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The Debate Over Mixed Seating in the American Synagogue

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Publication Date: January 1987

Publisher(s): Cambridge University Press

Author(s): Jonathan D. Sarna

Special Collection: Berman Jewish Policy Archive

Topic: Culture and religion (Religion and religious groups)

Keywords: American Jews; Jewish identification; Religious denominations

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


Mixed seating is a ramified and multifaceted issue that clearly reflects the impact of American values on synagogue life, for it pits family unit, sexual equality, and modernity against the accepted Jewish legal practice of sexual separation in prayer. Discussions surrounding this innovation form part of a larger Jewish debate over Americanization, and should really be viewed in the overall context of ritual reform. By itself, however, the seating issue has taken on a symbolic quality. It serves not only as a focus on the changing nature of the American synagogue, but also on the changing nature of the larger society Jewish and non-Jewish.