The London Beth Din has reassured rabbis that the majority of United Synagogue trustees must be men, following last week’s announcement that women would be allowed to stand for office next year.
A notice sent to rabbis last Friday by Dayan Menachem Gelley, the senior dayan of the LBD, explained that a previous email from the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the LBD about the change had not spelled out the conditions.
Seven male trustees, including the president, currently lead the US, Britain’s largest synagogue body. In addition, four women attend trustee meetings as observers.
But women will now be eligible to become full trustees at the next triennial elections in summer — although the presidency will, for the time being, remain a male preserve. Dayan Gelley said that “the LBD permits women to serve astrustees as long as the majority of trustees are men” and added: “Accordingly, if, for example, the US wish to have eight trustees plus the president, four of the trustees may be women.”
This was in line with the LBD’s longstanding view of Jewish law applying to “the appointment of women to public communal office”, he said.
Earlier this year, the first women chairmen of local US synagogues were elected into office.
Dalia Cramer, co-chairman of US Women, who has been an observer at trustee meetings for four years, said she was “thrilled that we are at the stage when, finally, we can give all our members an opportunity to lead our community.
“To have a good, functioning trustee body, you should have different perspectives — and that includes men and women.”
As for the question of a woman president, she said: “The impression I get is that was a step too far for the Beth Din. We have a challenge to fill four places for women — let’s get that done first. Let’s not run before we can walk.”