Women’s Prayer Groups Are Passe

In a 2010 lecture on R. Joseph Messas and R. Avraham Shapiro, Marc B. Shapiro (no relation) says that the Sephardim have always had a positive view of the return to Israel. Sephardim have never been anti-Zionist.

Rav Messas wrote a responsa providing the first testimony to women’s prayer groups, where women would get together and take out a sefer Torah (scroll). Today you don’t have many women’s prayer groups. They’re passe. They lasted about 20 years. Rabbi Avi Weiss wrote a book justifying them. They took off in some of the avante garde congregations in Riverdale and the Upper West Side.

People have now moved beyond them. These women prayer groups were not satisfying. They’ve given away to the partnership minyanim, which are quasi-egalitarian. They call them Orthodox. You can create davening (prayer) without a mechitza and call them Orthodox. There’s nothing about the mechitza in the Shulchan Aruch.

“Orthodox” is just a term.

Traditional Judaism has always been about more than just strict law.

These women prayer groups were controversial. A number of YU rabbis wrote responsa against them, including Rav Schachter. These prayer groups don’t have the cachet they had. They no longer excite people in the liberal wing of Orthodoxy.

The only reason these “Orthodox” partnership minyanim still have mechitzas (partitions) and women don’t take part in all parts of the service is that the Conservative movement got rid of the mechitzas. If these Orthodox minyanim got rid of the mechitza, they could not show they were Orthodox.

It is easier to justify in Orthodoxy to get rid of the mechitza than to do what these partnership minyanim do with calling women up to the Torah and having them lead some of the davening.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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