Bless This Holy Congregation
By Blu Greenberg
Below are practices that some Orthodox synagogues have introduced to make women feel more welcome:
- When the sefer Torah is being carried around the synagogue, it is carried to the women’s section. Indeed, in some synagogues, the Torah is given to a woman to carry through the ezrat nashim (women’s section).
- A woman recites birkat gomel (blessing of thanksgiving) from the ezrat nashim, and the entire congregation responds.
- Women mourners recite kaddish.
- Many synagogues have included the imahot (matriarchs) in the Mi Sheberach prayer for the sick and in other prayers such as the blessing for the soldiers.
- Women serve on ritual committees, synagogue boards, as officers of the congregation and as synagogue presidents.
- Pre Bat Mitzvah girls lead Ein Kelohanu, Aleinu and Adon Olam.
- Women recite kiddush and hamotzi at communal meals in the synagogue.
- Women give introductory talks before Torah and Haftorah readings.
- Both mother and father of a Bar Mitzvah recite the Baruch Sheptarani prayer.
- Women give sermons and lectures in the synagogue on Shabbat morning.
- On Simchat Torah, the verses of Ata Hareta are alternated between men and women.
- At a brit women have participated by holding the baby for the brit or the naming. The new mother often recites aloud a special blessing. In some Orthodox synagogues, it has become customary to name the child using both the mother’s and the father’s names.
- Women give introductory explanations before the reading of megilot.
- Women’s tefilla groups are being increasingly offered space and made to feel welcome in Orthodox synagogues.
- Where structurally possible mechitzot (dividers) are being placed down the center of the synagogue, with the bimah (lecturn) adjacent to the women’s section.
- In some synagogues, the shaliach tzibur (prayer leader) recites the blessing Shelo Assani Isha silently.
- A man may request that he be called to the Torah not only using his father’s name, but also his mother’s name.
- Those being remembered in the memorial prayer El Maleh may be referred to as the child of both parents.