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New York Conservative Congregation Accords Women ‘aliyah’ Privilege

A new clash over Jewish religious law loomed today over the action of a leading Conservative congregation in deciding to grant to women congregants the privilege of being “called up” to witness the reading of the Torah scroll on Sabbath mornings and to recite the traditional blessings.

The decision of the Park Avenue Synagogue to establish the grant of aliyah to women congregants was believed to be the first by a Conservative congregation. There have been some isolated instances of women being given the honor but not on a formal and consistent basis.

In Orthodox Judaism, aliyct have never been accorded to women. Reform Jews rarely practice this custom for either men or women.

Joseph H. Katz, chairman of the synagogue board of trustees, said the step was “another expression of our congregation to make Judaism traditional, yet growing with modernity. ” He added that “the mere fact that some ritual in Jewish religious life has thus far been reserved for men or for women does not imply that it is equal and fair to deny aliyot to women in our synagogue where men and women worship together and where women serve on our board of trustees.”

Rabbi Judah Nadich, spiritual leader of the congregation, said the action demonstrated “the adaptability and viability of Jewish religious practice. ” He asserted that the practice was not a contravention of Jewish religious law, declaring there was evidence that calling women to the Torah was practiced several hundred years ago.

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