In principle, there is no objection to women organizing a prayer group along the lines described in your letter [i.e., the service would be held in the city’s synagogue and the kaddish, kedusha and blessing on the Torah would be omitted]. Nevertheless, women ought not exclude themselves from attendance at services at which they can hear and respond to those parts for which a minyan of men is required, i.e., borchu, kaddish, kedusha, and reading of the Torah with berachot. In practice, therefore women’s prayer group should preferably be limited to the recitation of such prayers as are not compromised by the absence of a minyan, such as the kabbalat shabbat service before borchu on Friday nights, or hallel when applicable.
The most important consideration, however is the motive underlying the request. If this is genuinely put forward by observant students seeking, as you write, “a religiously fulfilling experience,” it is one thing and the above guidelines could be applied. But if the true intention is to challenge the accepted by symbolic reforms, then clearly greater caution is called for. As a protest action, what begins with relatively minor modifications may well end with far more serious violations of accepted practices. . . .
On the question of women using a sefer Torah, the consideration you mention [the halakhot of nidda] can be disregarded. But since the usual Torah blessings cannot be recited, they might as well use a Humash for Torah readings.222
The practical aspects of the approach of this middle school will be discussed at length in the second part of this paper.223 However, there is a proviso, stipulated by these scholars, which deserves special attention. Namely, they require that such services must be spiritually and sincerely motivated; they cannot be sanctioned if they are inspired by a desire to rebel against halakha. Although R. Jakobovits clearly assumes that this condition can realistically be fulfilled, R. Feinstein is quite skeptical and, hence, never endorsed women’s prayer groups in practice. Nevertheless, R. Feinstein, as cited by R. Tendler in his May 1983 responsum, leaves the door open for acknowledged halakhic decisors (ba’alei hora’a) to make the final determination as to whether this motivational condition can and will be met.224 Indeed, R. Nachum Rabinovitch, while sharing R. Feinstein’s hesitations, nonetheless maintains that there are women’s groups which meet R. Feinstein’s criterion of le-shem shamayyim (for the sake of Heaven). Each case, emphasizes R. Rabinovitch, must be examined on its own merits.
Former Deputy President of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Menachem Elon, in his