Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Mechitzah, Picking Sides, and Background

Making its way through the Blog-o-Sphere is a story out of Columbus via the New Standard about a mechitzah-less congregation that recently had to decide if they were Orthodox or not (New website: AmIFrumorNot). A little background is called for. In previous generations (as Gurock Jr. can footnote), Orthodoxy was not particularly observant and many synagogues had to pick whether they would be Orthodox or Conservative and whether they had a YU or JTS Rabbi (independent of their denominational choice) usually based upon personal prediliction but often each side would come and make a presentation (SIW's "Debate"). Even the issue of Mechitzah was subject to debate, as there were many Orthodox synagogues with mixed seating (the technical term is "Tradional"). Through the 1950's it was not clear that Orthodoxy would require metchitzos/t. It is only through the influence of the Young Israel movement that Mechitzos/t became the minimum standard. In the midwest, where the YI was not as strong, mechitzos/t were not as common. By the late 1990's as Orthodoxy became more Halakhic & the NCYI & the OU entering open warfare, the NCYI banned its member synagogues from being mechitzah-less (mainly as a way of showing how frum they were) & the OU was left with 3 non-Mechitzah member shuls (NMS). Now, these synagogues (like most NMS) had non-observant members, an Orthodox Rabbi & a comittment to Orthodox Judaism. As the OU now also requires its member synagogues to be Mechitzah-ed, the NMS will have to go, and in all likelihood they will go Conservative.
As the bloggers ask, why the OU let Agudas Achim stay as a NMS. Because this used to be the norm. When you up your standards, you sometimes have to do a little amputation.

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