Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue has taken another step towards including women in the service by organising a procession for women with lulav and etrog over Succot.
In previous years, women have simply had to watch from the gallery as men paraded their arba minim — the four species used on Succot — around the bimah.
But after the formal conclusion of prayers on the second day of the festival, women came downstairs and took a turn with their lulav and etrogs around the synagogue.
HGS’s Rabbi Dov Kaplan said the congregation was “looking for ways to accommodate women within halachah without offending members here”. For several years, women have been able to dance with Torah scrolls during the congregation’s Simchat Torah celebration.
Rabbi Kaplan said there had been a “a buzz” around the place when the plan for a women’s circuit over Succot was announced. While his wife Freda led the women’s hakafah on one side of the bimah, he led a group of men on the other side.
“I have had questions from other rabbis about how we did it,” the minister reported.
When some rabbis voiced fears about such moves representing a “slippery slope”, his response was that “we should be brave enough and respect our baalhabatim [congregants] and ourselves that we can control it”.