Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives

Halakhic Perspectives on Women and Men in Communal Prayer book coverCommunal prayer has always been a central component in Jewish life. Traditional Orthodox services are structured around spatial and functional separation of men and women. In this book, introduced by Professor Tamar Ross, Rabbi Daniel Sperber presents a halakhic justification for expanding the role of women in communal prayer services. Building on work by Rabbi Mendel Shapiro (included in the volume) in which the legal sources are examined and interpreted to permit women to lead parts of the service and participate in Torah reading, Rabbi Sperber highlights the pivotal importance of kevod ha-beri’ot (human dignity) in encouraging fuller participation of women in communal prayer. Because of the relevance and timeliness of the topic, two articles that express opposition to Rabbi Sperber’s position are included — one by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and one by Professor Eliav Shochetman. This anthology represents an example of a vibrant dialogue between leading scholars on a current issue and highlights the dynamic nature of the halakhic process. 


This book bravely lays out the issues involved in the debate over women’s participation in the Torah service….It shows the seriousness with which this issue is taken by many Rabbinic scholars. Moreover, it is a sign of the energy, commitment, and creativity extant in this segment of the Orthodox world.  

— Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University

… the question of whether or not women may chant and be called up to the Torah in public is … far from settled. In fact, it serves as key to discovering how Jewish law and changing social and cultural norms interact in important ways, while it shows us that examining women’s relationship to the Torah scroll opens the door to a wealth of ideas about their role in today’s Jewish life and the changing nature of congregational prayer.

— Samuel C. Heilman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies, Queens College, City University of New York

The rise today of women to fuller, more equal participation in Jewish religious life is of historic significance and is, indeed, the eschatological dream of Judaism…every evolutionary path has its transformative moments and watershed experiences along the way, and this book is one of them.  With his learning, his courage, his total grounding in the sea and language of halakha, Rabbi Daniel Sperber connects the enterprise of partnership minyanim almost seamlessly to the tradition... he honors the struggle of Orthodox women as one that enhances community – a machloket le’shem shamayim… 

— Blu Greenberg, author and founding president of JOFA

This book is available for sale on Amazon. To purchase the book, click here, or visit your local bookseller.  


Press Coverage

A Woman's Honor 
by Elana Maryles Sztokman, The Jerusalem Post, July 16, 2010  

Sperber to Explore the Role of Women in Worship During Teaneck Talk
by Lois Goldrich, The New Jersey Standard, June 4, 2010  

Women and Men in Communal Prayer- Book Review
by Israel Drazin, Ideals: Institute for Jewish Ideas and IdealsJanuary 10, 2011