New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver grew up in the historic Bialystoker Synagogue on the Lower East Side. He was Bar Mitzvahed there, and until last year served as the synagogues vice president. But many suspect he didn't run for re-election because of the Orthodox congregation's tradition of not allowing women to hold positions of authority. And now, that edict is beginning to cost the synagogue its members.
In May a majority of the congregation voted to allow women to run for board positions, but Rabbi Zvi David Dromm announced at a Saturday service that women were not allowed to hold positions of authority. Member Debra Engelmayer said, "I'm very unhappy about it," and called the move "disrespectful." Member Daniel Cohen said, "It's been a boy's club since Day One. I'd like to think that it's a progressive synagogue, but it's not." Women also still pray on an upper balcony, separate from the men.
The synagogue's president, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Schlomo Hagler, was elected after the Rabbi's edict was made, but Engelmayer says several families and board members have left over the issue.