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Orthodox Rabbis Urged to Study Religious Needs of Women

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Rabbi Gilbert Klaperman, outgoing president of the Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox rabbinical group, said here that he hoped his successor would create a commission on religious needs of women which he had not been able to do.

He told the 48th annual convention of the Rabbinical Council there was “an urgent need” for such a commission to deal “with the needs of women to find some form of rewarding participation” in the Orthodox synagogue. He added that such a commission should study and issue guidelines on areas in which women “may legitimately take part in women’s prayer groups, as well as in the administrations of synagogues, within Halachic parameters.”

Rabbi Klaperman said he had been unable to form such a commission during his presidency “because of many other pressures which preempted my time.” He said he left to his “successors the urgent request” to create such a commission.

No action on the proposal was taken at the convention but Rabbi Klaperman, who was succeeded as president by Rabbi Louis Bernstein of the Young Israel of Windsor Park in Bayside, N.Y. said he would propose establishment of such a commission at the next executive board meeting of the organization.

In Orthodox synagogues at present, women sit separately from the men during services; only men lead the services; and in most congregations only men are officers.

Rabbi Klaperman said the guidelines he hoped that the commission would approve need not be applied mandatorily in each congregation. But, headded, the guidelines would “first, demonstrate our concern and interest, and, second, make it possible to implement a Halachically-acceptable program where desired.”

He listed among the items that might be considered as women membership on synagogue boards, women carrying the scrolls on Simchat Torah, women’s prayer groups, Torah study and Bat Mitzvah. He declared there was “a heightened consciousness of women which requires recognition and there is no reason to withhold it from them so long as it is within the framework of Jewish law. The issue of women in the synagogue must be addressed squarely and fairly with the intention of coopting the talents and dedication of women who wish to serve our people and our God.”

He noted that many Orthodox women were educated in Orthodox day schools and are able to be actively involved in synagogue experience.

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