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The past 30 years have seen a revolution in how Conservative Judaism views women. Conservative Judaism believes in the equality of men and women, and, where necessary, has produced responsa and innovative rituals to address religious needs in this area. The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) has approved a number of responsa that deal with the role of women in Jewish law. In all of the areas listed below, responsa exist that halakhically justify women's active participation in synagogue life:
Publicly reading the Torah (ba'al kriah)
Being part of the minyan
Being called to the Torah (aliyah)
Serving as cantor (shalich tzibbur)
Serving as rabbi and halakhic decisor (posek)
Wearing a tallit and tefillin
However, there are other areas where differences remain between men and women, including:
Matrilineal descent. The child of a Jewish mother is born Jewish; the child of a Jewish father is born Jewish if and only if the mother is Jewish.
Serving as Witnesses. Women do not usually serve as legal witnesses in those cases where Jewish law requires two witnesses. One opinion of the CJLS affirms that women may serve as witnesses. However, most Conservative rabbis currently affirm this only as a theoretical option, because of concern for Jewish unity. A change could result in many Orthodox Jews refusing to recognize the legitimacy of many marriages and divorces. A current Conservative solution is in the area of weddings: A new minhag is to use Ketubot (wedding document) with spaces for four witnesses to sign; two men, and two women.
First and Second Aliyot. One position of the CJLS is that daughters of Kohanim and Leviym can be accorded the same aliyot that are normally accorded to Kohanim and Leviyim, whether they are single or married. Their status regarding being called to the Torah should not be determined by the lineage of their husbands, but by their own paternal lineage. [Rabbi Joel Roth "The status of daughters of Kohanim and Leviyim for aliyot" 11/15/89] Another position the CJLS is that women do not receive such aliyot. The Va'ad Halakha of the Masorti movement has also ruled that women do not receive such aliyot. [Rabbi Robert Harris, 5748].
Pidyon Haben. There is precedent, though not with unanimity, in the halakhah for a Bat Kohen to serve equally with other Kohanim with respect to Pidyon ha-Ben. There is strong opinion in the Talmud supported by later authorities that she may receive some of the priestly dues designated for Kohanim. Even when married to a non-Kohen, she does not become a zarah like her husband, but retains certain kehuna privileges. Women may thus perform Pidyon ha-Ben. [Rabbi Aaron Blumenthal, 1977]. Rabbi Joel Roth notes that Rishonim (rabbis from the 10th to 16th centuries) are divided on this issue, and cautions that this issue requires more detailed study. 
Pidyon Habat. Conservative Judaism prohibits performing Pidyon Ha-Bat on a newborn daughter. Pidyon Ha-Bat is a newly proposed ceremony that would mark the redemption of a newborn daughter; the CJLS has stated that this particular ceremony should not be performed. Other means, such as a Simchat Bat, should instead be used to mark the special status of a new born daughter. [CJLS teshuvah by Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik, 1993]
Nesiat Kapayim [The Priestly Blessing]. The CJLS has approved two positions on whether women may participate in Nesiat Kapayim. The Va'ad Halakha of the Masorti movement has approved one position.
A Bat Kohen may participate in Nesiat Kapayim because: (a) The word "banav" in Numbers 66:23 does not mean sons only, but rather children. (b) The role of the Kohen is either to serve as the medium for G-d's blessing to israel, or to pray for Israel to be blessed--either purpose is appropriate for a Bat Kohen who possesses lineal sanctity. (c) Nesiat Kapayim is not de'oreita. (d) There has been a steady development of this ritual since Temple times, and there is no reason for the development to stop. (e) A Bat Kohen is permitted to receive other special honors accorded to Kohanim, including Birkat Hamazon and Pidyon Haben. [Rabbi Mayer Rabinowitz, 1994]
A Bat Kohen is not permitted to participate in Nesiat Kapayim because as a continuation of a Temple ritual, the Priestly Benediction should be performed by those who were authentically eligible to do so in the Temple. Women of Priestly descent may benefit from the perquisities of Kehunah, but they are excluded by the Torah from peforming the rituals of the Kohanim in the Temple. Therefore, this should only be peformed by male Kohanim. [Rabbis Stanley Bramnick and Judah Kagen, 1994]. The Va'ad halakha of the Masorti movement, in a teshuvah by Rabbi Reuven Hammer, 5748, also states this position.
If you want more information on the Conservative positions, you should be aware that there is a set of teshuvot on all of these areas developed by The Rabbinical Assembly. These teshuvot have all been published in the following sources, all available from the United Synagogue Book Service. However, every Conservative synagogue library should have each of the following books in stock; if they do not, please bring it to the attention both of your librarian and rabbi so that they can rectify the omission.
"Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1980-1985"
"Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1986-1990"
"Responsa 1991-2000" (recently published)
"Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement 1927-1970" [Three volume set]
Robert Gordis "The Dynamics of Judaism: A Study in Jewish Law" Indiana University Press, 1990 [See especially chapters 10 and 11]
Simon Greenberg, editor "The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies and Responsa" JTS, 1988
If you are looking for statistical information on women in Conservative Judaism, LEARN @ JTS (http://learn.jtsa.edu/), the free educational outreach website from the Jewish Theological Seminary, has a section on statistics. The information on this website has been excerpted from "Conservative Synagogues and Their Members: Highlights of the North American Survey", Edited by Jack Wertheimer, which is available from JTS Press. Another source of information on this topic is "Conservative Jewry in the United States: A Sociodemographic Profile" by Sidney Goldstein and Alice Goldstein. JTS Press books are available at this website: http://www.jtsa.edu/jtspress/
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.
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Daniel P. Faigin <firstname.lastname@example.org>