Synagogue offers greater role for women

By Simon Rocker, February 14, 2014

A United Synagogue congregation is to introduce changes to allow women a greater role in the synagogue service.

Members of South Hampstead Synagogue in London learned of the innovations at a meeting on Sunday.

A congregant told the JC that the changes would “push the boundaries a bit”.

But the shul’s rabbi Shlomo Levin made clear at the meeting that he could not go so far as to support “partnership minyans” — services where women can read from the Torah and lead some of the prayers.

At South Hampstead, batmitzvah girls already deliver Torah address from the bimah during the Shabbat service, rather than at the end as in other US synagogues.

The congregant said that, when the girls went forward to the ark “their grandfathers give them a blessing. Now women would be involved and give them the blessings too.”

Also, girls under the age of batmitzvah will be allowed to sing Anim Zmirot, the Hymn of Glory, at the end of the Shabbat service, in groups.

The view on partnership minyans at South Hampstead was taken after extensive consultations with Orthodox rabbis abroad.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has already given his view that such minyans could not be held under US auspices.

An independent partnership minyan has begun praying regularly in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire and one has also met in the Hampstead area.

Last updated: 10:45am, February 14 2014