Investing In The Future Of Jewish Women’s Leadership – DC and MD

May 15, 2009 — This Shavuot, National Synagogue of Washington, D.C. and Ahavas Torah of Silver Spring, MD will offer talented young Jewish women the opportunity to serve as scholars-in-residence as part of the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s first-ever scholar-in-residence program. The Initiative, part of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), seeks to empower, educate and train female students of the university towards the objective of assuming professional or lay leadership roles within the Jewish community.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative, made possible in part by a grant from the Covenant Foundation, offers Orthodox women a comprehensive and structured process of leadership development within the Jewish community through mentorships, professional training and a wide-range of activities and programs designed to engender a sense of empowerment and communal responsibility.

“There is a need within the Jewish community for talented, trained and well-educated female role models,” said Daphne Fishman Secunda, director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. “Our goal is to both inspire new leadership and to create new and emerging opportunities.”

As part of the Initiative, a select group of students, known as Women’s Leadership Fellows, are exposed to female Jewish leadership models in various professional and lay capacities. Fellows hoping to enter Jewish professional fields are offered seminars throughout the year on a wide array of topics, such as public speaking, adult education, communal counseling and shiur [lecture] organization.

“My entire community and I are very supportive of expanding opportunities for women to learn and teach Torah,” said Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz of Ahavas Torah, located in Silver Spring’s Woodside neighborhood. “We applaud CJF for making these opportunities available.”

The scholars-in-residence, Malka Adatto of Seattle, WA; Vera Wexler of Silver Spring; Talia Cottrell of Teaneck, NJ; and Rebecca Winter of Toronto, ON, will deliver lectures on Torah and Halakha to teens and adults over the Shavuot holiday. The young women are all either currently enrolled in or are graduates of Stern College for Women’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS), a two-year program which aims to develop an elite cadre of female scholars of Talmud and Halakha.

“The entire congregation was excited to learn that the scholars were coming to D.C.,” said National Synagogues’ Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, YC ’95 RIETS ’99. “These women serve as positive role models, demonstrating that an Orthodox woman can be a spiritual and intellectual leader in an Orthodox setting.”

To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Initiative contact Daphne Fishman Secunda at 212-340-7700, ext.430 or email

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