The Federation of Synagogues has told women that they cannot dance with Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah after one of its congregations reportedly allowed them to do so last month.
In a statement issued to members, the head of the Federation Beth Din, Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, said the practice was “strictly forbidden” according to Jewish law. Citing rabbinic sources, he said that women are “not to be handed a Sefer Torah under any circumstances and in any location”.
For women to dance with a Sefer Torah “profanes the sanctity of the Sefer Torah and… violates the halachic etiquette of the synagogue”, he said.
His view contrasts with the position of the United Synagogue where women in an increasing number of congregations have danced with scrolls — separately from men — on the festival.
Dina Brawer, the founder of the UK branch of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, said the Federation stance was “a missed opportunity to engage women and strengthen Orthodoxy”.
She added: “While there is broad halachic consensus that there is no prohibition for women to touch, carry or dance with a Sefer Torah, the Federation chose to base their ruling on the notion that ‘it violates halachic etiquette’.”