A Woman's Place is at Prayer

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Participants in Orthodox women's tefillah groups that wish to maximize women’s participation in communal prayer while remaining within the halakhic parameters of the Orthodox community meet regularly to conduct prayer services for women only. Here the Israeli multi-denominational Women of the Wall group holds a prayer service in Gan Miriam, Jerusalem.

Photographer: Joan Roth


Orignally published in the Forward online May 28th, 2013

Nearly 20 years ago I was living on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a haven for observant Conservative Jews. I had my choice of multiple minyanim to attend; even the crowded weekend city streets had an air of the Sabbath, and kosher food abounded.

There were so many Conservative and egalitarian options that I rarely ventured into the neighborhood’s Orthodox community, and I certainly never attended an Orthodox synagogue.

One year, during the holidays, a friend asked if I would come with her to a Simchat Torah minyan in someone’s home. Two brothers had lost their mother on Simchat Torah a few years back and couldn’t take the craziness of synagogue on what was to them a somewhat somber day, so they invited a bunch of their friends from Yale University to a minyan in their apartment.

It had become an annual tradition that had grown over the years, and for some reason, my friend had been invited and wanted me to come with her. It was an Orthodox minyan, but this year they had decided, for the first time, to have a special women’s Torah reading, and we thought it would be a good idea to be supportive.

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