However, non-Jews have no long-standing custom of women’s prayer groups. Gentile female laity rarely, if ever, prays as a group without the presence of males. Consequently, Jewish women’s services cannot be considered imitation of gentile ways. Absent a clear non-Jewish parallel, women’s prayer groups do not—by definition—constitute a transgression of “U-be-hukoteihem lo te-leikhu.” Furthermore, even were we to admit for argument’s sake that the women’s dissatisfaction with the usual services resulted from gentile influences, their response is inherently Jewish. Thus, the practice of women’s prayer groups is particularly Jewish.
Moreover, even when dealing with accepted gentile custom, most halakhic authorities hold that such practice is not prohibited for Jews unless its adoption results from an intention to imitate gentile ways. If, however, Jews intend to derive direct benefit from the custom, independent of the fact that gentiles also behave in a similar manner, the practice would not fall within the ambit of the prohibition of “U-be-hukoteihem.”192
It was this latter principle that served as the critical basis upon which the noted Torah personalities, R. Yehiel Jacob Weinberg193 and R. Ovadiah Yosef,194 permitted the celebration of a bat-mitsvah. There, too, the new practice was challenged and criticized as a violation of “U-be-hukoteihem.”195 However, after a lengthy and scholarly analysis of the nature and limits of “U-be-hukoteihem,” R. Weinberg rejects the charge:
For even the Reform of our people do not do so in order to imitate them [i.e., the gentiles], but rather as a family celebration and rejoicing that their children have reached majority. And those of our brethren [i.e., Orthodox Jews] who have newly instituted the custom of bat mitsvah celebration claim that they are doing so to strengthen within the daughter, who has attained an age where the commandments are now incumbent upon her, a feeling of love for Judaism and her mitsvot, and to awaken within her a feeling of pride regarding her Jewishness and regarding her status as a daughter of a great and holy nation (am gadol ve-kadosh). It makes no difference to us that the gentiles as well celebrate confirmation both for boys and girls; they are with their ways and we are with ours. They pray and kneel in their churches and we kneel, bow and give thanksgiving to the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.196
Concurring with R. Weinberg’s analysis and conclusion, R. Ovadiah Yosef adds strikingly:
And in truth, the prevention of bat-mitsvah celebrations enables criminals to denounce