Yedidya, an Inclusive Orthodox Synagogue in Jerusalem

Women may participate in regular services and in the derasha, but reading from the Torah is only permissible in all-women services.

Jacob Solomon

Yedidya, an orthodox synagogue in south Jerusalem with some 200 families as members, takes pride in its inclusiveness.

Housed in a modern Bauhaus-style purpose-built edifice opened in 2003, Yedidya is attended by both Israeli and English-speaking people, and is relatively liberal by orthodox standards. Women participate in services; Torah scrolls are passed around ladies’ section of the sanctuary en route to and from the ark. Both women and men may deliver the sermon.

However, only men read from the Torah for the whole congregation, though women do get a chance at parallel all-women’s services.

Women’s involvement forms only a part of the Yedidya’s social vision, whose details are displayed in the foyer. The community reaches out to newcomers to the district, which has a high density of mainly English-speaking immigrants. Services however are conducted entirely in Hebrew according to the Ashkenazi rite, although some of the shiurim (study groups) are in English.

The ner-tamid (eternal light) above the ark feature. in both the lower and upper sanctuaries, and both are works of originality and craftsmanship. The one in the main sanctuary is of special interest. Encased in fish-shaped metal netting, it is one large rough-hewn blue brick that exudes light. It recalls Moses and the elders’ view of God of Israel: “under His feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork, like the essence of heaven in purity” (Exodus 20:10).

Unusually for a synagogue, art-minded congregants find the walls ideal for displaying their mainly modern home-painted works – some of which may be negotiated for purchase.

While access for the disabled is law for all Israeli public buildings, Yedidya arguably goes the extra mile with its ramp up to the main synagogue on an upper floor, inside the building.

There is no synagogue rabbi - though several members are suitably qualified.  Matters involving Jewish law are handled by the community’s own  halacha committee.

Yedidya also works on relating to people of other faiths, regularly hosting visiting clergy and lay Christian groups for Shabbat services and meals, and its members routinely do charity work in the neighborhood.

Sabbath services at Yedidya begin at around sundown in the evening and at 6:45 am (early downstairs service) and 8:30 am (main upstairs service) in the morning. Weekday morning services at 6:20 on Mondays and Thursdays, and at 6:30 on other days.

Yedidya is at 12 (Nachum) Lifschitz Street in Bakaa, south Jerusalem. You can take buses 12, 71, 72, 74, or 75 from the city center to Tzomet HaBankim (Banks Junction). Walk downhill along Rivka Street, turn right opposite the Borekas Ima bakery into Gad Street, and then left into Lifschitz Street. Yedidya is #12.