Conservative Judaism Women Want Greater Role in Synagogue, Rituals

Women in Conservative Judaism want a greater decision making role in the synagogue and more participation in ritual, a poll of 1500 women attending the biennial convention of the National Womens League of the United Synagogue of America revealed here today.

The poll showed that a substantial majority of the women favored increased rights for themselves. participation in synagogue management and participation in religious ritual traditionally reserved for men. The poll is believed to be the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted among women in any of the three branches of American Judaism.

It comprised four questions: Should women be elected to synagogue boards of directors; should women be called to the Torah; should women be counted in the minyan (quorum for worship); and should women be permitted to initiate proceedings for a religious divorce.

STRONG TREND TO KEEP TRADITION

The women polled almost unanimously favored the first and fourth proposals–election to synagogue boards and divorce proceedings. Sixty-six percent favored calling women to the Torah, and 62 percent favored counting women in the minyan.

The results of the poll indicated that on purely religious issues there was still a strong trend to keep tradition although well short of a majority. The issue of synagogue management does not involve halachic (religious law) principles but that of divorce does. Nevertheless, the women polled overwhelmingly favored liberalization of tradition in an area that involves their personal status as much as it does the status of men.

The largest age group among the women polled was 41-50 and the next largest 31-40. The smallest age groups were under 30 and over 60. Approval of change was much greater among the younger delegates than among the older ones.

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