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Torah on Their Own Time: Women Attend Learning Program at YU

Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future launched a new six-week Women’s Beit Midrash Program last month at the Beren Campus for Stern alumni and women of all ages. The program was developed with the Office of Alumni Affairs and the New Jersey and Long Island Regional offices. Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and senior scholar of the CJF, and Rabbi Hayyim Angel, professor of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva College, are the inaugural instructors.

The idea for the program came from YU’s annual summer event, ChampionsGate, where lay leaders and friends of YU – such as Chani Klein of the Five Towns – expressed wishes for more learning programs offered to alumni and community members who wished to benefit from YU’s incredible resources and gifted professors and scholars in various subjects.

Women's Beit Midrash“My husband and I heard fantastic lectures at ChampionsGate and I wished I could take further advantage,” said Klein. “I began thinking that with all YU has to offer, why not create a program of adult education for women? Now that it’s here, the response has been fantastic.”

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF, noted, “This joint effort with the University’s alumni and regional offices will continue to strengthen the ties between Yeshiva University and the greater Jewish community.”

“The Contemporary Significance of the State of Israel and Jerusalem,” taught by Rabbi Schacter, examines the contemporary theological significance of the State of Israel, including its founding in 1948 and the challenges the country faces on a regular basis as it fights for its survival. Rabbi Angel’s class, “The Torah: Moral, Mefarshim, and Mesopotamia,” studies the ancient Near East and applies a modern understanding to it in an effort to discover new layers of meaning in the Torah and traditional commentaries.

“It’s a privilege to participate in the learning process with the group of women who attend these sessions, and to help Yeshiva University represent its core values and traditions to the broader community,” said Rabbi Angel. “This initiative is a wonderful way to bring women together for high-level learning and camaraderie.”

The attendees include alumni like Rebecca Shmidman ’03S of Teaneck. “My experience attending the Women’s Beit Midrash Program has been wonderful. I see every Tuesday morning as a unique opportunity to return to my alma mater and reengage in the in-depth and stimulating Judaic studies courses I remember,” she said. “I hope YU will continue to sponsor programs like this one and offer alumni, and other people, opportunities to revisit this type of learning.”

Terri Herenstein, a resident of the Five Towns and a longtime friend and supporter of YU, also travels to the Beren Campus to participate each week. She said, “Continuing to grow in Torah is important to me. I attend a variety of shiurim locally; however, when a unique rabbi or a special shiur becomes available outside of the community, I make an effort to participate. The Women’s Beit Midrash program provides such opportunities.”

Administrators of the program hope to offer additional learning series in the fall and spring semesters of next year, as well as in satellite locations, such as the Five Towns and Teaneck.