Mirvis bans women from reading Torah


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has ruled out women reading from the Sefer Torah as part of Orthodox services.

He made his view clear this week as it emerged that he had blocked women from one of his communities who wanted a women-only Torah reading on Simchat Torah.

Rabbi Mirvis said: "Our mesorah (tradition) sets out halachic lines and it is not my halachic view that women may read from a Sefer Torah."

A group of women from Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue had hoped to leyn from a scroll during the Simchat Torah celebrations a few weeks ago.

According to sources close to the group, B&E's rabbi, Chaim Kanterovitz, was in favour of the idea but the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din intervened to prevent it.

The Chief Rabbi has encouraged women to participate

Borehamwood already has women-only megillah readings on Purim, and women dance with the Sefer Torah - separately from men - on Simchat Torah, as happens in a number of other United Synagogue communities.

B&E chairman Anne Gordon declined to comment directly on the Torah reading bid but said that "we enjoyed a beautiful, women-only hakafot on Simchat Torah evening and danced with a Sefer, as we have done in previous years".

She added that Borehamwood's rabbis and lay leaders were "constantly looking at new ways of involving women in our community and services, but always within the halachic guidance of the Office of the Chief Rabbi".

Rabbi Kanterovitz was unavailable for comment.

A spokesman for Rabbi Mirvis pointed out that he has declared support for women's prayer groups on Shabbat (without a Sefer).

The Chief Rabbi, the spokesman added, had also sought greater participation of women in services through encouraging batmitzvah girls to give divrei Torah - Torah addresses - on Shabbat morning; inviting women to publicly recite the birkat hagomel (thanksgiving for recovery from illness) in synagogue, making it clear that women were welcome to recite Kaddish, and calling for women-friendly mechitzahs and synagogue buildings that made women feel more included.

A year ago, a group of men and women in the Borehamwood area started the country's first independent partnership minyan, where women read from the Torah and lead certain prayers. But Rabbi Mirvis ruled that these could not be held on US

In April, Golders Green Synagogue abandoned the practice of carrying the Torah through the women's section on Shabbat after objections from the London Beth Din.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive