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Don’t Decide For Me, Include Me
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JOFA Blog

Don’t Decide For Me, Include Me

As an undergraduate, I was co-chair of Shira Chadasha at Penn, Penn Hillel’s partnership minyan community. It was Shira Chadasha at Penn’s policy to wait to begin prayer services until we had ten people on each side of the mechitza (partition) for a starting total of twenty. Rather than go against our core values, several times my co-chairs and I made the difficult decision to not recite mincha (the afternoon service) on erev Shabbat as if we had a minyan (quorum of ten adult men) and instead have everyone daven b’yachid (pray to themselves). These were decisions made not based on my own personal beliefs, but on our communal standardsas the obligation to daven with a minyan is on the kehillah (community), and not the individual; they are decisions I stand by proudly and wholeheartedly. 

I respect the right of every community to view what constitutes communal prayer differently. Modern Orthodox feminism is not about pushing every woman to believe that she must be an active participant in tefillah (prayer), but to educate that there are a wide variety of options within the halakhic framework.

I respect the right of every community to view what constitutes communal prayer differently. Modern Orthodox feminism is not about pushing every woman to believe that she must be an active participant in tefillah (prayer), but to educate that there are a wide variety of options within the halakhic framework. On an individual level, I must respect equally the decision of a woman to choose to go to daily minyan and recite kaddish (the mourner’s prayer) and the decision of a woman never to go to shul at all. On a communal level, I want my family’s synagogue to be fully accessible to me, but I recognize that it may be appropriate in a Haredi community for traditional shtiebelach (an informal complex with multiple small rooms, where one can find another prayer service beginning every few minutes) not to have a women’s section; I may not count myself as part of a minyan, but I enthusiastically support the halakhic egalitarian movements.

Though unfortunately not yet a reality, there should be a reasonable expectation that men and women in a kehillah have an equal say in building and framing the communal ethos. The best way for religious leaders to be womens’ allies, right now, is not to proclaim themselves our champions and tell us that tefillah will not be held without us, or tell other communities not to hold minyan without women, but to thoughtfully invite us with open arms to take part in “reopening committees.” 

The best way for religious leaders to be womens’ allies, right now, is not to proclaim themselves our champions and tell us that tefillah will not be held without us, or tell other communities not to hold minyan without women, but to thoughtfully invite us with open arms to take part in “reopening committees.”

And let this process set precedent for the future. Women should be an integral part of every task force, every committee and every board. As we consider how our physical and spiritual spaces need to change in response to this new reality, let’s make sure to move forward, and not backward, by including women in the conversation and in the decision-making from the onset. 

Liat Greenwood, BSN, RN currently lives in Philadelphia, where she works as a registered nurse at Einstein Medical Center and is a Moishe House resident. She is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing practice degree in nurse-midwifery.

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

If you’re interested in writing for JOFA’s blog contact dani@jofa.org. For more about JOFA like us on Facebook or visit our website.

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