(JTA) — Britain’s umbrella body of Orthodox communities is condemning a London Orthodox synagogue that allows women to hold Torah scrolls.
Earlier this year, Golders Green United Synagogue began giving women an opportunity to handle the Torah scroll on Shabbat mornings and festivals, and the change has been well received by members of the community, according to the shul’s chairman, Benny Chain. The Torah is taken out of the ark by a man and handed to a woman, who takes it around the women’s section before returning it to the men.
Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, issued a statement condemning the practice as “Reform-influenced,” the Jewish Chronicle of London reported. Padwa said “breaches of this nature” came “from the influence of the Reform.”
The practice is uncommon but not unheard-of at Orthodox synagogues, and a growing number of American Orthodox shuls allow women to hold and dance with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah.
“People have said what an emotional experience it is and that they feel much more involved in the service,” Chain said of his shul’s change.