Chief Rabbi candidate attacks 'chic but not kosher' partnership minyans

A leading British Orthodox rabbi has dismissed partnership minyans — services where women can read from the Torah and lead some of the prayers — as “a step towards Reform Judaism”.

Rabbi Alan Kimche, head of the independent Ner Israel community in Hendon, who was a candidate for chief rabbi, joined the opposition against the new-style services in a strongly worded article posted on his website.

He hit out at the practice on the eve of a visit here by one of the most prominent Orthodox supporters of partnership minyans (PMs), the British-born Israeli scholar, Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber.

Rabbi Kimche argued that even if a halachic case could be made in favour of PMs, it would be “irrelevant”.

He said that there was a consensus among the leading rabbinic interpreters today that PMs are “in violation of the spirit of the Law, the ruach Hatorah.

“It is therefore outside of Orthodoxy and anyone attending such a service is consequently participating in a (thinly veiled) Masorti event.”

Rabbi Kimche said that “undoubtedly, the majority of women who participate in the partnership minyan do so for all the correct reasons, to enhance the spiritual quality of their prayers and deepen their involvement in the community. They report feeling inspired by the experience.”

But he went on: “Sadly it is not a kosher experience. They are unwittingly stepping over a red line, moving outside of Orthodoxy into the realm of Reform Judaism.

“This has indeed has been recognised both by the Orthodox Union and Rabbinical Council of America as well as Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who have forbidden the PM to take place on their premises.

“In some cases, this partnership minyan is being used as a blunt weapon to strike at the Orthodox tradition in the revolutionary hope of enshrining feminism as the new flavour of Judaism. Very chic but not authentic.”

There are PMs currently operating regularly in London, in Borehamwood and Hampstead.

Last updated: 7:45pm, March 6 2014