Back when I was studying in the Bar-Ilan kollel and suffering, like most of my age group, from “single-itis” (I still do), I came upon what I thought was a ground-breaking idea: why not integrate the Batei Midrash gender-wise?
I thought the idea was a win-win. You had guys learning in the kollel and girls in the midrasha two meters away from each other – surely letting them learn together would help make meeting people easier. They would be meeting in a “kosher” atmosphere. Those learning together would already have something in common, so the proverbial “ice” would be broken. What could be wrong?
Well, as it turns out, there is a problem. This suggestion is all well and good, but ignores the basic need of men and women to have their own “stomping grounds” where they can see to their own gender-specific needs. This is something liberal Jewish streams are only starting to understand. Integrating the Batei Midrash would eliminate that and possibly cause “male flight” in much the same way that fully mixed synagogues often drive away men.
Still, while whole-scale integration may not be for the best, I still feel there should be places where guys and girls can meet and learn (and socialize). Lectures and conventions are not the same thing as what I am proposing. Nothing breaks down barriers like studying in a chevruta which requires constant dialogue, or a chabura where people participate. All the frontal lectures in the world cannot possibly come close.
But I put the question to you, dear reader – should there be mixed places of torah study alongside or in place of gender-separate batei midrash?
Would such a thing be a good idea in general or just for singles?