In one sense, it is little short of ridiculous that the Chief Rabbi should have to issue a briefing paper urging that synagogues are “welcoming and inclusive”. No synagogue that is unwelcoming and exclusive can either hope or deserve to survive.
But many are just that — especially for women. The passivity and exclusion that was normal for women in synagogue life a generation ago is now an anachronism.
But while society has changed, there has not been enough significant change within too many synagogues — and especially the United Synagogues. The US leadership, lay and religious, knows this.
They also know that this poses an existential threat. In that vein, this week’s changes are certainly significant — at least in theory. The role of women’s officer will have defined features. But in practice its impact will depend on the culture of individual synagogues changing. There will be resistance.
But if the US is to survive in anything like its present form, its synagogues simply have to adapt.
At the end of July, Labour MP Ian Austin was told by the party’s general secretary that he was being investigated for alleged “abusive conduct” — an investigation which could lead to his suspension. His so-called “abusive conduct” was to point out Labour’s shameful record in dealing with antisemitism to the party’s chair, Ian Lavery. Since then, Labour has dropped a similar investigation into Dame Margaret Hodge. But Mr Austin has remained in limbo. The Corbynites doubtless hope that the longer they string things out, the more likely that his case will be forgotten, allowing them to move against him. But the Jewish community will not forget. We are waiting and watching.