Update on Women and Ritual at Adath Israel: What ritual roles are being discussed?

Update on Women and Ritual at Adath Israel: What ritual roles are being discussed?


Specifically, what ritual roles are being discussed and considered?

There are those who opt for blanket changes to Jewish law regarding Women and Ritual, i.e. every role that was previously restricted to men is now open to women. This approach necessarily obligates women in areas of Jewish law, such as thrice daily prayer, from which they were previously understood to be exempt.

My approach, however, is to treat each area of Jewish law as distinct with its own concerns, considerations, and legal history. The areas currently being discussed include opening up the following ritual opportunities to women: chanting Torah, haftarah, and megillah; receiving aliyot to the Torah; opening the ark; hagbah (lifting the Torah) and gelilah (dressing the Torah); serving as gabbai; leading Pesukei D’Zimrah, Kabbalat Shabbat, and Hallel; counting in the minyan; leading Shacharit, Minchah, Ma’ariv, Musaf, and Ne’ilah; and dancing with the Torah on Simchat Torah.

The decision at the end of this process may effect changes to none, some, or all of the above.

The following traditionally gender-restricted roles are not being considered for change: taking on priestly or levitical status with the attendant rights and obligations; blowing shofar; serving as a legal witness (edut); and functioning as a member of a beit din (Jewish tribunal).

Further, as is the current practice, women will be free to determine for themselves whether to don a kippah, tallit, or tefillin.

We are not considering any changes to the liturgy.

We are also not considering restricting any of the roles currently open to women, such as young women chanting Torah and haftarah on the date they celebrate becoming Bat Mitzvah or the leading of Prayers for Canada and Israel. Finally, we are not considering separating men from women in the pews or restricting women’s presence on the bimah.


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