New partnership minyan is a sign of “frustration” over lack of progress for women in United Synagogue


A partnership minyan has been relaunched in Finchley, indicating the spread of the new-style services across London despite the opposition of the Orthodox establishment .

At partnership minyans , women may read from the Torah and lead some of the prayers as well as men.

The Finchley group is the fifth to hold one since the first to meet openly took place two years ago.

Elie Jesner, one of the conveners of the latest minyan, said: “There was a partnership minyan which ran a few years ago in Finchley on Friday nights. It didn’t meet that frequently and it didn’t advertise or have a website. But given the recent buzz around partnership minyans, it seemed a good time to restart it.

“We had our first Friday night rekindling after Pesach and a Shabbat morning in June.”

Its next service is planned in a fortnight on the Shabbat morning between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“I think there is frustration at the lack of progress about women’s participation in the United Synagogue,” he said. “People are aware of what’s happening in other parts of the world. It is a genuine desire for religious expression, not about looking for controversy.”

Mr Jesner, who is a US member himself, runs the beit midrash programme at JCoSS and is director of the new Honest Theology Project.

Finchley’s first Shabbat morning partnership minyan attracted 50 adults, he noted, while on the same morning a similar service in nearby Hendon drew 60.

“The cat is out of the bag,” he said. “You have women getting semichah [ordination] all over the Orthodox world. The idea that they are going back to a Judaism that treats them as second-class citizens is finished.

“They are not prepared to accept that their daughters cannot have a meaningful batmitzvah, where they can have an aliyah, leyn or at least say Anim Zemirot. These are tremendous experiences which can deepen your conection to the religion, the culture, the history.”

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