An early example of this attitude could be seen in the address of chairman AM Jackson at their 1934 AGM where he told them that while he was opposed to any alteration of the synagogue service, he thought the time had arrived for orthodox leaders to get together and eliminate some of the restrictions.[i] This could also be seen in the use of a microphone. Since the congregation services were first held in the local town hall, according to Sam Gross, sound extensions on the Sabbath and Yom Tovim in the form of a microphone or public address system had been used.

No one regarded this as a violation of the practice of orthodoxy. Rabbis of the congregation and senior and very learned visiting rabbis preached from the pulpit with the advantage of a sound system as did cantors from the bimah. It is an accepted practice throughout all the large synagogues that suffer from inordinately poor acoustical conditions.

In 1963 the loud speaker system was not functioning properly so a microphone was placed under the chuppah (25.5.1963). The next year AS Kaplan offered to pay for a p.a. system in shul (28.1.1964). No one had any problems with that.

In the 1960s the use of the microphone was declared non-kosher by an Israeli chief rabbi. This was followed by controversy and the system was suspended. The women in the gallery have complained for years of their inability to hear. Certain beliefs under the old orthodoxy are in conflict with practices of modern orthodoxy and it is time for these conflicts to be re-examined. An interpretation and opinion can and should be made.” [ii]

Rabbi Casper wrote to Rabbi Rosen on 7.4.1975 saying that the microphone could only be used on the pulpit if it were totally concealed, not on the bimah. In 1982 Rabbi Steinhorn was asked to investigate whether the system installed under Rabbi Rosen after June 1978 conformed to the technical and halachic requirements stipulated by Prof Low and he reported back that it should be totally acceptable. He had gone through the correspondence but the last letter dated 17.2.1976, to TV and Radio Hospital requesting a blue print of the system was not available so he had to rely on Rabbi Rosen’s statement as to the acceptability of the system and “given the temper of the times” it would be impossible to get in writing a statement from any recognised (sic) halachic authority a letter indicating the acceptability of any (sic) microphone system to be used on Shabbat.

By 1982 attitudes were hardening, and what had been halachically acceptable to rabbis for the past sixty years was no longer so, with some candidates for appointment as shaliach tzibur refusing to act because of the microphone system (27.4.1982) and possible objections from Bnei Akiva (9.6.1982). The next year Cantor Badash and Mr Moser were asked to re-examine their microphone system as it was not in good order (26.10.1983). The executive wondered whether the heter of Chief Rabbi Unterman[iii] applied specifically to their installation and decided that their microphone system was kosher as long as they complied with the terms and conditions laid down by Prof Low.

But “given the temper of the times”, by 1991 when Gross wrote his article in Jewish Tradition,[iv] the use of the microphone, irrespective of the determinations of Chief Rabbi Unterman, Chief Rabbi Casper, Rabbi Rosen or Rabbi Steinhorn, had become a definite no-no and no matter how excellent the sermon, it would be inaudible to many in the large audience.

[i] Annual General Meeting, G&SPHC, SA Jewish Chronicle, 26.10.1934, 779


[ii] Gross, Sam, “To whom it may concern”, G&SPHC Rosh Hashanah Annual, 5760 – 1999, 28


[iii] Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel 1964 - 1972


[iv] Gross, Sam, G&SPHC, “A Profile”, IN  Jewish Tradition, April 1991