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Partnership Minyan Symposium 2024

Partnership Minyan Symposium

Last Sunday, over 60 people gathered to celebrate 10 years of Partnership Minyanim in the UK and to plan their future!   Hosted jointly by Kehillat Nashira, the Borehamwood Partnership Minyan and JOFA UK, the event brought together organisers and participants from all five current London minyanim (Hampstead, Hampstead Garden Suburb, Golders Green, Finchley and Borehamwood), a rare gathering given the usual Shabbat travel constraints. 

The energy in the room was reminiscent of the JOFA conferences over 10 years ago which led to the founding of these minyanim. However there was a level of confidence and humour that felt new and helped measure the progress that has been made. 

The Symposium brought together inspiring educators from Israel and the UK, starting with Rav Rahel Berkovits, one of the founders of “mothership” Jerusalem Partnership Minyan Shira Hadasha and teacher at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. R. Rahel took the Symposium through halachic sources around women leading maariv, the history and laws around mechitza, and the question of women counting in a minyan - three possible areas for development in partnership minyanim in the future. Shira Hadasha currently invites women and men to lead maariv. Other minyanim have experimented with tri-chitzas or sections for non-binary members or family who have a particular need to sit together across the genders. As far as we know, no partnership minyan currently count women in the minyan of ten, although R.Rahel Berkovits shared compelling sources to show how it could be allowed. As gender binaries feel increasingly challenging to the younger generation, and as women are often equally passionate shul-goers in partnership minyan communities - all three issues feel pressing for our communities to stay relevant and to be future-proofed. 

Dr Miri Freud-Kandel and Dr Lea Taragin-Zeller in conversation

The next session saw a conversation between Oxford academic Dr Miri Freud-Kandel and Israeli academic Dr Lea Taragin-Zeller, who served as the Cambridge University Jewish chaplain for several years. Bringing together anglo-Jewish history, anthropology and sociology, their conversation spanned the view from Israel and the view from England and left participants with an optimistic prospective for the future in the hands of the next generation. 

Home-grown Orthodox female Rabbi, academic and much loved community educator Rabba Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz shifted the gears to liturgy, asking the question of how we might be more creative to bring parts of our siddur and machzor to life, using the example of the Yom Kippur Avodah. She enacted a live reading of her poetic retelling of the Avodah piyyut (poem).  Those gathered discussed how to apply this method to other texts, and whether there are limits to how far this kind of re-framing could extend. 

The evening section began with a zoom audience with Blu Greenberg, dubbed “the mother of orthodox feminism”, whose words were gentle yet inspiring and full of chizuk (encouragement). This was followed by a lively panel chaired by Jonathan Arkush. United Synagogue Rabbi, Dr Michael Harris, joined some of the day’s presenters on the panel, showing a generosity of spirit that was deeply appreciated by participants. One of the most remarkable things Rabbi Harris said was that despite his own halachic misgivings about partnership minyanim, he believes they should be hosted in every United Synagogue, making space for those who rely on the halachic view of Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber, Head of Talmud at Bar Ilan University, who wrote a halakhic defense of the partnership minyanim model, and who is an outstanding scholar. The panel as a whole showed how orthodox Jews can think differently yet still move forward together, supporting one another.

Full panel - Rabbi Harris, Rabba Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, Jonathan Arkush OBE, Dr Miri Freud-Kandel and Rav Rahel Berkovits

To learn more about each speaker, click here:

The Symposium felt joyful and significant in itself, and there was a sense that it was just the beginning of further collaboration and development among the dynamic UK partnership minyanim.

Watch this space… 



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