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October 25, 1991 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

TRADITION I

Don't miss this

INCREDIBLE

7-HOUR
SALE!

Separate Seating
In The Synagogue

What is the basis for mechitza?

ONE DAY ONLY!

SATURDAY • OCTOBER 26

0 AM - 5 PM

Oin EVERYTHING

OFF

WALL

TO WALL

Fine Designer Furniture at Fantastic Savings!
ELLO • CENTURY • BERNHARDT
Plus a great selection of leather from DANSEN & NATUZZI

SHERWOOD STUDIOS

WAREHOUSE

Fine Furniture & Accessories

24760 Crestview Ct. • Farmington Hills

476-3760 (Day of Sale) • 354-9060 (Prior to Sale)

IMMEDIATE DELIVERY NOMINAL CHARGE
GROUPS SOLD AS COMPLETE SETS
PRIOR SALES EXCLUDED

ALL SALES FINAL

‘IEWISH AUTHORS

Were Looking For You!

-

• If you have written a
Jewish content book

• If your book is
currently in print

• If you would like to be
part of a reception

• If you would like to sell
and autograph your books

JEWISH BOOK FAIR WANTS YOU -

MAIL COUPON TODAY

Name

Title of Book

Date Published

Publisher

Address

City

State

Zip

Phone

Mail by October 28, '1991 to: Book Fair, 6600 W. Maple, W. Bloomfield, MI 48322

64

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1991

JOSEPH TELUSHKIN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he most obvious physi-
cal difference between
Orthodox and non-
Orthodox synagogues is the
mechitza (separation) that
divides the men's and
women's sections of the
synagogue.
Orthodox synagogues sepa-
rate men and women during
prayer services; non-Orthodox
synagogues do not. The
separate section for women is
an old tradition in Judaism,
and we know that there were
separate women's sections as
long ago as the beginning of
the Common Era, at the time
of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Today, many non-Orthodox
Jews feel that a separate
women's section is offensive,
that it consigns women to an
inferior status. While there
are Orthodox laws that clear-
ly disadvantage women —
most notably, the laws of
divorce — it is by no means
clear that the mechitza is, or
was, intended to be
discriminatory. It seems,
rather, to have been a
response to human nature.
God is abstract, and it is an
effort for people to focus on an
abstract Deity while praying.
For me,. and I think for
many other men, it is a nat-
ural reaction to look around
when a group of women is
present and let one's gaze rest
on a pretty woman. Indeed,
people usually dress up before
going to synagogue, in an ef-
fort to look attractive. In the
"battle" between an intangi-
ble God and a tangible mem-
ber of the opposite sex, Jewish
law assumed that the tangi-
ble is more likely to win.
Hence, physical separation
can help bring about spiritual
concentration for both sexes.
It must also be acknow-
ledged, however, that the
mechitza is sometimes used to
di scriminate against women.
I have been to Orthodox
synagogues where the mechit-
za was so remote that women
were effectively cut off from
participating in the service.
Not surprisingly, women in
such congregations often
spend the service talking and
gossiping, and then are con-
demned by the men for not
praying. In many modern Or-
thodox synagogues, the
mechitza is drawn down the
center of the synagogue, so
that men and women can
equally observe the cantor
and the service.

_

In recent years, a number of
Orthodox women have found-
ed separate women's prayer
groups in which they can lead
the service. Men either are
not permitted to attend, or
must sit behind a special
mechitza for males. Some Or-
thodox rabbis have con-
demned such prayer groups,
arguing that they are only a
concession to feminism. The
response has been that some-
thing is not ipso facto un-
Jewish because it is feminist;
if feminism has prompted
people to see an injustice in
the Jewish community, then
it becomes a Jewish issue as
well.
The issue of the mechitza
provokes powerful emotions
in Jewish life. Jewish femi-
nists have on occasion de-
manded that all Jews com-
mitted to women's rights
refuse to attend any service in
which women are segregated
and denied public participa-
tion. Orthodox Jews, on the
other hand — men and wo-
men alike — will not par-
ticipate in a service at which
men and women sit together.
When national Jewish organ-
izations meet, separate serv-
ices must therefore be arrang-
ed for Orthodox and non-
Orthodox participants.

From the book Jewish Literacy
by Joseph Telushkin. Copyright
© 1991 by Rabbi Joseph
Telushkin. Reprinted with per-
mission of William Morrow and
Co., Inc.

'I NEWS

l'""

Israel Tries
Liver Transplant

Tel Aviv (JTA) — A 14-
year-old Soviet immigrant
was reported in critical but
stable condition after
undergoing the first liver
transplant operation ever
performed at the Hadassah-
Hebrew University Hospital
at Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.
Michael Yacobov, who
arrived in Israel 10 months
ago, suffers from hepatitis B,
a life threatening infectious
disease.
Dr. Ahmed Ya'id, a senior
surgeon at the hospital, said
it would be a week before it
is known whether the teen-
ager who survived the eight-
hour operation will live. The
potential problem is rejec-
tion of the transplanted
organ.
The liver was donated by
Eurotransplant.

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