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The conservative fraction of the mosque wants to have a barrier in the mosque between men and women, the more liberal fraction fights this. We don’t have to go far to find parallels. This has happened in my community over and over again.

For orthodox prayers there’s always a separation, but then the reform group wanted to hold services in the synagogue. They were not allowed to, because they would have had mixed seating and women called to the Torah. So the 100 guests for a Bat Mitzva celebration held the service in a small side room while the 10 regulars did the orthodox service in the sanctuary that seats 200. Cause for resentment anyone? Noooo….

There are positive and negative things to say about separate seating. You get to know other women and the distinction whether you are single or in a relationship is not so important. There’s a more warm feeling than in mixed groups, more relaxed. But separate seating can be a pain if you are a family and want to split responsability for the children. If you are the only woman it will be weird sitting alone in the women’s section. If you are single and bring an opposite-sex visitor it basically guarantees he/she will be lost and alone. There might not be enough siddurim (prayer books) or other necessary things and you cannot go and get them out of the men’s section. And of course when separate really means inferior, i.e., you cannot see or hear properly or there isn’t enough space, there’s not much to like about it.

The solution in the series is that "the barrier stays and it goes away" at the same time. Those who want the separation can pray on the side of the room that has it, those who don’t want it can use the other side. A similar solution is the trichitzah, a three-way partition of the space into a men-only section, a women-only section and a mixed section. I only heard about this from blogs (Redefining Rebbetzin, Mah rabu), but I really like the idea and I’d be curious to try it one day!

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