Aliyot for Women

On November 17, 1960, a special Congregational meeting was called by Chairman Joseph Howard Katz to introduce the following resolution:

Our Synagogue has proudly decided to award aliyot to properly qualified women in our synagogue. We are persuaded that this step is in accordance with loftiest standards of Judaism and the principles of synagogue democracy . . . Men and women who honor our synagogue with their devotion may be equally and demonstrably honored in turn.
Resolved that the congregation of the Park Avenue Synagogue approve the unanimous recommendation of the Board of Trustees to adopt the practice of granting aliyot to women.

“Properly qualified,” it was explained, meant the women would read the Torah blessings in Hebrew. The topic had been debated at PAS ever since the Rabbinical Assembly Committee on Jewish Law and Standards 1955 statement that in principle women could be called to the Torah. Now, after five years, it was coming up for a vote. The chairman of the PAS Law Committee, Asa D. Sokolow, who read the resolution for the record, remarked, “we maintain a religious school of the highest caliber. And we don’t discriminate between our boys and our girls in this religious school . . . not until they reach the age of thirteen. And at that time it has been our practice, whether or not a girl has had a bas mitzvah, she may not be called to the Torah. This I regard as undemocratic and wrong.” The resolution passed.

In anticipation of the annual meeting on May 5, 1961, when this ritual change would be fully adopted, Rabbi Judah Nadich devoted his April 14 sermon to aliyot for women. He commented that although women in the 20th-century secular world had gained “emancipation and equality of status . . . Jewish law has not kept pace. This constitutes a challenge to historic Judaism and especially to us who call ourselves Conservative Jews . . . The true character of [Jewish] law is that it is an evolving and developing creation responding to the urgent requirements and the highest moral standards of every age.” He continued that by granting aliyot to women, we have “the opportunity to demonstrate the adaptability and therefore the viability of Jewish religious law and practice.”

In honor of the 55th anniversary of the adoption of aliyot for women at Park Avenue Synagogue, Yasher Koach to the adult bat mitzvah class as they as they reaffirm their commitment to Judaism and to the privilege of reading from the Torah.

We hope you enjoy this piece of PAS history.