Manhattan, NY – Rabbi Keeps Off Women from Board of LES Orthodox Synagogue


    Bialystoker Synagogue Manhattan, NY – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s synagogue wants to keep the “men” in mensch.

    The Lower East Side’s historic Bialystoker Synagogue is facing a revolt from its female members, who want to run for positions on the synagogue’s board of governors.

    But the rabbi has stuck to the Orthodox congregation’s tradition — and told women members they can’t hold positions of authority.

    “I’m very unhappy about it,” said member Debra Engelmayer, who claimed several families have left over the issue.

    It’s not only the women who are angry.

    “It’s been a boy’s club since Day One,” said member Daniel Cohen of the ornate temple on Willett Street, where women pray on the upstairs balcony, separated from men. “I’d like to think that it’s a progressive synagogue, but it’s not.”

    Silver, who had his bar mitzvah there, was a vice president of the synagogue for decades — until he ditched the job in June.

    “Silver walked away from his position on the board — he finished off his term and didn’t run for re-election,” said Debra’s husband, Juda Engelmayer.

    Some members suspect the cautious Silver is forgoing the leadership role because of the anti-woman decree.

    A spokesman said Silver could not be reached for comment because of the Jewish holidays.

    The Bialystoker Synagogue has long been central to Jewish life on the Lower East Side. Immigrants from Bialystok, Poland, formed the congregation in 1865, and it now occupies a circa-1826 Methodist church.

    But the flap has divided the house of worship. David Cohen, a housing-court judge, also left the board this summer.

    The synagogue’s president — elected after the decree forbidding female board members — is Shlomo Hagler, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge.

    The fight began in May when a majority of the congregation voted to allow women to run for board positions. After member Janet Riesel announced her intention to run, Rabbi Zvi David Dromm announced his edict at a sparsely attended Saturday-morning service.

    Debra Engelmayer called Dromm’s decision — coming after a public vote and while women were putting themselves forward as candidates — “disrespectful.”

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    1. I don’t see anywhere in halacha where it says that a women can’t have a respectable position on a board. As long as those officiating are men there should be no problem. As far as not appointing a female Parnes, I don’t think that todays comittees are the same as the old Parnes. I just think that they are scared that the women will do a better job.

      • With all due respect you are proving you are not a chochem. The first step is an ‘in’ on the Board. That is followed by the President. That is followed by mixed seating etc.

        Remember, one of the first things ‘reformed’ jews did was move the baal t’filla to the middle of the shul. Now, some 150 or so years later, there is not much of a difference between them & stam a goy.

        The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Kol Ha’kavod to the Rov for realizing where the ladies want their journey to lead them.

        • To #4 Mark Levin,

          There is not much difference between a Reform Jew and a stam goy?!

          You make me sick. Did you just have Rosh Hashana or were you asleep at the wheel? Your comment is completely wrong. R. Yehuda Halevi states that a Jew is defined by a biological heritage. There is kedusha to every reform Jew, even if they do not realize that!

          So Mark, get off your horse of arrogance, and try to reach out to a reform Jew. You’d be surprised about how nice they are, how respectful they are, and how much you can learn.

          Its the pigs like you that give us a bad name and further distance them from a life of torah and mitzvos. (and mosiach from coming!)

          Do teshuva, and maybe drown yourself in a mikvah. The world will be a better place.

    2. to#4.

      You really have to grow up. Having a woman on a board of a shul leads to …. nothing. I belong to a shul where a woman is even a vice-president. she can’t be any higher and I will bet our shul is as frum as yours. Time to get your head out of the sand.

    3. There is nothing in Halacha against having women on the Board. I belong to a very frum Shul (it is the frummest Shul in my community), and there is a woman Recording Secretary. As long as there is a Mechitzah, and there is no participation of women in the services, what is the problem of having a woman on the board? Are you also against women kissing the Torah, when it is brought around? Those of you with such archaic opinions should ban women entirely from Kiddushes, and not hire them as clerical workers in the
      Shul. The Taliban also has a very low regard of women.

    4. #4,

      WADR, your exposition is not that seen in talmidei chachamim; the slippery slope argument is not used by poskim who argue against women serving in leadership roles. Instead, they argue on the applicability of a ruling of the Rambam that is disputed by many if not most other rishonim to positions like shul boards that did not exist during Rambam’s time. There are great rabbis who have permitted women to be shul Presidents — not just board members — such as Rav Nahum Rabinovitch and Rav Gedaliah Schwartz. And I can point out right wing shuls with woman presidents. Rav Aharon Lichtenstein has told students not to object to women presidents and the alumni association of his yeshiva has a woman president!

      Rabbi Romm (not Dromm) asked a shilah of a noted talmid chacham and he is obligated to follow it. That is the halachic process. We should respect that and if the members are uncomfortable with that they can go to another shul. But this works both ways! National Council of Young Israel does not respect that halachic process as has been trying to seize the assets of a shul in Syracuse New York whose rabbi asked a shilah of a noted talmid chacham who said that it is mutar to have a woman President. One of the founders of National Council of Young Israel famously went off the derech and eventually founded a heterodox movement; the current leadership is headed in that direction.

    5. for all you lost souls, Yes there is a halacha about rabbanim setting boundries, called a s’yug. being that every case is very different, the tanaaim provided this leeway for rabbanim to be able to adapt to many situations, when the rabbi foresees chillul hashem, or even just the kallus of anything yiddish. Now I wont say that many times I think activist rabbanim have interpreted it to enhance their agenda, (in my humble opinion) I would still not question that rabbis halacha being that I have no idea what the underlying cause in it was. Soooo For all we know, this might be a case where the reform are trying to gain a foothold in this historic shul, and imagine a makom kadosh, with sifrei kodesh falling into the hands of these mevaze shem shomaim b’rabbim nikkes, these NON JEWS! (reform) (I know you will argue it out as you are also reform!!!!!!!!!) I would still not oppose his judgment especially as long as I have not heard from HIM that he did it only for personal gratification.

    6. You will find that all strictly Orthodox shuls have the same rule–women may not be on the board or be officers. The Rabbi is only applying halacha. That’s his function.

      People don’t like halacha to be inconvenient but that’s the way it is.

      it does not take away from women being involved in the shul in the form of the “sisterhood” or as in days of old “women’s auxiliary.”

      g’mar chasimo tovo

    7. There is no biger bizayon than having woman kiss the torah. It was never ever the minhag in klall yisroel and these new comers are a disgrace to thousands of years of holy tradition, to thousands of yidden who gave their lives to not be mechallel a sefer torah.

    8. there is mention of this being a prgressive that a fact? so whats the problem.there are many shades of orthodoxi today and there are many geders which have token by one rav and are not held by another.THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE IN SOME MATTERS.its taku.and again taku.and again taku.there are some neshomas today who would not ask a shaila od devera hanevia may she rest in peace.i ask is this normalcy?……………yes i know this rav or this talmid chachom owns the torah.yeh yeh.

    9. A woman who wears a proper headcover, dresses properly (no pants, full tznius), is seated on the opposite side of a mechitza during board meetings should be allowed to take notes, even be the Recording Secretary but should not be part of the decision making process for the shul unless she does so through her husband.

      One step backwards can land a whole shul in the ‘Reformulation’ pit.

      To # 6: ” Those of you with such archaic opinions should ban women entirely from Kiddushes…” In response to your call that Halacha is an ‘archaic opinion’, women & men should be separate during davening & during kiddush and all public functions.
      also to # 6:
      “I belong to a very frum Shul (it is the frummest Shul in my community)……”
      Many Reform Jews tell me how ‘religious’ they are. They are the ‘frummest’ in their particular neighborhoods. They are religiously Reform. Unfortunately, what they practice is Reform, not Judaism. They just don’t know.. NEBECH!!!

    10. To Paskunyak: Kindly permit me to respond to your response to #6. I never stated that Halacha was archaic; those were your words. Secondly, while I have seen separate seating for men and women at dinner, at wedding receptions, I’ve never seen separate Kiddushes for men and women. I’ve seen men and women sit at separate tables for Shalosh Seudot, but not in separate rooms. Third, the Shul which I belong to, has been a member of OU for many years, and has a very tall Mechitzsa, making it impossible for the men to see the women. We have many in our Congregation who wear Black hats, and some with gartels. Yet, there is still a woman Recording Secretary, who takes notes at meetings. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Incidentally, I’ve seen very frum men and very frum women (couples), including women with sheitels, who will sit together prior to services during the Rabbi’s Shabbos drocha. Once services start, of course, there is separate seating.

    11. To #12- Regarding your opinion of women not kissing the Torah, in the Shulchan Arukh, there is a reference which states that the Torah is considered as fire; therefore, even if a woman is nidda, there is no problem with her kissing the Torah, as fire cleanses.

    12. Over 30 years ago, I was elected president of a Young Israel. When someone complained to the National Council, the complainer was told I was staying on the correct side of the mechitzah, I was Shomer mitzvot and that the shul needed to grow. At the end of my second year, I was proud to report that membership almost doubled, needed repairs of the building were paid for and that we were solvent. My being a woman had nothing to do with it…I was just more available and capable than many of the men. And if anything, the shul has continued to grow and has never been in jeopardy of becoming less religious!!! Such craziness!!!

    13. c’mon gals .. get a life. I am a gal.. I would be described as a “liberated” and quite strong one too..Stop trying to change what does not need change. There are real life issues that need your strengths. Yes, we gals have special strengths – we need to realize where to channel them. Trying to become a big macher in a shul is not going to make the world a better place – I promise you that.
      Look at some of the great Rebbetzins – are they complaining? Do they have great responsibility? They sure do!! Look at the Chabad women – They are running their Chabad houses and doing amazing work. They know it, their husbands know it and so do all their congregants .. Gals do you believe that without a title they cannot be who they are? Wrong!!! They are living proof that a title is not the key. Read the book by sue Fishkoff, “the Rebbe’s army” and see what women can accomplish. Here in NYC alone there are many Rebbetzins who are the backbone of their community – I don’t think they are crying about their missing “title”. So pleeeeeeeeeez apply your koichois where they are needed. Am Yisroel Chai!!

    14. #10 and #11,

      Thank you for reinforcing my point. Rabbi Romm in Manhattan asked Rabbi Feinstein the shilah and we should respect that the decision as asur. Rabbi Shore in Syracuse asked Rabbi Schwartz the shilah and we should respect that the decision was matir even though NCYI doesn’t respect the halachic process. There is plenty of room to be machmir and there is plenty of room to be meikel.

      One should also note that the two shuls mentioned are very different and it is even possible that Rabbi Feinstein would matir the Syracuse situation because it is a small community with limited resources, and it is possible that Rabbi Schwartz would agree with Rabbi Feinstein in the Manhattan situation as this is a strong long established community that might not need to innovate. I have met both Rabbi Romm and Rabbi Shore and have tremendous respect for both and would trust them to do what is right; I encourage all to do the same.

    15. #18,

      I know of a YI shul that doesn’t have a single shomer Shabat male member. Yet their former rabbi tells me that they were totally respectful of his insistence of everything done within the shul totally according to l’chatchila interpretations of halachah. I won’t say where the shul is because I don’t want NCYI to come down on this community of non-observant Jews who still have sufficient connection to Yiddishkeit to respect our traditions and drive them all away. Congratulations on your success as a shul President and may you make many more contributions to Judaism.

    16. Please do not blame the Rosh Hayeshiva Rabbi Feinstein or the shul Rabbi Rabbi Romm, but, rather, blame the two board members of the shul who caused this mess and the new Executive Vice President who are self-centered people and only care about themselves.

    17. Charlie Hall, as far as the Syracuse Y.I. they dont even count. I was there 2 years ago,with 2 other friends and we could hardly put together a minyan for mincha.
      as most shuls in upstate N.Y. with the exception of Albany and MAYBE Binghampton,most of these shuls are either dead or dying,as far as mispallelim are concerned. And i dont see any future for them either,as no big influx of yidden are preparing to move upstate. (except in the catskills)
      So, in a situation as this one in syracuse,anyone is appreciated who takes a role in the synagogue(male or female,who cares?) they need bodies period!
      But in a heimishe normal neighborhood where bli ain horah there are countless synagogues we definitely dony want or need women to play any role outside of davening,and gemilus chasidim,and cooky bakes.
      As the saying goes: A women’s place is in the house- and the Senate! get it?
      as far as the am aratzim who feel that the sefer torah should be carried around to the women too, and kissed well, what can i say? nothing really.
      Perhaps they should put on a gartel too. I believe in equality. Just not in a shul!
      A REAL eishes Chayil knows her role. The feminist unfortunately dont.

    18. If the Shul is a frum shul, it should abide by the pesak of its Mara D’Asra. You will find that those pesakim are different, depending on the Shul, its location, and its history. There are very many very frum Shuls (including the one in which I daven) which have women on their Board of Directors, and as officers. There are very few very frum Shuls that have women as Presidents or Vice Presidents.

    19. halacha is halacha stays halacha! think its outdated? think every rabbi is imcompetent and you are the only to answer shailos, (for you consider the emotional aspect) start your new religion. reform are not the same as a goy no, they are much worse. they claim to be jewish but want to write the halacha. soo if you really think asking rav feinstein was stupid and you should’ve been consulted instead, try the reform religion. or rather hell.

    20. Stanton Street Shul has women on the Board and VP and Treasurer. They would certainly welcome these people as members and anyone else who feels offended by the Bialystoker’s decision.

    21. The Bialystoker Shul has so many problems/issues. The women on the board controversy is one of them and so are the two board members who caused the mess and the new executive vice president are another reason. This shul has the most politics out of all the shuls in the LES. People are leaving the shul for other reasons besides this issue. People are leaving because they do not feel warm or welcome in the shul and are going to shuls that are more welcoming and a sense of belonging. The new Executive VP when he was gabbai chased people out of the shul including the young people and now that he became the Executive Vice President, he will chase even more people including the young people out of the shul. The shul better change quickly and resolve all the problems and issues including these two board members and this vicious Executive Vice President before the shul population crumbles.

    22. Young Israel of the LES also has women on the board and one of their vice presidents is a woman also. The Lutowisker Shul in the LES, which is run by a Bobov Chasidish family has a woman who is the Rebenson as the board.

      • The rebetzin, or “Rebenson” as you call her, practical rubs the shul. The difference there is that the Lutowisker shul struggles for a minyan and the Bialystoker has a few minyanim each morning. The duties of the board is different. Since the Bialystoker is more vibrant, it plays a much larger role in te community. The Lutowisker’s board pays the bills and cooks kidush each week that’s it. Bialystoker gets involved in organizing Purim carnivals and legal holiday shiurim etc. It’s a different job with the same title. And, as was stated here by others: if you need a title to feel important, something is amiss.

    23. Everyone should know that the person that keeps complaining about certain people on the bialystoker board is the same person. it is not a number of people that have a problem with these people just one person spreading hate during the time of repentance. get over it. you lost. everyone else will move on with their lives while you stay a bitter person. you are very sad.

    24. Everyone should know that the person complaining about the shul and the people on the board are many different people in the LES and that many people in the neighborhood have the same feelings but do not want to express it. I do not know who wrote the other posts. If it was just one person, then why are there so many people complaining, leaving the shul and different people written in the article and other articles.

    25. #34 you seem to be the minority in all this from the majority of the opinions either you are the wrong person or you are supporting the wrong people, you must be one of the two board members who caused the mess or the new executive vice president or you are good friends with them because most people are against them and if you are them or you support them, then I hope u do teshuva this Yom Kippur

    26. #34 you seem to be the minority as most of the people do not support these two board members or the new executive vice president, either you are one of them or you are very good friends with them, and you are on the wrong side that will continue to cause this shul to remain with many problems and a dwindling population.

    27. The Biolystoker Shul will maintain Halacha, its dignity and its members with or without the complainers and feminists. It will outlive all of you.

      The REFORMulaters of Judaism will fall by the wayside when all their congregants realize that the Reform movement is a farce and that there is a REAL Judaism out there.

    28. I live on the LES and this post is an embarassment . In the beginnig it was about halacha and such and now its back to the same old mud slinging .
      It’s time to move on. If you let this fester in you as it obviously has been doing for months you will get sick. If this is so important that you are obsessing over it , which you seem to be, then go speak to a professional and let it out . Perhaps you need medication at this point. Perhaps you need to learn to focus on other things such as thanking Hashem that you wake up in the morning rather than living and breathing this issue. It’s not a healthy situation for you. I hope you will be able to see it and seek professional help.
      Happy New Year to all!

    29. hmmmm, if most people are against them then how is it they won the election? from the double postings with almost the exact same wording i must repeat that i think you need to seek professional help and hopefully you will be able to get past this issue.
      focus on yourself, your family , do some bikur cholim volunteering. see that there are people in the world with problems way bigger than the one you have let take over your days and nights.

    30. from what ive seen there are about 4 people mentioned in all of the articles combined. all have been trouble makers in the past and will continue to be. every neighborhood has their bad apples what could you do. As for les butcher you are crazy if you think alot of people feel the way you do but you are probably one of those 4 people and as weve come to learn you actually are crazy.

    31. after the vote was long over, the Rabbi said in his speech to the shul on shabbos that even though the actual vote was in favor of women on the board, that we will not go through with the vote in order to create shalom in the community.

    32. “I’d like to think that it’s a progressive synagogue, but it’s not.”
      A very stupid remark. If you want to pray in an Ortthodox Shul so stick to the rules. If you want to pray in a Shul where men and women are mixed, so you are not Orthodox, and go to the conservatives or to the Reform, but don’t make us sick with your nonsense and your revolt to the Torah of our ancestors.

    33. I’m curious to know who LESKid is.

      This article (and LESKid’s comment) makes me embarrassed to be from the LES.

      If you don’t respect your Rabbi or Halacha, you don’t belong in shul. Why do we need this publicity? Like or not, the Rosh HaYeshiva has spoken. The title “Gadol Hador” should mean something to you.

      LESKid – go ask the Rosh HaYeshiva yourself if you like.

      Hats off to Rabbi Romm.

    34. If this is an Halacha issue, How come these two board members of the Bialystoker Synagogue are not complaining to the Rosh Hayeshiva that the Young Israel and Lutowisker shul have women on the board and pressure the Rosh Hayeshiva to pressure the Rabbis of these shuls to stop allowing women on their shuls board? Thus, this proves that this issue of women on the board to these two board members is not an Halacha issue, but rather a self-centered, self- interest motive and view.

    35. #46, perhaps since they are not board members at the Young Israel they are not mixing in .
      If the Young Israel board members have an issue then THEY can take it up with the Rosh Yeshiva .
      That would make sense.
      Each group davens where they feel comfortable rather than going someplace and mixing in.
      Good idea…try it too.
      Might bring peace unto all.
      Rather than looking to stir things up.
      There are enuf sonei yisroel out there without having them within.

    36. Having once started a Sisterhood, which fund raised for kiddishes and a new kitchen and womens’ studies, in a very machmir shul and then having had the men demand our hard earned income; this is not a surprise, a shanda, but no surprise. I know this old minhag, but it is NOT HALACHAH. Nor is it legal, if the shul takes non-profit status on taxes. Women CANNOT be excluded from governing boards of financial organization, which includes religious organizations, if they take non-profit tax status with the federal government regarding its income, (dues and donations). My advice to the women is STRIKE. Let the men make kiddish for a couple of months. It worked at my shul. We kept our money and got on the governing board. A governing board is Not the same as counting in a minyan. That this notion is even being debated borders on the absurd. If women are so unimportant, so stupid, perhaps they should not be trusted with cooking anytime or with driving or operating electrical cleaning equipment. Strikes can grow……
      L’Shannah Tovah Teketavu. Have a physically easy, yet spiritually difficult & rewarding fast.

    37. Clearly, this article from the New York Post was only meant to Bash Shelly Silver based on the headline for this article in the New York Post. This article was not meant to talk about the women on the board issue. This article also has no credibility since the people they interviewed only come to shul particularly this shul shabbos or yom tov morning very late and Yom Kippur late as well so they really do not know or understand what is going on and the fact that they wear yarmulkes to shul does not make them fit to what is the best interest for the shul since their observant level of yidishkeit is not what a frum person should be, thus making their viewpoints not credible at all.

    38. The lady that is interviewed in this article does not represent what Orthodox is when she and the daughters come to shul dressed very not tznius, disrespecting an holy sanctuary especially by the relatives Bar Mitzva, which forced the Rav of the shul to have to daven at the early minyan for mussaf as well, so he would not have to deal with such priztus he would have to encounter, which halacha standards one cannot daven looking at.


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