Thank you very much for letting me have the information about the Partnership Minyan last Shabbat and my thanks also to you and Josh for hosting it in your home. I found the Service both spiritually moving and thoroughly enjoyable. My husband also wishes it recorded that he found the Service uplifting and the women’s contribution very moving.
Although regular Shul attendance was part of my youth and continued while I had young children, it has become less and less a part of my life. My sons are now grown up and married and belong to different synagogues from us and although my husband still attends Shul fairly regularly, I seldom go with him. I have found Shul to be increasingly alienating as I stand behind the mechitza and watch the men. I join in with the davening but feel that it makes no difference to the community whether I am there or not. The Kriat haTorah is something that happens on the Bimah, where men come and go, often having a chat with the Minister or Wardens and afterwards shaking hands with all their friends and being congratulated on having a mitzvah. While the women watch.
I believe that my feeling of having no real place in the synagogue is shared by many women. Like most girls growing up in the 50s and 60s, my Jewish education was perfunctory and I knew that I was less important at Cheder than the boys, because they had to study for their Barmitzvah. There was no such thing as a Batmitzvah in the United Synagogue and girls were not taught anything about the synagogue service, as it was considered that they had no need to know this.
Last Shabbat, at the Partnership Minyan, I had the joyful experience of seeing and hearing women daven and men responding to them. And of seeing and hearing women leyn and do hagbah and gelilah. And of honouring the Sefer Torah as it was carried it right among the women before being handed to a man to do likewise on his side of the mechitza. For the first time I felt truly part of the kehilla. The feeling of belonging, the soprano harmonies to the Shul music, the level of respect from the men, all added to a truly uplifting spiritual experience. I shall long treasure the memories of the sight of a woman sitting quietly holding the Sefer Torah during the Haphtarah and the beautiful rendition of Anim Zemirot by a young girl.
As I looked around the room I realised that the children there would grow up to understand that women have a part to play in the synagogue service. I truly feel that if diaspora Jewry is to have a religious future, as opposed to only a cultural and social future, then it will be by way of Partnership Minyanim.
Thank you again and please feel free to share this letter with whoever you wish.