Bruchot Ha'baot

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.

     

    Women in Synagogue: Summer 2000