Rabbis back Chief over partnership minyanim


United Synagogue leaders have expressed "full support" for the Chief Rabbi's latest statement on partnership minyanim.

But Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis's letter - to rabbis and rebbetzens under his auspices - was also hailed as a positive step forward within the partnership minyanim movement.

The JC contacted 32 Orthodox ministers to gauge individual opinion to the Chief Rabbi's latest intervention.

None of them expressed opposition to the letter, but few were willing to comment publicly.

Last week Rabbi Mirvis issued an emphatic statement on partnership minyanim (PM) - where women can be called upon to lead certain prayer services and read from the Torah - declaring PMs "contrary to halachah".

But he avoided recommending sanctions against PM participants and said many were "among are most engaged and valued congregants".

He also stated that it was for "the marah d'atra [local religious authority] to consider how best to manage local considerations".

Rabbi Dov Kaplan, of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue told the JC: "Over the past few years we have been attempting to make woman feel a part of our community and have been making efforts to move forward.

"As a United Synagogue community we accept the Chief Rabbi's position".

Edgware Synagogue's Rabbi David Lister and Radlett's Rabbi Jonathan Hughes both voiced similar support.

Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue (BES) - the location of Britain's first open partnership minyan - also backed Rabbi Mirvis.

Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, senior minister at BES, had earlier written to his congregants calling partnership minyanim "a breach of Jewish law".

He declined to offer further comment, but synagogue chairman Anne Gordon said that Rabbi Mirvis's letter contained "everything needed".

Rabbi Yossi Schwei of Luton Synagogue said his small community had yet to encounter issues over PM.

But he added: "I think the Chief Rabbi's opinion on this is quite clear. If a Jewish person wants to come to our shul and his own halachic views are different, as long as he doesn't preach them in our synagogue - I don't think many would have problems with that."

The JC understands that many within the PM community see the Chief Rabbi's letter as a positive step. One participant, who asked not to be named, said they were encouraged by the emphasis on improving opportunities for women to find expression in religious life and learning.

The issue of partnership minyanim had come to the fore after claims by leading PM members that they had been excluding from shul activities.

Rabbi Mirvis said his view was "one that is shared by every major posek [religious authority] in the Orthodox world and it is binding on our communities".

He added that his letter was a response to "the persistent and harmful attention the issue has received over recent weeks".

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