FRAUENSCHUL or WEIBERSCHUL:
That part of the synagogue which is reserved for women, whether an annex, as in the Altneuschul of Prague and in the synagogue of Worms, or a gallery; the latter is generally in the rear of the building, on the west side, but sometimes on the north or south side. Modern synagogues have often two galleries, one above the other.
The separation of the sexes in synagogues is most likely coeval with synagogal services, although it is not mentioned in the old sources, and the ruins of ancient synagogues found in Palestine are not in such a state of preservation that conclusions can be reached in regard to their interior arrangements. According to Talmudic reports, which most likely present a genuine tradition, there was in the Temple at Jerusalem a women's gallery, so built that its occupants could witness the ceremonies, while a grating hid them from the view of the men (Sukkah v. 2, 51b; Tamid ii. 5; Maimonides, "Yad," Bet ha-Beḥirah, v. 9).
The rabbinical codes are silent in regard to the Frauenschul. Joseph Saul Nathansohn (d. 1875), in discussing the question whether the sexton of a synagogue who lived in the building was permitted to make use of the women's synagogue as a dining-room on the occasion of the circumcision of a child, quotes no precedent on the subject, but decides that the women's synagogue has not the same degree of sacredness as the part reserved for men ("Sho'el u-Meshib," vi. 1, No. 3, Lemberg, 1890).
Modern synagogues of the Reform rite frequently have pews for men and women on one floor, as in some synagogues in Vienna and in the Reform synagogue of Berlin. In America, family pews have been introduced in the Reform synagogues; and even some of the conservative congregations, otherwise following the old ritual, have adopted the practise of seating men and women in the same pews. See also Gallery.
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 450.