Our congregation finally addressed its albatross last shabbos, the classification of our shul's women as dhimi's, a protected but subordinate class of people. Orthodox and other non-egal places like ours sometimes get a bad rap about how we treat our women, banning them from leading our worship based on assessments of Rabbis of yore whose world had a very different form than ours. Whether you adhere to tradition or schect the Sacred Cow of these sages' ruling, the proper treatment of women is really a moral issue of our generation that cannot be simply dismissed or even undermined by a few guys in our minyanim whose Y-chromosome may be their principal asset. Despite the subordinate religious standing of our women and those of any Orthodox congregation, it is also hard to escape the reality that the talent within our cohort far exceeds the talent within the movements that have brought women to ritual equality. It is a matter of showcasing that talent, enabling those women to acquire those 15 minutes of fame that should be the destiny of all human beings.
To do that, AKSE arranged a suitable forum, not quite egalitarian but recognizable as parity if not equality. A mechitza of balloons was placed, some Tircha d'Tzibburah imposed by the Rabbi by having two services each at inconvenient times to run consecutively when they could have just as well run simultaneously, and the service that people actually attended conducted half by women and half by men. Pseudkei D'Zimrah, Torah Service, half the Aliyot, and Haftarah all performed expertly by some very outstanding women, all far more capable than those Ritual Committee denizens who impede them. Rabbi stayed in the background, no Aliyah Sound Bites, only the briefest of remarks on his part. Some of these women can and have given pretty decent Divrei Torah at a collegiate level far in excess of the more typical fare that has become our norm, but with the time shift making a late morning, that opportunity had to be set aside. And the women prepare an ever outstanding Kiddush each shabbos, duplicated for this shabbos as well. What differed at this kiddush were the sincere congratulations bestowed upon the participants and a little more camaraderie than has been our norm, but something that should be aspired to.
With a little tweaking, this reflects AKSE at its best, a sanctuary that comes alive, that makes shabbos morning the sparkling centerpiece of a synagogue's existence, something it can really use as the favorable product differentiation that has been so difficult to achieve.