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No Girls in Minyan for Visits of Conservative Youth to Israel

Leaders of the United Synagogue of America’s National Youth Commission have decided not to call women for aliyot or count them in a minyan during the USY-Israel Pilgrimage which leaves for Israel Sunday and Monday, according to Rabbi Paul Freedman, director of United Synagogue Youth. The group of about 650 American and Canadian teenagers on the Pilgrimage will continue to follow traditional Conservative practice despite a ruling by the Rabbinical Assembly’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards last fall which said Conservative congregations can, but are not obliged to allow the equal participation of men and women in the minyan.

“We will continue the tradition of counting only men in the minyan for three reasons.” said Rabbi Freedman. “First, our pilgrimage groups will be mixed–they will be composed of some young people who would be offended by the inclusion of women in the minyan.

“Also, since we always expect to have at least ten males for our services, the problem is not really operative. The last reason is that the National Youth Commission and I agree that women should not be counted in the minyan. I am in effect the rabbi of the pilgrimage, and since the Conservative ruling places the decision of whether or not to count women with the individual congregation, it is the leaders of the pilgrimage who have the ultimate decision.”

Of the 650 young people on the pilgrimage, approximately 280 will be male and 370 will be female. “There probably will be some young women who will challenge our ruling, but they must realize that it was not made to offend. And we want to answer their challenges.” Rabbi Freedman said. During the 45-day pilgrimage the young people will tour Israel, work on an archaeological dig in Jerusalem, and learn about Jewish customs, tradition and law. The group of 650 will be joined by 50 Israeli teenagers and staff, and will then break up into ten independent groups.

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