This article seeks to cast light on a halakhic responsum of Rabbi Joseph Messas, one of the great halakhic authorities of the twentieth century in North Africa. The responsum deals with the questions of whether a barrier between men and women in the synagogue is necessary, and of whether women may be "called up" to the Torah. It offers a new understanding of the concept of "the dignity of the congregation" as well as fascinating accounts of Jewish women being called to the Torah, wearing the attire of Muslim women. Through analysis of this responsum, I shall map out various views and understandings of "the dignity of the congregation" and look at R. Messas's position through the prism of contemporary gender research.