Did women play a passive role in the synagogue congregations of antiquity? Were they separated from male members of the congregation during prayer and study, as is the case today? According to Professor Shmuel Safrai, the answer to both questions is a resounding “No.”
Every Saturday morning in synagogues throughout the world the Torah is read aloud. Following ancient practice, seven men in turn read the weekly Torah portion. However, Professors Shmuel and Chana Safrai have recently discovered that a different custom prevailed until the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.: until at least the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., a single reader performed this task.