On Shabbat Parshat B’reishit, September 28th, we held eight simultaneous discussion groups after the Kiddush. Six were in Hebrew and two in English. The facilitators wrote summaries of the discussion, which we are sharing with all. We are translating the Hebrew summaries into English, and the English ones into Hebrew:

Na’avah Zohar-Sykes

What follows is a summary of the process and content of the group I facilitated in the morning—to the best of my recollection:

On the level of feelings and attitudes:

1)      There are people, both women and men, who said that they are uncomfortable with women leading prayers, although intellectually they accept it.

2)      On the topic of feminism, there was a discussion if and why there is or there should be a difference between the demand for, and the encouragement of, gender equality in the world and in the synagogue and home—some people compared them, and some did not.

3)      Some people shared with us a feeling of hurt and insult on the part of the women who can’t be more involved in leading prayers. And a desire to raise the next generation’s girls with more involvement and equality to begin with.

4)      Some expressed a wish to be part of a growing and developing community, as Yedidya was supposed to be, and always was, and not a fixed community that’s afraid of change.

5)      Others expressed a fear of becoming a non-Orthodox community, which they oppose, out of a perception that there is no Orthodox Halakhic basis for the change.

Ideas that were raised and directions for compromise:

1)      A large part of the group supported the idea of a parallel Kabbalat Shabbat downstairs, led by women. Against that was the fear that it would empty out the central Minyan. There was also an opposing view: if you’re going to do this, do it completely, upstairs.

2)      An idea was raised to completely change the concept of Kabbalat Shabbat, such that each Psalm would be led by someone else—male or female—from their seats. With new and varied melodies.

3)      The whole group agreed that the process in itself is important and we should continue it, in two ways: people don’t know the Halakha in this matter and what it’s based on; they want to learn and also hear from rabbis.  It was noted that this isn’t just a question of Halakha, but also of Minhag, custom. We should continue, involve, and discuss.

This is what I remember. I would be interested to see the other summaries, as well. Thanks and Shavua Tov—success to all of us, Na’ava

Joop Meijers

What follows is a summary of the discussion in the group I facilitated:

If I counted correctly, there were 13 active participants, including 4 young people. Everyone, without exception, expressed his/her thoughts and feelings.

The discussion—or, more correctly, the expression and listening—was quiet and respectful, considerate, open and honest.

At the beginning, I asked how many of those present have developed a strong opinion, one way or the other. If I remember correctly, there were 5 people who raised their hands, meaning that the majority still hadn’t crystallized a firm opinion.

No one expressed a firm, unequivocal opinion against the change. But a large minority (5 out of 13) expressed feelings of discomfort, great doubt, and emotional reservation about the suggestion. Some of this minority didn’t feel a need—in this stage of the development of the community—to make the kind of change that has been suggested. Different reasons and considerations were raised: the importance of keeping to the tradition and custom of hundreds of years; a gap between wanting to enable women to be more involved in doing, when in the basic area of active, regular participation in prayers (both Friday night and Shabbat morning), the women’s presence is often very sparse. After the women demonstrate, by their behavior, that most of them really are committed to prayers, perhaps that will be the time to enable them to lead parts of the service. Almost all of the people who are not enthusiastic about the change raised their feelings and emotions s a reason or consideration against the change. But most of those who were not enthusiastic gave the impression that if, at the end, the change will be enacted, that would not be a reason for them to leave the community, although they expressed hope that a solution could be found that would do justice to their feelings.

Those who supported the change—about 7 participants—did so mostly out of ideological or theological reasons—that morally, sociologically and developmentally, the change is called for in light of the community’s development. If there is no Halakhic barrier, we should give a lot of weight to the desire of some of the women to be more active and involved, also in leading the prayers.  Among these supporters, I didn’t hear anyone whose position was so fervent that, if not accepted, they would leave. They would be very sorry if the change didn’t take place but, apparently, they would respect the decision. Following the instructions I received, I didn’t direct the discussion to solutions.

In my summary remarks, I said that just having the discussion, and the way in which it was conducted, attest more than anything else to the high ethical-religious-moral level of the community, in which there is a lot of respect, listening, consideration, towards different opinions.  This is a controversy for the Sake of Heaven—as is written in Pirkei Avot—that will be of lasting worth, and will maintain the community. Shavua Tov, Joop

Danny Brom

The group I facilitated included more than 20 people and was conducted in a pleasant and respectful manner.

The first question that arose from the participants was if the Halakhic issue is clear and resolved. It was decided not to focus on that question.

There were a few people who expressed strong opposition to the present suggestion to enable women to lead Kabbalat Shabbat and there were, by the same token, people who would like to see this change adopted.

The reasons for opposition to the suggestion primarily involve the community’s belonging to the accepted religious stream. A few people said that they came from the Conservative stream and decided to leave it and join a different stream and they are afraid that Kehilat Yedidya is sliding in that direction.

The reasons for which other people support the change fall into two categories: the first is to continue the development of the community and to eliminate a barrier to that development. The second is that some people expressed difficulty with the status of women in the community that continues to keep women in an inferior position and this is more and more grating to them.

On both sides, there is difficulty with the feeling of long-term commitment to the community if the community doesn’t stay the way it is or change in accordance with one’s personal wishes.

I think it is important to continue to talk, because we have not yet reached true dialogue. The limited time permitted only expression and listening. In my view that was good, but not enough in order to “jump” to decisions/compromises etc. The participation and the good atmosphere indicate, in my opinion, the possibility of absorbing this issue in the community and reaching some consensus, although it is clear that not everyone will agree with the content of the decision.

Yisrael Sykes

In my group yesterday 11 people participated. The discussion was held in a good atmosphere. 10 people supported the change and one opposed it. General appreciation of the decision-making process was expressed, with one reservation from someone who said that Yedidya is characterized by an obsession with having discussions and a difficulty with reaching decisions. In his view, we have to be ready to reach a decision that is right for most of the members of the community, even if not for all.

There was a reservation raised in the group about the need that was expressed in Deot Yedidya that the community define itself on the basis of how outsiders see us. There were several reasons for this: first, already as we are today, there are many who see us as “not Orthodox.” The suggested addition would not change by much the perceptions of people looking at us from the right. Second, the discussion about belonging to Orthodoxy is a “Galuti” (Exilic, Diasporic) discussion—the definitions in Israel aren’t identical with the definitions abroad. Third, there is today a change of trend within the religious Zionist community in Israel, so that the definition of what is inside the religious sphere is broadening, with regard to women’s participation in prayer. Yedidya is no longer a pioneer in this field, but simply joining a trend. And, fourth, some people expressed a reservation about the whole phenomenon of “looking over one’s right shoulder,” a phenomenon known in the religious world, but some of the participants really didn’t want it to be part of the culture at Yedidya.

We didn’t get in to the Halakhic question. There was no one who disagreed on the basis of Halakha. One person expressed an opinion that we have to make the decision on the basis of Halakha and not of emotions. On the other side, it was stated that even the Halakhic question isn’t clear-cut and you have to choose among different approaches.

Those who supported the change pointed to the importance of gender equality within the community, some because they wanted their children to grow up within a more egalitarian religious reality, and that this is one of the reasons they joined. They expressed a fear that Yedidya is losing its advantage in this area, while many other communities are passing us along the way. They saw this change as a natural continuation of our community’s development, not as something that should “cause a riot.”  One of the women who opposes the change pointed to emotional reasons, that for her, having a woman lead Kabbalat Shabbat will take away from her the familiar, beloved experience of KS. She said that she wouldn’t leave the community but she probably wouldn’t come for KS. She also raised the question of relatives of community members who might not come to family s’mahot, because of this change, and that it’s important to relate to this concern.

On a practical level, it was suggested to offer an alternative within the framework of the shul—there could possibly be two Minyanim for KS, one upstairs and one downstairs, in which one of them would allow women to lead KS (either as a women’s Minyan or a mixed one.)Everybody accepted this possibility in principle but for some, it was important that the Minyan with women leading should be downstairs.  For one woman, it was important that the upstairs Minyan should remain in its present format. Another fear was expressed that the solution would not be practical because there aren’t enough people to maintain two Minyanim.

As the facilitator, I pointed out that some people in the community have a feeling of being pushed out. It isn’t enough to be right; you also have to be smart, and sensitive to nuances. At the end, it’s a personal decision to stay within the community, and it’s impossible to keep people in through force. But it’s also important to create a process in which people don’t feel that they’re being shown the door, but that everything is being done for them to have a place. I think the discussion group contributed to that goal.

Bruce Rosen

In the group I facilitated there were about 13 participants. The atmosphere was pleasant and to-the-point.

All but one of the participants supported the suggestion to enable women to lead KS, in one form or another. Still, the entire group said that keeping the community together is important to them and therefore the change must be done in a way that is considerate of the feelings and opinions of those who oppose it, even if they are in the minority.

Among other things, the following suggestions arose:

·         To begin with women leading only once a month

·         To allow for two Minyanim to be parallel, on different floors. Different views were expressed regarding whether or not this is problematic from the perspective of the community.

·         In the summer—to have an earlier Minyan and a later one, in one of which men will always lead

People are concerned that there not be a rift within the community, but they aren’t concerned about “what outsiders will think.” Women must also take on themselves the burden of doing, and take a more active role in prayer, which includes coming to them more. If the suggested change is accepted, we have to make sure that the woman leading the service does so on a high level of competence.

I enjoyed the hour that I spent with the group and I thank the organizers for the opportunity to facilitate.

The discussion gave me a good feeling about the community, and, especially, about the fact that the members of our group who saw themselves—correctly or incorrectly-- as the majority, were very concerned about the people whom they saw as the minority.

Danielle Bernstein

In my group there were about 16 people, including second generation community members. The discussion went fairly smoothly—despite the difficult things that were said here and there, such as: a woman leading prayers or reading from the Torah looks like a show.

In the initial stage, I requested that everyone should express himself/herself without reacting to the others. This instruction was more or less followed. On the other hand, the request that people should speak only in the first person was harder for some people. I was surprised that in the group, there was only one participant—a woman—who expressed vehement opposition. There were some who agreed, with reservations. The majority tended to support the change—that for me was a big surprise.

The contents that were raised were predictable: concern for belonging to Orthodoxy; “Are we talking only about KS or are there more things that will follow?”(this is what’s called “the slippery slope”;) holding the community together; a dynamic or static status quo… I want to mention one point that was raised that is important in my view and so clear that I never thought of raising it before: the possibility that a woman will lead KS opens new horizons not only for her but also for the congregation.

There was someone who felt that we hadn’t exhausted the discussion and reminded us that in a previous discussion, we had invited outside lecturers (I assume he was referring to the panel with Rav Sperber and Rav Henkin.) In light of the large turn-out—and not everyone had a chance to speak—I think that there is room for another opportunity for the community to listen and express themselves.

פמלה פרלמן

היו 39 משתתפים, הרוב נשים. השיחה התנהלה באנגלית.

האווירה היתה של כבוד והקשבה. שלושת רבעי הקבוצה הביעו את עצמם בדיון. אנשים הביעו תגובה רגשית לשינוי ולא נכנסו לסקירה הלכתית של העניין.


מכל הדעות שהושמעו, 75% הביעו הסתייגויות מההצעה. כעשרה אנשים בקבוצה זו אמרו שמרגישים אי-נוחות רבה מהנוהג המוצע הזה ושזה היה גורם להם להרהר בהמשך השתייכותם לידידיה. חלק אמרו שהם היו קרועים רשית לגבי עזיבה בלגלל קשריהם החזקים לקהילה. משתתפת אחת התנגדה בחוזק לשאלתי אם היא הייתה נשארת בקהילה, באומרה: "הם היו שמחים אם היינו עוזבים."

משתתפים אחדים אמרו שיש מגוון בתי כנסת בסביבה שכבר הציעים אופציות נרחבות יותר להשתתפות של נשים בתפילה. אי לכך, חשוב לשמור על הנוהג הקיים שלנו ששומר על רמה מסוימת של אורתודוכסיה, עם שינויים שנתקבלו. הנקודה היא שאנחנו לא צריכים להיות חוד החנית. עלינו לשאוף להיות מגדלור לבתי כנסת אורתודוכסיים רגילים. לידידיה יש איפיונים אחרים כגון גמילות חסד וגישה בין-דתית רחבה שפיתחנו.

חלק מהמשתתפים הוסיפו שהנוהג הנוכחי תובע מהם פשרות מסוימות אליהן כבר התרגלו ולמדו לסובלן, אבל הסוגיה הזו עוברת את הגבול. הובע חשש שהממסד הרבני לא יתייחס אלינו כאל אורתודוכסים, ודוגמא לכך היא שהיום, החיילים מתוכנית "נתיב" נשלחים לידידיה כמניין אורתודוכסי. נקודה נוספת: אם נאמץ את השינוי, יש קרובי משפחה אורתודוכסיים שיחרימו את הקהילה.

אנשים אחדים ביקשו הזדמנויות נוספות לשוחח על השיקולים ההלכתיים לפני שהם מחליטים. אחרים התנגדו להגד שאין עם זה קושי הלכתי. הם רואים את קבלת השבת כחלק מהתפילה שלא קיימת בניתוק ממנה. אחדים התנגדו לפתרון של שני מניינים במקביל, מפני שהמניין בליל שבת גם היום קטן יחסית, עם מעט נשים. הובעה דאגה שהסוגיה תגרום לקרע בקהילה ושבמקרה הזה, עדיף לשמור על הסטאטוס קוו.

תגובות חיוביות

כרבע מהאנשים שדיברו היו בעד הובלת קבלת שבת על ידי נשים. אחדים מהם באו הרקע קונסרבטיבי. אחרים ראו בזה שינוי הגיוני. היו כאלה שרואים בזה פוטנציאל למשוך יותר מתפללים צעירים. הועלתה הנקודה שמגיל צעיר, מלמדים את הבנות לקרוא בתורה, ואין עקביות במניעת השתתפותן כשזה אפשרי הלכתית.

היתה הצעה ליצור קבוצת תפילה נפרדת לנשים ולקרוא לה "קבלת שבת לנשים," אך לאפשר לגברים להשתתף, מכיוון שאין כאן בעיה של מניין.


לארגן הזדמנויות ללמוד את המקורות ההלכתיים ולקיים דיונים נוספים בקבוצות קטנות.


דינה ויינר-דני קאהן

הנחינו את הקבוצה באנגלית שהתקיימה למעלה. היו בערך 35-40 משתתפים. למרות שרגשות חזקים מאד הובעו בעד ונגד, האווירה הכללית היתה מכבדת. בסבב הראשון, המשתתפים נתבקשו להביע מחשבות או רגשות כל שהם לגבי הנושא של נשים מובילות בקבלת שבת, ולהימנע מהצעת פתרונות או פשרות. בסבב זה, כעשרה אחוז הביעו התנגדות חריפה וכעשרה אחוז הביעו תמיכה חזקה מאד. מתוך ה80% הנותרים, התחושה היתה שרוב משמעותי בעד כללית. מספר נקודות ספציפיות הועלו:

·         איכות התפילה, לא משנה מי המוביל

·         הצורך לעבוד לקראת קונסנסוס

·         ידידיה היא "מותג" ששונה מכל בתי הכנסת האחרים בסביבה. אם נלך בכיוון של מה שחלק מבתי הכנסת האחרים מציעים, נאבד את ייחודנו.

·         צניעות (לבוש הולם או בלתי הולם מצד מובילת התפילה.)

·         ידידיה נוצרה כקהילה שבין השאר מותחת את הקו בענייני נשים. יש הרגשה שהקהילה נותרת מאחור.

·         מחוץ לבית הכנסת, נשים הן רופאות, עורכות דין, ו"מנהיגות של אנדיאנים" (ביטוי באנגלית. ) אין דברים רשמיים המונעים מנשים מלפעול. כך שבקהילתנו, אם ההלכה אינה אוסרת על נשים מלהשתתף באופן מסוים, למה כקהילה שנעצור בעדן מלהתבטא דתית בצורה שמותרת?

·         חינוך: הרצון ללמד את הילדים שלנו—במיוחד הבנים שאינם הולכים לקריאת הנשים—שהנשים אינן חייבות להתחבא מאחורי מחיצה בכלל או לרדת לבור צינוק אם הן רוצות להנהיג

·         הרצון לכלול את הרבים ולהיות בית כנסת בו כל היהודים האורתודוכסיים-מודרניים יכולים להרגיש בנוח לבוא

·         הובעה ביקורת על התהליך. היו כאלה שהרגישו ש "סודות" נשמרו מהחברים ושוועדת ההלכה והמנהג לא הגיבה מספיק מהר על מנת לדכא את השמועות. היו גם כאלה שהרגישו שהוועדה ראתה את החידוש כ"משחק מכור" ושהיתה לה אג'נדה.

·         משתתפים אחדים אשר מתנגדים בחריפות לשינוי יעזבו את הקהילה.

בסבב השני, המשתתפים נתבקשו להציע פתרונות יצירתיים אפשריים העשויים לספק מענה לשני הצדדים.

·         לאלה שמצדדים בחידוש ולאלה שמתנגדים לו, ללכת לבית כנסת אחר פעם בחודש אינו אופציה מקובלת. ידידיה היא קהילתם.

·         לגבי חלק מהמתנגדים, היו פתוחים לאפשרות שאישה תוביל את קבלת שבת למטה בלבדץ

·         חלק מהמתנגדים היו מרגישים בנוח בתנאי שהאישה לא תעמוד על הבימה.

·         חלק מהמתנגדים הציעו שנרחיב בתפילות נשים במשך השנה ולא רק ביוה"כ.

·         חלק מהמתנגדים היו מרגישים בנוח עם המנהג הספרדי שמובילים את קבלת שבת ממושבותיהם—במקרה הזה, גבר או אישה.

·         חלק מהמתנגדים היו מרגישים בנוח אם גבר ואישה היו מובילים ביחד, כל אחד מהצד שלו\שלה של המחיצה.

·         ביקשו אוועדת ההלכה והמנהג תהיה כמה שיותר שקופה. הודו בכך שחל שיפור בנושא הזה.

·         ביקשו שהסקר ייכתב בעזרת מקצוענים—לדוגמא, מכון ברוקדייל—ושיראו את השאלון למספר משמעותי של חברים משני צדי הסוגיא כדי להיות כולל, כמה שאפשר.

·         היה נדמה שכל אלה שבעד השינוי פתוחים לפשרה.

·         היתה הצעה נוספת שהמדיניות של ידידיה תישאר כמות שהיא אך שמשפחות\קבוצות\יחידים שהם חברים יורשו לארגן תפילות "פרטיות" במרכז דוב, בהן נשין יכולות להוביל את קבלת השבת.