Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hilchot Pluralism, Part III: Macroscopic prayer issues

Prerequisites:
This series documents and analyzes the pluralistic practices that independent Jewish communities are developing. After a long delay (from February break to April break), here is the long-awaited Part III, focusing on communal prayer.

To end the suspense now, I'm not going to solve any major unsolved problems in this post.

As far as I know, there is still no way to have a minyan that is both gender-egalitarian (meaning that people are not classified by gender) and compatible with a version of halacha that requires that prayer leaders be of a particular gender. (Maybe Jews in the Woods will figure it out someday; they haven't yet, but not for lack of trying.)

Contrary to popular belief, minyanim in the style of Shira Hadasha (where men are poreis al shema and oveir lifnei hateivah (i.e. men lead shacharit/musaf/mincha/ma'ariv), and women lead peripheral services such as kabbalat shabbat and pesukei dezimrah, and people can read Torah and have aliyot without regard to gender) do not accomplish this. And generally they don't claim to. These minyanim are meeting a real need for a particular set of people (and, in some cases, providing a sufficiently high-quality prayer experience that people outside that set are willing to compromise their principles and pray there), but they're not providing a permanent solution that will make it possible for everyone to pray together in Stage-3 harmony. And again, they're not claiming to. The reason they don't provide this solution is because they're not actually egalitarian (nor, generally, do they claim to be). The set of public roles that one can have in the community is still prescribed by one's gender. I can't ever lead kabbalat shabbat, my female friend can't ever lead shacharit, and 10 Jewish adults (of whatever gender) can't count themselves as a minyan. Yes, a service led by men and women is better (from the perspective of greater inclusion) than a service led only by men. But it is no more egalitarian. Being "mostly egalitarian" is like being "a little pregnant". That's not to say that these minyanim don't have an important place among all the other types of minyanim. But they are not a Stage-3 solution that includes people who seek to be in a community that is fully egalitarian.

I'm also not going to solve the issue of instruments on Shabbat. A service either uses instruments on Shabbat or it doesn't; I can't think of any other options. Some people attend minyanim like Kol Zimrah, where the leader is playing instruments, even though they personally wouldn't use instruments. But I can see how that wouldn't work for everyone. I suggested a "live and let live" approach in Part II using the example of writing on Shabbat, but I can see how hearing instrumental music as an integral part of the communal prayer that you're participating in would be much more conspicuous and harder to ignore than being in the same room as someone who is writing.

In Stage 1 and Stage 2, some people insist that they "can't" pray or "aren't comfortable" praying in a service where instruments are used on Shabbat. Therefore, it appears that the pluralistic solution is no instruments on Shabbat. The people who want instruments on Shabbat are then backed into a corner, so we respond that we "need" to have instruments in order to pray, and make fools of ourselves in the process. Of course we don't "need" instruments, and shame on Stage-1 discourse for twisting us into making ridiculous statements like that. In limited circumstances, having a Shabbat service/event without instruments is a perfectly reasonable way to accommodate everyone. In Stage 3, the problem arises when looking at the long view. While it may be acceptable for everyone to go without instruments for any one particular instance, it becomes unacceptable (from a Stage-3 identity perspective) if people are forced to never pray with instrumental music. So the best achievable solution is what we already have: pray together (without instruments) some of the time, and pray separately (with and without instruments) some of the time. In my world, this is achieved by attending multiple independent minyanim that meet on different weeks.

That's as good as we can do, but maybe that's not so bad; maybe Stage 3 means having lots of options, and identifying with the big picture, not necessarily identifying with every option.

***

Now that I've listed the issues that I don't think can be pluralistically solved at the present time, let's start picking the low-hanging fruit.

The trichitza* should have appeared in the Year In Ideas. I'm not being sarcastic. It's an elegant idea that didn't exist, and then someone came up with it, and everyone said "Why didn't I think of that before?"

[Linguistic excursus on the word trichitza: Some have suggested that this word is problematically constructed, because the "tri" means 3, and the "chitza" means "half", so "trichitza" suggests three-halves or one-sixth, when a meaning of one-third is desired. This doesn't bother me, because chatzi can refer to any fraction less than a whole, not necessarily a half, so "trichitza" can still mean "dividing in three". Some have suggested meshlisha as an alternative. This also successfully carries the connotation of "three" while sounding like the source word mechitza. However, as I have discussed elsewhere, it runs into grammatical problems, because a Hebrew word cannot start with two shevas. This problem might be avoided with the word mashlisha, with a patach, which can be understood as a participle of the nonexistent hif'il verb l'hashlish, to divide into thirds. The word meshalesh(et) might also mean the same thing ("something that divides something into thirds"), using a verb form that already exists, but lacks the assonance to mechitza. Finally, some have suggested meshlitza as a hybrid. I don't really understand this one. In addition to the two-sheva problem, a shoresh (particularly one that is shelamim) can't really be split like that; a shoresh is an indivisible morpheme.]

I think the trichitza may have originated at Jews In The Woods, but don't know for sure; can anyone confirm the origin? (Disclaimer: I've never been to JITW, and never been to a minyan with a trichitza.)

The idea is simple: divide the prayer space into three sections, one non-gendered, one women-only, and one men-only. If people want to pray in a space where they are not classified by gender, they can do so, and if they want to pray in a single-gender space for whatever reason (because they believe that this is required by halacha, or because they would be distracted by the presence of the opposite sex, or because they believe in masculine/feminine "energy"), then they can do so. There's something for everyone, and no one is coerced.

The beauty is that it automatically shifts in response to consumer demand: if everyone wants mixed seating, then *poof*, the single-gender sections cease to exist (since no one is sitting there), and if everyone wants separate seating, then *poof*, the mixed section ceases to exist. And if Reuven feels lonely because he's the only person in his section, then, well, he's still getting the best outcome that he can reasonably hope for in the context of that community: the alternatives are either that Reuven prays in a way that he doesn't want to, or the rest of the community is coerced into praying in a way that they don't want to, both of which are suboptimal outcomes. If Reuven's loneliness outweighs his reasons for being in his section, then he can always switch to the other section. And if not, then he can either stay where he is and deal with it (knowing that he is in a community where his choice is respected albeit not shared), or find another community with more like-minded people. Life is about making choices, and taking responsibility for one's choices.

Now that the trichitza idea is out there, there's no going back. Any minyan that has constituents who prefer separate seating and constituents who prefer mixed seating, and that takes no official stance that one of the options is invalid, should have a trichitza. In particular, the minyanim [N.B. not the same as the Shira Hadasha-style minyanim discussed above] that combine egalitarian prayer leadership with separate seating (despite the preferences of many people in their communities for non-gendered seating) have no excuse. They may have started out with separate seating as a "compromise" (hello, Stage 2), but such compromise is unnecessary now that the trichitza option exists. It's possible for these minyanim to move to Stage 3 on this issue if they want to.

It distresses me that some supporters of these minyanim refer to them, tongue in cheek, as "separate but egal". This is no laughing matter. Comparing one's community to Jim Crow segregation should create some serious cognitive dissonance. If one believes that the two situations are analogous (full disclosure: I actually sort of do, and Brown v. Board of Education has taught us that "separate but equal" is inherently unequal) then one should strive to rectify this rather than accepting it cheerfully, and if one believes that they're not analogous, then the comparison to historical hatred and oppression isn't appropriate even as a joke.

***

Ok, this post has gone on long enough that it's time to publish, and there are lots of prayer-related issues that haven't been touched yet. This post hit some macroscopic prayer issues; Part IV (coming soon) will focus on microscopic prayer issues, such as liturgy. What topics do you want to see in Part V and beyond?

29 comments:

  1. the first i remember hearing of trichitzas was as a coordinator of jitw in november of 2003. ari had come up with the idea of using a yahoo group to help process through the issues of how to bring such an excitingly diverse group of people together to daven. one of the questions was whether to have a mechitza as we had the previous semester (and the several years before), or to have a new solution. a lot of folks were very upset by several aspects of mechitzot including the forced assigning of genders, the gender binary-ing process, the heteronormativity, etc.

    as an adamant egalitarian i expected to have it be a palatable compromise. instead i found it to be my favorite davening alternative. i could move back and forth between gendered and non-gendered spaces and enjoy them both. i loved the ability to dance with ortho male friends and egal female friends in nearly the same space. i didn't feel guilty about davening with men nor did anyone need to be in any space other than the one they most wanted to be in.

    as for other tri-chitza locations, i have occasionally heard about people using a similar construct at weddings but i have not yet heard of someone who was actually at such an occasion. i am sure there were some isolated events, mostly in the frum world. Jews in the Woods, may be the first place where this was consciously used (perhaps sustainably) as a pluralistic inclusion tool to make community possible across difference.
    i'll check out the JITW archives more to try to discover more precisely how it came to be.

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  2. way back in '98 (middle school for me) the rabbi who taught my halacha class referred to a synagogue that had voted to have three sections- men, women and mixed.
    -sarah m

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  3. Well blogged, as usual!

    I grew up in a Wilmington, DE synagogue which I could argue used a trichitza. Although the synagogue was (at that point) affiliated with the OU, most of the congregation sat in mixed seating. At either side of the room there were small men's only and women's only seating, with no physical barriers. I'm not sure when the synagogue first started that practice, but my mom might.

    My next trichitza was at an aufruf in Jerusalem in early 1998. While the Leeder minyan usually used a mechitza, the special arrangement was used for the shabbat of the wedding to accomodate the family's wishes. At the time (I was 14) it seemed an intuitive and obvious option, but that's probably because I grew up with it.

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  4. On a tangent, I find it amusing that the Leader Minyan did "Shira Hadasha-style" (mechitza, men and women reading Torah, men (viz. the Leader family) leading essential parts of the service) for about a decade before Shira Hadasha existed, but it didn't attract the worldwide attention that Shira Hadasha did, because that's about the least remarkable thing about the Leader Minyan.

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  5. BZ, thanks for bringing the trichitza innovation to light!

    (Disclaimer: I'm a member of the JITW community and a former coordinator.)

    A few comments:

    (1) The Tremont Street shul in Cambridge has two minyanim. The "egal" minyan appears to only have mixed seating, but it turns out that the two small sections in the front are for male-only and female-only. There are no physical dividers. I don't know how long this system has been around.

    (2) I am also a big fan of the trichitza system. And I've extended the concept beyond places where it's consciously used. Consider: at the Tremont St shul (or in any building/community where they manage to have a gender-egalitarian service and another that satisfies normative Orthodox halacha -- but for the purpose of this exercise, let's leave out the complication of there being men's and women's sections in the "egal" minyan) there are three davenning areas in the building: (A) a male-identified space (in the mechitza minyan), (B) a female-identified space (in the mechitza minyan), and (C) a non-gender-identified space (the whole "egal" minyan area). This is an institution that has a trichitza, just with rather large dividers between A and C and between B and C.

    Similarly, if you have two synagogues on the same street and one has mixed seating and the other has a mechitza, you could say that there's one kahal, with a trichitza, with dividers that are even bigger than at the 2-minyanim-in-one building example I gave above.

    That is, there are trichitzas everywhere, it's just that some communities have figured out how to have folks in the 3 different sections davven together in the same service, in the same room, with an easier time of going back and forth between different sections, and with more of a sense of togetherness (I'd argue) among people in the various sections.

    I'd like to see the day where the trichitza system is in effect at the Kotel. (Im tirtzu, ein zo aggadah: if you will it, it is no dream.)

    (3) "These minyanim are meeting a real need for a particular set of people (and, in some cases, providing a sufficiently high-quality prayer experience that people outside that set are willing to compromise their principles and pray there)"

    There's an important klal yisrael issue here.

    If you're saying that the prayer experience is high-quality only because of the tunes, the ruach, etc. - and people are willing to compromise on egalitarianism - then you're missing a piece.

    If, however, you're saying that the prayer experience is high-quality in part because it brings together a group of Jews who wouldn't otherwise pray together, then you're on target.

    There's a value to being able to davven with people that have different ways of relating to Judaism than I do. It's unfortunate that this particular solution is Stage-2, but that's better than nothing (at least some of the time).

    For a person who values egalitarianism, (similar to the person who values being able to davven with instrumental music, going to KZ-type minyanim some of the time and non-instrument services some of the time) davenning sometimes in "shira hadasha-style" minyanim, and other times in "egal" minyanim, is a Stage-3 solution when faced with Stage-2 options.

    (4) "A service either uses instruments on Shabbat or it doesn't; I can't think of any other options."

    One option is using only percussion instruments.

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  6. 1998 was a good year for the trichitza: i met it at a byfi fall seminar following the 1998 summer. but we must've heard of it somewhere.

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  7. Any minyan that has constituents who prefer separate seating and constituents who prefer mixed seating, and that takes no official stance that one of the options is invalid, should have a trichitza.

    This situation came up in 2003 when trying to plan Penn Hillel's first ever (as far as I know) multidenominational service. However, our decidedly Stage-1 mentality led us to eliminate the third section of seating. The reason was that the Orthodox rabbi on campus at the time told us that he'd consider the service an acceptable alternative to the Ortho minyan if we had two seating sections (and did the other things we were planning), but not if we added the third.

    I just thought it was worth throwing out there that some people who consider your "any minyan" to currently be acceptable would no longer do so if it had a third section, and that they ground this acceptability firmly in halacha. Yes, this viewpoint is counterproductive from a pluralistic standpoint, but it's out there, and might cause these people to leave the minyan.

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  8. I've often wondered what made Penn's multidenominational service actually multidenominational other than the fact that people of different denominations prayed together. Women couldn't lead any part of the services, and there was no mixed area. The only "comprmises" on the Orthodox Jews were the inclusion of kavanot-ish things, and even those were done only during kaballat shabbat. Not that I'm such a big fan of kavanot myself, but still.

    (What were the "other things" you guys were planning, Desh?)

    As far as I can tell, Penn will never have a trichitza. The OCP leadership even has trouble with a shira chadasha minyan going on, with full mechitzaness, only for Friday night and not Saturday morning. They say the issue is kol isha.

    Fine, there could be something either shira chadasha-ish or egal with separate seating without Orthodox backing. I wanted their approval so that people who only would go if it was considered "halachic," and had OCP approval would go. It is halachic. There are valid opinions that say kol isha doesn't apply to davening and zmirot. But they couldn't even acknowledge that another opinion might be valid.

    Meanwhile, this is also a place where women can't even kiss the Torah in the Ortho minyan. The fact that we can dance with a Torah on Simchat Torah, or even dance at all, is comparitively revolutionary.

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  9. The other things I meant were nothing radical. I just meant that the rabbi was okay with our plan to have 2-section seating and a man leading ma'ariv, but wouldn't have been if it were a woman leading. Things like that. (We did make other creative attempts to make the service attractive, but nothing too dramatic.)

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  10. I'm also not going to solve the issue of instruments on Shabbat. A service either uses instruments on Shabbat or it doesn't; I can't think of any other options.

    Actually, there are distinctions to be made between percussion instruments and other instruments, and possibly a distinction to be made between instruments that permit pitch modulation and instruments that do not.

    IKAR in Los Angeles permits drums and, as I understand it, in thoery would permit a digeridoo on the grounds that one cannot control its pitch. During the summer, IKAR does use guitars, etc., during Kabbalat Shabbat prior to sundown and then reverts to drums alone.

    One also could make a case for instruments that either work or don't (and are not reparable by the musician). Thus drums and wooden flutes would be permitted, but guitars and violins would not. There would be a machloket over clarinets, I imagine.

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  11. If my memory serves me correctly, I witnessed a "trichitza" in a so-called orthodox synagogue in Peoria, IL in the summer of 1974. The sanctuary was constructed with fixed pews, with two aisles which divided it into three sections. The mid-section, we were told, was for mixed seating, the section on the right (facing the bimah) was for men only, and on the left was for women only. That seemed to be their established minhag; not at all controversial.
    I was in Peoria running a Jewish day-camp out of the Reform temple for a couple of weeks, and went on shabbat morning to the orthodox shul. Walking home after services, an elderly man asked me what I did when I wasn't working at summer camp. I told him that I was leaving in a few weeks for Jerusalem, to begin my studies to become a rabbi. He exclaimed, (in Yiddish-accented English) "When you're a rabbi, I'll be a rebbitzin!" I often wondered what happened to him after my ordination in 1979. :^)

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  12. "trichetzas" go back to the 1920s with the original "orthodox" synogogues that were built with mens, womens, and family sections. See Louis Ginzberg's comment from here quoted below

    "And you say, therefore," the Professor was asked, "that this problem has become in some measure a question of propriety, of liberalism?" "Most assuredly," was the reply. "The true liberal is he who respects views differing from his own. One may respect views similar to one's own and still remain a thorough bigot. In every congreation so troubledthere are parties for or against mixed pews. The man who insistson comingling the sexes has arguments of expediency only, not of religion. He believes more young people will then attend; or that women desiring to remain with their families will be satsified; or that some vague spirit of modernism may thus be expressed. The believer in separation, however, finds the mixed pews incompatible with his religious convictions-- a far more potent impulse than mere expediency. Many Jews would refuse to read the Shema in a pew containing both men and women. It is a matter of earnest principle with such men. Hence, where this is a minority in a congregation which protests against such an innovations, the others should respect their wishes, not on the grounds of law but of true liberalism. The question is out of the realm of law; it is a matter of sympathetic judgement of conditions."

    The book talks about the "trichetza" as well, but I don't have the source typed up.

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  13. Thanks to everyone for all your comments!

    Ilana and Shawn-
    I think using only percussion instruments is parallel to Shira Hadasha-style minyanim.

    Keitzad?

    The Shira Hadasha solution provides the optimal type of minyan for some individuals, and (as Ilana said) provides a way for some combinations of people to pray together who wouldn't otherwise be praying together. However, it's not the be-all-and-end-all solution for everyone, because (a) it's not egalitarian, and (b) some people still don't consider it halachically permissible for women to lead any part of the service.

    Likewise, a percussion-only service can provide a solution that would work for some combinations of people, but still doesn't work for everyone, because (a) some people don't consider even percussion instruments to be halachically and/or aesthetically acceptable on Shabbat, and (b) it runs into the same problems as no-instrument services (discussed above) for people who sometimes want to pray with melodic instruments (i.e. it's ok some of the time, but not always).

    These "compromise"-type solutions are effective at going outside the usual boxes and creating new boxes, and I'm all in favor of that, since it's better to have more options, but they don't succeed in transcending the boxes the way that the two-table system or the trichitza do.

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  14. Shawn Landres wrote:
    During the summer, IKAR does use guitars, etc., during Kabbalat Shabbat prior to sundown and then reverts to drums alone.

    I'm in favor of this (for communities that don't use instruments on Shabbat). The NHC's policy is that instruments are not used on Shabbat in spaces where the whole group is meeting, but are permitted when there are multiple options of where to be. At the Summer Institute, everyone prays together on Friday night, so there are no instruments, but there are multiple options for Shabbat morning, some of which might have instruments (and there are always options without instruments). However, kabbalat shabbat always starts significantly before sundown, so this year we're going to try using instruments for kabbalat shabbat proper (when it's not Shabbat yet, either astronomically or liturgically), and cutting them out for maariv. We'll see how it goes.

    (One annoying thing about this breakdown is that the Carlebach and Carlebach-esque tunes, which can sound just fine without instruments, were written mostly for kabbalat shabbat, while the Debbie Friedman et al tunes, many of which just don't work without a guitar, were written mostly for maariv. This is because Reform services tend to have a perfunctory kabbalat shabbat, and Orthodox services tend to have a perfunctory maariv. You can't win.)

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  15. No one has mentioned the synagogue which I had been told invented the trichizta: in Tokyo, where for a long time presumably they didn't have enough Jews to be able to opt-out of pluralistic solutions. Anyone know more about this?

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  16. It is interesting that people think that places can have non-gendered spaces. As Ilana correctly identified, these are non-gender identified spaces: you do not need to identify as specifically male or female to enter. This does not mean the places are non gendered. The people who are in the space most often have a sense of gender identity. Sometimes its strong, sometimes less relevant ot their identity, sometimes it doesnt fit into one of two neat boxes, but the space still has gender. It almost sounds like calling an interfaith event a "religion-neutral" or a "non-religious" event. Wesleyan recently made the switch to calling certain public bathrooms "multi-gendered" instead of "gender neutral" for this reason. Multi-gendered, mixed gendered, and other such names work, but non-gendered is a misomer.

    on a second note about kabbalat shabbat, I believe the kabbalat shabbat with instruments before sundown custom dates back to 19th century prague where an orthodox shul there tried to keep members from joining the reform shul by incorporating an organ concert into kabbalat shabbat.

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  17. We also discussed the trichitza at Harvard Hillel at least as far back as 1997 or 1998 as a solution to seating in the courtyard hot tub.

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  18. a small orthodox synogogue outside of Buffalo, NY called Bnai Shalom had a trichitza when I was there for a shabbat many years ago (I can't remember how many). Unfortunately they also had a new Chabadish rabbi who forced the synagogue to choose between this and him. It ended in a split of the minyan. One group with a rabbi and no building and a mechitza minyan, the other group with a building and no rabbi and a trichitza.

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  19. I have a question for everyone. So, meshlitzas are starting to catch on at Brandeis. We have a minyan that has now met twice that draws a lot of the Conservative minyan and some of the Orthodox one. We also have a 'chavera' minyan whcih meets three or four times a term. In the chavera minyan we usually sit in a circle. It has been really hard to sit in a circle and to similtaniously have a meshlitza.
    One idea that I have that was inspired by a minyan at UMD was to doven in concentric circles. I don't know exactly how it would work but having some people facing in and some facing out so that it would still be a somewhat unified dovenning but still fufilling people's needs/confort level.

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  20. How about a radial meshlitza? I.e. each section is 120° (or another appropriate angle) of the circle.

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  21. Instruments
    I think the whole instrument thing is being taken too amateurishly.
    It is true that the Gemara says the prohibition on instruments has to do witht repairing them, but it is a Gzeira which does not distingush between instruments.
    Historically, and this is documented in Both Bavli and yerushalmi, and in earlier shources, there was a blanket prohibition on noisemaking on shabbat.
    The Halakhic picture is perhaps not really clear (because a gentile, for example, could perhaps play, and there is obviously no question for beofre shabbat), but there is no dispute, I think, that on real shabbat, with actual Jews, there is no way to do instrumental music.

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  22. We are happily using the mashlisha/trichitza approach for Shabbat morning in SF. A few of our members have expressed opposition to a curtain being used in any part of the room to segment off one group from another. Apparently the presence of any mechitza is a Stage-2 issue of serious proportions for some people. Instead we use the shulchan, with a tablecloth covering it that extends all the way to the ground, as the divider between the men and the women. The Shaliach tzibur stands at the end of the table, also between the two sections. There is no real divider between the single-gender sections and the mixed section. The mixed is behind the shaliach tzibur, thereby creating a "buffer" zone. The separator being an essential piece of shul furniture seems to satisfy everyone.

    Also - I have an earlier trichitza sighting. In Jerusalem, circa 1996, there was a minyan meeting at the Merkaz HaMagshimim that had three sections. It met for only a few months until the Merkaz staff stopped it from meeting there out of fear, some say, of an Israeli law that apparently blocks landlords from ever displacing a minyan that has met in a particular place for a year or more.

    My first sighting of two-section egalitarian was in Friday night minyan on the Upper West Side, held in the home of a woman with the initials JT.

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  23. Fascinating history! Just for the record -- the Traditional Minyan at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington DC had a trichitza system in the early 1980s -- we just never knew what to call it! There were no physical barriers, but the first row was reserved for men only, then came 4-5 rows of women and men, and finally a row of women only at the back. I don't know how long this had been going on but when I joined in 1981 it was quite a popular system and helped to bridge a variety of davening needs. (The minyan became fully egalitarian in the 1990s and then dispensed with any separate seating.)
    -- Gilah

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  24. I went to a bat mitzvah of a classmate in 1992 with a trichitza, but I guess we've already established that JITW was far (very far) from the first group to come up with this idea. When I went to JITW in 1999, 2000, and 2001, there was a standard mechitza, although lower than I would find in most Orthodox shuls. And davening was "Shira Hadasha"-style, which seemed very radical and clever to me at the time (as an Orthodox Jew).

    I think the reason that the Leader Minyan didn't attract as much attention as Shira Hadasha/Darkhei Noam is because the latter minyanim were based on a teshuva written by an Orthodox rabbi and published in the Edah journal. I don't know on what rabbinic basis the Leader minyan was formed, but it probably wasn't a published teshuva (I'm guessing).

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  25. Jo said:
    "No one has mentioned the synagogue which I had been told invented the trichizta: in Tokyo, where for a long time presumably they didn't have enough Jews to be able to opt-out of pluralistic solutions. Anyone know more about this?"

    I don't know more about the history, but I was going to mention it as my main trichitza experience, for Purim (in 2000 or so?). My husband and arrived for evening megillah reading--he went off to the left, to the men's section, and I went off the the right. Then I noticed that there were women AND men and kids in that section--the "family"/mixed section--and waved at him, so he rejoined me. There was an area at the far right (no political commentary intended) as a women's only section, but no one chose to sit in it.

    But the trichitza no longer reigns supreme in Tokyo for all occasions: when we came for Shabbat, there was a Masorti service with mixed seating on Friday night, and a separate Orthodox service with mechitza. For Saturday morning there was only one service, essentially Ortho with mechitza (though the JCC-Japan rabbi was American and Conservative-ordained): they had trouble getting their 10 men, and for a long time I was the only woman on my side (though I was joined mid-morning by a group of visiting Japanese college students studying religion!).

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  26. re: gender egal minyan + halacha requiring leaders of a specific gender

    The best, if imperfect, solution I can think of is if non-egal people accept that they might have to relate to the tfila as tfila b'yachid, even if the rest of the minyan is treating it as tfila b'tzibur. in return, egal folks are understanding of a person who doesn't bow during barchu, etc.

    this is based on tfila b'tzibur not being a halachic necessity, just hiddur mitzvah, plus ability to say more= good.

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  27. I presume these non-egal people would also not want to be counted in the minyan, but I think anyone should have the right not to be counted in a minyan against his/her consent. I've heard of a community that defined a minyan as "ten consenting adults", i.e. 10 people who count each other as a minyan (10 egal people, or 10 non-egal men, etc.).

    One time when I had a siyyum, we sent out an evite asking people to RSVP so we could make sure there was a minyan for kaddish. An Orthodox male friend replied saying "I'll be there, but don't count me in the minyan." I like that approach better than "I'll only be there if there are 10 men coming."

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  28. I know, it's a bit late in terms of commentary. However, let me point out that the trichitzas were being used in Young Judaea in the 80s and at Oberlin in the early 90s. Granted, neither of these were "regular minyanim" and I doubt either actually was the inventor of it. Seems like a pretty simple solution to it all, no?

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  29. A linguistic excursus of my own :)

    "Mechitza" comes from "hotzetz", to divide or separate, not from "hetzi". So it does not necessarily mean to divide in two. And the portmanteau "trichitza" does not raise any linguistic problems.

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