Women’s Seating in Yeshurun: trial of downstairs seating arrangements
Firstly, I want to say on a personal note how uplifting and gratifying the AGM was as a whole and how enthused the HO team are moving forward.
One of the items raised by many individuals was about a desire for the women to have a full option of downstairs seating and questions around when that would be implemented and how this would look. This has been discussed by both the HOs and the Board of Management and the following has been proposed, which we are now bringing to you as a community to inform you of our plans.
Please note before continuing that these are plans for trials of options for women’s seating downstairs in order for us to collect feedback from the attendees on the options and to refine any suggestions, before we bring the options to the community as a whole to vote on what actions they would like the Board and HOs to implement on a more permanent basis. In other words, there will be several weeks of different options being trialled (detailed below) and then there will be a community vote on what the preferred option (including none) will be, which the Board and HOs will seek to implement in the best interests of the shul and community.
As these will only be trials, Yeshurun will not be investing at this point in a new Mechitzah for the downstairs women’s section and will be using temporary options. We understand that these will likely not be the most aesthetically pleasing and certainly it is not the intention that these will be the long-term option should the decision be to create a larger women’s section downstairs. In terms of what a long-term option would look like, this will likely be something that the HOs discuss with the new Rabbinic Couple after receiving feedback from the community, and especially from those who would like to sit in this new section. The HOs will present options to the Board with quotes, before presenting the best option(s) to the community for approval.
We do ask that members try and separate the Mechitzah question from their feedback on the seating arrangements themselves and not the temporary Mechitzah, although any suggestions for improvement will always be welcome.
As such the current plan for women’s downstairs are as follows:
Shabbat Vayetzei (24-25/11/23) – Women’s seating section on the side closest to the door (left side of the room facing the Aron). Pews in place and mechitzah around all of Section F including seats 1-245 and Section C seats 97 – 119. Click HERE to see Shul seating plan and designated area.
For the first shabbat we are delighted to announce in addition to the women’s seating section downstairs that Dr Miriam Bagel will be addressing the community at the end of the service and in celebration of this YAM will be joining for a special one-off YAM led Davening (as such the women’s section is significantly bigger this Shabbat than it is for the future weeks, though the Gabbayim note that should more space be needed the women’s section may be expanded on future weeks as well).
Shabbat Shemot (5/1/24) – Women’s seating section on the side closest to the door (left side of the room facing the Aron). Pews removed* and replaced with chairs and tables. Mechitzah around chairs 211-249. Click HERE to see attached numbered diagram
Shabbat Beshalach (26/1/24) Women’s seating on the right-hand side. Entrance through the far door. Pews in place and mechitzah around chairs 50-96 (even only) and 102-120 (even only). Click HERE to see designated area.
In each case we remind the Men whose seats will be unfortunately inaccessible to them that Shabbat that they should strive to retrieve any personal belongings that they wish to access during Shabbat morning davening before the start of the service that day (it will be possible to retrieve them on the Friday night immediately beforehand). If that is not possible then feel free to reach out to one of the Gabbayim and we will ensure that any requested items are retrieved for you before shul begins. Failing all of these we remind the Men that they are not permitted to enter the women’s section during tefillah and as such should politely request from one of the women near the door to pass them their belongings. Again, we apologise for the inevitable mild frustration with these temporary seating arrangements, but fully believe that these growing pains are worth it for the long term achievement of the growth of the shul.
Please note that the upstairs women’s gallery will still be open and available on these Shabbatot for any women who do not wish to participate in the trial/do not wish to sit downstairs, although we do urge members to approach this with an open mind and try it if possible. Please further note that these trials are only during the day as Friday night Davening will continue to be held in the Leff Hall during the winter, where there is already side by side women’s seating with tables and chairs.
If there are any options that you feel are not being offered, or have any feedback or suggestions at this stage, then feel free to reach out to myself or John Sheer to discuss them.
On behalf of John Sheer, Adam Tash & Avi Grossman
* Please note that the pews on the left side of the room are not fixed and can be temporarily moved. They will be returned to their current place in time for the following Shabbat.