Pioneer Orthodox women's learning group looks back on 25 years

'You have a great deal to be proud of. You have shown what women can achieve'


The 25th anniversary of the ground-breaking Women’s Learning Experience at Stanmore Synagogue was marked by a dinner at the shul.

Originally known as the Stanmore Women’s Tefillah Service, it was established by Orthodox women seeking a more meaningful Shabbat spiritual experience. Meeting initially in members’ houses and later at a local care home, it was the first such gathering of United Synagogue women.

At the dinner, members recalled the difficulties the group faced during its evolution, not least then Chief Rabbi Sacks banning women-only Shabbat services in shul. The guest of honour was former Stanmore minister Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, who supported the group through the 18 years until the first women’s service was permitted at Stanmore in 2011.

“You have a great deal to be proud of,” he said. “You have showed what women can achieve — and how to inspire others with your learning and your heartfelt desire to share your spirituality.”

Having changed its emphasis from davening to learning, the group continues to meet at the shul on a quarterly basis and attracts around 30 regulars. A similar group started recently at Muswell Hill Synagogue, whose minister Rabbi David Mason — a long-time supporter of the Stanmore initiative — was among the dinner guests.


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