Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Men: Please Don’t Sit in the Women’s Section!

This is a pubic service announcement for all men who choose to sit in the
women’s section out of convenience, comfort, curiosity, or just sheer ignorance.  

You may never have thought about it before and your sitting in the women’s
section may be completely accidental on one particular day - but it matters.  
Or you may be someone who likes to spread out, and you see a whole empty (for now)
section where you won’t have to share a row with another man.  But the fact that
so many men seem to make this choice on a regular basis truly baffles me.  
In many Orthodox synagogues, men have 75-90% of the space at their disposal
on a weekday, so I wonder why some decide to also claim the tiny corner reserved
for us women.  

To all of you, I ask this question:
Have you (man) ever stopped to consider how your choice could affect the
women for whom that section is designated?

Please take a moment and try to imagine how you might feel if, already
running late for Mourner’s Kaddish, you arrive at shul and need to
displace one (or several) men from the women’s section in order to join the service.  
  • Those few moments of movement may prevent you from reciting the Kaddish!  
  • The discomfort of the encounter itself may last a few moments into
your prayer, affecting your mood and your ability to focus on the words and your intention.

  • Now imagine if that woman was your own mother or sister or wife or daughter...

And when this happens again and again, it takes a toll.  

After 4 months of Kaddish, there are probably about an equal number of times
that my simple presence has displaced men from the women’s section as not.  
I’ve tried to be polite and non-judgemental about it, asking “Is this the Women’s
Section?” when I arrive, instead of “Can you (man) please move from this section
designated for me (woman) so I can stand here to say Kaddish for my father.”   

But after five encounters in the last two days, I’m tired of being subtle.  From now on,
I plan to ask the men WHY they choose to sit in the women’s section.

Here’s a tip:
If you can’t answer that question with something other than “Oops” (really?!) or “I was
going to move when you got here” (not helpful) -- or anything that will make me feel better
about displacing you by my simple presence and potentially missing the Mourner’s
Kaddish that I came to recite… well, please, please, PLEASE… just DON’T sit in the
women’s section!

Final note to all the men out there who want to help:

Please spread the word among members of your gender and help reserve the
women’s section for women.  We may not always manage to arrive at the beginning
of the service, but it’s doubly hard to run late and then negotiate for a place
to stand.  Your help with keeping the women’s section clear of men will be
invaluable to all women who ever enter a synagogue to pray.

Remembering Uncle Paul Kalish, z''l (Melech Yona ben Yidel Dov)

It's so hard to write these words today.  My uncle, Paul Kalish, passed away this morning at home after a valiant 10 months battling  gl...