|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
What is the Halachic reason for the exclusion of women from the minyan? Is this now permissible in Conservative Judaism?
The traditional objection to women being included in counting the minyan is
that one must be obligated themselves for worship in a minyan if they are
intended to be included. Women are not required to worship in a minyan
because of their obligations in the home, especially for the children.
In addition, there is a principle of "kavod ha-tzibbur" generally translated as "respect for the minyan." It was felt that it was "impolite" for women to be included because there were insufficient men available or willing.
The Conservative Movement has made the possibility of egalitarian participation in all aspects of synagogue and ritual life; the only moment when it is not egalitarian is when the Rabbi of the congregation rules otherwise, for the Rabbi is the final authority for each synagogue.
From the summary of the responsum of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards:
"David J. Fine, "Women and the Minyan" OH 5:1.2002 Conservative rabbis who permit women to count in the minyan and serve as shlikhot tzibbur argue such by various and opposing argumentations, either by reading the classical halakhic sources as obligating women to prayer equally with men and thereby permitting them to have equal liturgical status, or by understanding the classical halakhic sources as not mandating the liturgical inequality of women, or by accepting the legislative authority of the 1973 takannah, or by recognizing that women in the Conservative movement have, as a general class, accepted upon themselves the equal obligation to prayer with men.
Conclusion: Women may count in the minyan and serve as shalihot tzibbur."
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)