Lisa Schlaff spoke at March’s conference on women and prayer about her experiences with the “partnership minyan” Darchei Noam. She pointed out that explaining a partnership minyan can sound like ordering at Starbucks: “I’ll have the mechitza with women-leading-psukei-and-men-leading-musaf, please.”
Instead of focusing on roles of women and men in the service, she says, Darchei Noam organizers found themselves considering questions like how much singing to include and what prayers to recite aloud, etc. Finally, the question was really, “What does it mean to pray in community?” and “Is true prayer possible in an atmosphere of exclusion?” was only one of many questions in this context.
As for halachic considerations in developments such as partnership minyanim, Schlaff says that “halachah has always been an interaction between the community and the rabbis,” with rabbis responding to the people, not dictating to them. In this spirit, she says, rabbis should “give the reins to knowledgeable people” — i.e., those who “know enough to know what they don’t know.” This can prevent the community from waiting indefinitely for a major halachic authority to speak, when many in the community — including many rabbis — find no objection to an innovation.