Center for Jewish Future Holds First Program on Changing Role of Rebbetzins

Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter

Feb 13, 2006 — Rabbis’ wives are facing an increasingly complex series of opportunities and challenges in the 21st century. While some are happy and content in the traditional role of “rebbetzin,” helping their husbands lead and minister to their communities, many others are seeking their own personal and professional identities and are striving to negotiate their own needs with the traditional expectations of a rabbi’s wife. Yet, there is no formal program that addresses their evolving role and provides them with guidance on how to navigate this situation.

Until now.

The Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University has developed what is believed to be the first formal program at any rabbinical school or organization in America designed to give rabbis’ wives the opportunity to meet with seasoned professionals to discuss issues of self, family, and community in a safe and supportive environment. The participants – young and old, from large metropolitan areas and from small towns across North America – will have the opportunity also to network, develop lasting relationships and a support system, and enjoy the intellectual stimulation of Torah study with leading Jewish scholars.

The “Rebbetzins Yarchei Kallah” program launches with a three-day conference Feb. 28 to March 2 at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, NJ.

More than 30 rabbis’ wives are scheduled to attend and participate in sessions such as “Community, Confidant, Teacher, and Hostess: Defining and Managing the Role of the Rabbi’s Wife,” “Our Husbands Ourselves: Advisor, Supporter, and Partner,” “My Journey: Where Am I and How Did I Get Here?,” and “The Strength of Connections: Caring, Sharing, and Planning.”

“Contemporary Orthodox Jews, from rabbis and rabbis’ wives to lay leaders and community members, are sophisticated, intelligent and rooted professionally and culturally in the secular world while living traditional Jewish lives,” said Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, the internationally prominent rabbi who serves as Senior Scholar of the Center for the Jewish Future and is directing this initiative with his wife Shana Yocheved Schacter, a licensed psychoanalyst in private practice. “We must ensure that they have the tools and guidance necessary to lead these lives creatively and intellectually, now and in the future.”

“Women, and particularly rabbis’ wives in today’s contemporary society, have unique challenges as rebbetzin, wives, mothers, and professionals. This program is designed to connect them with seasoned professionals who can assist them meeting these challenges, as well as provide mentoring, educational opportunities and other resources so that they can effectively and successfully navigate their evolving and diverse roles,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future, who is also co-facilitating the program for rabbis’ wives.

Mrs. Ruchie Brander, wife of Rabbi Brander, mother of five and a pediatric occupational therapist as well as Torah teacher at the yeshiva high school in Boca Raton, FL, will also participate.

The multi-disciplinary Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), established last year by Yeshiva University, harnesses the educational resources, commitment to service, and intellectual capital of the university and its undergraduate, graduate and professional schools to articulate a vision for the future while transforming that vision into reality. To do so, the center maintains seven departments focusing on rabbinic, professional and lay leadership training and education, national youth learning programs, community development, scholarship, research, web-based activities and more.

For more information on the program and the CJF, visit www.yu.edu/cjf.

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