1.) If a non-Jew is interested in finding out what happens in Shul - purely out of interest, with no malicious intent: is it permissible to bring an aino Yehudi to a Shabbos service in Shul?
2.) If I only have the option of going to a Shul on Shabbos whose hashkafah is less stringent than mine: is it better to go to this less stringent Shul, or not to go to Shul at all? (seeing as I am female and women are not obligated to go to Shul.)
Lisa (Aliza Chava bat Avraham)
1. Rav Chaim David HaLevy, former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv (Aseh L’cha Rav IV, 28), holds that we should not prohibit gentiles, who wish to do so, from entering a shul. We learn the basic laws of the holiness of the shul from the Holy Temple in Y’rushalayim, of which Yishayahu (Isaiah 56, 7) says will be called a “Prayer House for all the Nations”. Although in the Temple there are assigned areas which regular Jews (non-kohanim), women and gentiles are forbidden, and not everyone can go everywhere, we do look forward to the day when the G-d of Israel is internationally recognized and worshipped by all. On the other hand, being that some poskim do prevent it (e.g. Shevet HaLevi, II, 59), it is better not to invite them in, yet if they want to, it is allowed, obviously without their religious paraphernalia. It’s also worth noting that as opposed to Islam and Christianity, Judaism is not at all out to convert others (unless they themselves earnestly want to). We are just interested in them serving and admiring true monotheism and its ideals. Being that there are many types of shuls, it would be wise to choose one which would be a positive experience for them and a Kiddush Hashem.
2.) It is surely better, for men and women, to go to a less stringent orthodox shul than not to attend at all, as long as there is a kosher mechitza (separation) between men and women, to ensure the proper modest atmosphere. In addition, the Vilna Gaon warns that one must be careful, after services, not to utilize the congregation to gossip about others.
With Love of Israel,
Rav Ari Shvat