there was “virtually complete consensus within the Orthodox rabbinate” on the issue.

In his message he wrote: “I know that you are working with our communities to find ways, within the boundaries of halachah, to make prayer, learning, leadership and involvement more meaningful for men and women alike, and I encourage this wholeheartedly.

“Some of you, together with members of our communities, have approached me for direction with respect to holding services which take an approach different from our traditional understanding of roles in communal prayer, particularly where women would lead a service including a minyan of men, read from the Torah or receive Aliyot.

“It is my view that such services are not something that can take place within our synagogues or under our auspices. Whilst I welcome innovation where this is halachically sound, particularly encouraging both men and women to participate more actively and meaningfully in prayer, there is virtually complete consensus within the Orthodox Rabbinate, including within the Modern Orthodox Rabbinate, on this matter.”

Britain’s largest partnership minyans have taken place in Borehamwood, attracting more than 120 people.

In an email sent to its members, the Borehamwood Partnership Minyan confirmed it was independent, and expressed delight that “the Chief Rabbi shares our goal of encouraging both men and women to participate more actively and meaningfully in prayer”.

One of the first services took place in Golders Green, north-west London, in June. Around two dozen groups have held partnership services in Israel and the United States.

Last updated: 12:48pm, December 23 2013