Building a Strong Sisterhood

In Torah Observant Shuls the roles of men and women are different in terms of participation in davening. Specifically the men and women sections are separate and women don’t lead the davening, read from the Torah or take other active roles in the service. Most women come to Shul on Rosh Hoshana, Yom Kippur, Purim, many come on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and very few come to the weekday services. In most Torah Observant Shuls, men are more active in learning activities and in the financial and day to day operations of the Shul. (Note: there is a wide variance in what form this takes depending on the community and the Shul.)

In light of these differences, a Sisterhood, Women’s Auxiliary or Women’s League is often created to address their specific needs and to give them opportunities to plan and run activities important to them. One of the first issues that arises is how the Sisterhood activities are financed. The alternatives are allocating a portion of the Shul budget or running fundraising activities specifically for the Sisterhood. The benefits of fundraising is that it provides autonomy, while the downside is that profitable fundraisers must be identified and implemented.

Another area of interest is what type of activities will the Sisterhood focus on. Much of that depends on what the Shul is already providing. Activities might include shiurim for women, women’s only social events and children’s events. In Shuls where the Sisterhood has formidable fundraising abilities, activities might also include improving areas of the Shul with special concern to women.

One last area is the degree of autonomy. My experience is that a high degree autonomy is preferred with coordination and support from the Shul Administration being provided when needed. If there is a separate significant budget, it is important to define the fiduciary responsibilities and financial procedures of the administration of the Sisterhood.