Mechitza Construction with Bima in Between the Men’s and Women’s Sections

QUESTION

Washington, DC

Question regarding the construction of a new mechitza:

We have a chapel that seats 115 people. It opens from the back, straight into the middle aisle. The seats are distributed equally on both sides of the aisle, and the bimah is at the front of the room in the center. Our old mechitza for the space was 3 panels; two down the middle aisle, and a third to angle around the bimah so that there was a physical separation between the shaliach tzibur and the women’s side.

We are replacing the mechitza and my building committee is wondering if we can just have the two panels running down the middle or do we need a third to block off the shaliach tzibur at the bimah from the women? Is it ok if the mechitza ends at the bimah such that there is no barrier between the women’s side and the bimah? Thank you so much.

ANSWER

You have a few options that could work:

  1. The bima is 10 tefachim (32″ – according to the position of Rav Chaim Noeh) off the ground level of the women’s section. This makes it a separate reshut (Sukkah 5b, Yerushalmi Shabbat 1:1), or said another way, the height of the walls of the bima’s elevation is considered to extend upward and be mechitzot (גוד אסיק מחיצתא – Sukkah 6b)
  2. The bima itself is at ground level, but surrounded by a mechitza 10 tefachim high
  3. If it is not 10 tefachim above the ground, or surrounded by a mechitza 10 tefachim high, then based on the document that you sent me it’s hard to say that it’s ok. If the bimah is not separated in any way from the women’s section, how would you articulate why the Torah reading, shaliach tzibur, etc., is not taking place in the women’s section?
  4. If you are going to make sure that the shaliach tziburba’al korei and oleh are all on the men’s side, that’s different – but it doesn’t seem practical. I’m thinking about the possibility of combining the height off the ground of the bima, plus a lower mechitza around it, to equal 10 tefachim but I’m not sure that is something that will work for you. If the Bimah from where the chazzan davens and the Torah is read ranges from 38″ to 46″ in height from the front to the back then that would be a reasonable solution.
Recent Posts

Browse by Category