The folding wall was a mechitzah
separating the space into a men's and women's side for a mincha minyan, or afternoon prayer service, to which I had come to say kaddish for my mother.
These religious Indian Jews wanted the services to be held in Hebrew, without English, to use the Sephardic prayer book that had also been used in India, and to have a mechitzah
(curtain) separating the men and women.
Within weeks, the chief rabbi ordered the installation of the barrier known as a mechitzah
, creating the men's and women's sections.
The two options that follow a liturgical format are the Egalitarian and Mechitzah
Over our leader's voice I had heard yelling and shushing from the beginning, but when objects started flying over the mechitzah
, I realized how much trouble we were in.
Men and women daven on two sides of the mechitzah
, their eyes sometimes focused on an open book, sometimes closed, their prayers either personal or committed to memory.
See, for example, Baruch Litvin, The Sanctity of the Synagogue: The Case for Mechitzah
, Separation Between Men and 'Women in the Synagogue, Based on Jewish Law, History and Philosophy, from Sources Old and New (New York: Spero Foundation, 1:959); and Norman Lamm, "Separate Pews in the Synagogue: A Social and Psychological Approach," Tradition 1 (Spring 1959): 141-64.
It has the traditional mechitzah
separating men and women down the middle, except that their mechitzah
goes right through the bima, thus both virtually and symbolically allowing for the equal division of conducting the synagogue service between women and men, something I originally found shocking, as did some other Orthodox congregations in their neighborhood.
When her Orthodox brother and his bride Tzippy hold a handkerchief over the mechitzah
(partition) at their wedding, she writes: "I watched them and was filled with disgust at my own life, which, in the glow of their purity, seemed dirty and sordid" (p.
As the Ray writes, "Separation has it origin in the Bible itself, whereas the requirement of a mechitzah
must be attributed to a rabbinic ordinance.
I love my religion, traditions, law, community, the small politics, the debates over the Shabbat table about the heights of the mechitzah
During the chuppah, there is no physical mechitzah
at weddings like these (although there will be during dinner and dancing).