the confusion women’s services might generate in light of the general egalitarian movement within Conservative and Reform Jewry. He was also wary that allowing maximal diversity in religious experience might weaken the fabric and cohesiveness of the community. And in practice, he instructed his students to avoid any formal affiliation between synagogues and the women’s prayer groups.
Yet, the Rav repeatedly emphasized to those who discussed with him the subject of women’s prayer groups that his objections were predicated primarily on hashkafa and public policy, not strict halakha. It is for this reason that R. Soloveitchik declined to sign his name to the aforementioned responsum of the five RIETS Rashei Yeshiva245 opposing women’s tefilla groups—despite numerous attempts to get the Rav to do so.246 What is more, R. Soloveitchik instructed his shamash at the time, R. Kenneth Brander, that if anyone should ever assert that he did, in fact, sign the responsum, then R. Brander should publicize the falsity of the claim. The explanation the Rav gave for this refusal was that the RIETS Rashei Yeshiva had based their objections on supposedly halakhic grounds, while his overriding concerns were of a hashkafic and public-policy nature.247,248 The Rav felt strongly that the line between strict halakha and public policy must not be blurred. This does not mean that the Rav’s opposition to women’s prayer groups was in any way weaker; any practice which runs counter to a Torah-based hashkafa or public policy is, in the Rav’s view, wrong.248* Nonetheless, the character of R. Soloveitchik’s objection to these groups was substantively different from that of the objections raised by the RIETS Rashei Yeshiva.
As just noted, the focus of the various considerations cited above is on the community level and the public-policy wisdom of allowing a women’s tefilla group as an alternative to regular communal prayer. However, many of the issues enunciated above are less applicable when the prayer group in question is to take place in an educational setting, such as a school. Consequently, in 1972, the Rav initially supported the establishment of a women’s tefilla at the Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, provided that the devarim she-bi-kdusha were omitted.249 R. Soloveitchik even suggested that, following the amida, in lieu of these devarim she-bi-kdusha, the women should recite the traditional replacements said by those who have prayed in the absence of a minyan.250 He had no hesitation about women reading from the sefer Torah, but insisted that they not recite any form of birkhot haTorah (limud or keria)251 or have formal aliyyot251* in any pseudo-keriat haTorah. (On a separate occasion in a related matter, the Rav emphasized252 that no men at all should be present at a