Women and Shul


I had intended to write a post about how French Jews living in mid-sized town spend Yom Kippur. However, as I thought I might write a few things that would not throw a favorable light on some of the people who attended the services, I decided against it.

A post by In the Pink – where she writes beautifully about her sons being given aliyot on Simchat Torah while she was watching – and Raizy‘s comment on the same post have prompted me to write about it but from a different perspective.

I had planned to go to Paris for Yom Kippur, stay with friends and go to shul with them. But circumstances decided otherwise and I davened in the shul of my tiny French community.

To understand what this means I need to explain that, on paper, French Judaism is 95% Orthodox. In fact, this is how it should be understood: 95% of French Jews attend Orthodox synagogues, which is completely different.

On the first evening I was a bit late arriving (on foot) at the synagogue but it didn’t really matter as the service had stopped due to a shortage of one man to have a minyan. Soon a young man arrived (by car); his father had contacted (phoned) him to tell him about the problem.

The next morning I had decided to spend as much time as possible in shul so I got there a little before half past nine. We had a minyan but only just which meant that the men could not live the synagogue until at least one more arrived. It also means that we spent all day counting and re-counting every time we reached a moment where a minyan is required.

At the end of the day, while we were enjoying a hot cup of coffee with food to break the fast, one of the men came to me and congratuated me for my “faithful attendance” and insisted that it couldn’t have been easy since there was only one other woman with me for most of the day and as we didn’t really count.

In the Pink post’s reminded me that we can’t be called for an alyah in an Orthodox synagogue and my Yom Kippur experience reminded me that I couldn’t be included in a minyan. Although I have read different things on the subject, I still can’t help thinking what a shame it is that women and girls can’t share in what takes place in the synagogue during services. I wish ways could be found to respect a tradition I respect and love without excluding half of the congregation.

Update: You can read more on the subject at SuperRaizy, Isramom , Nad-ned Nad-ned, Mom in Israel and Adena.