Leading Rabbi Rules Women Can Chant to Male Congregants from the Book of Esther

03 March 2009 By New Israel Fund

Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled that women may chant the Book of Esther in synagogues during Purim. Rabbi Yosef, the founder of Shas, is considered the spiritual leader of Mizrachi Jewry.

Chana Pasternak, Executive Director of veteran NIF grantee Kolech – Religious Women’s Forum, welcomed the ruling as an important breakthrough for the rights of Jewish women. "It is a small but very significant and positive step," she said. "It legitimizes the concept of Jewish women reading from the Tanach in synagogue to men."

More and more women are learning to chant from the Tanach.

Established 10 years ago with assistance from NIF, Kolech has pioneered Orthodox Jewish Feminism and the concept of equality in the synagogue, including the right of Jewish women to chant the Torah in front of men.

"I would like to think that Rabbi Ovadia has been influenced by contemporary ideas of feminist Orthodoxy," Pasternak said. "I hope this is the fruit of ten years of public campaigning and educational activities to raise awareness that Jewish women are as fit as men to read from the Tanach."