Investing In The Future Of Jewish Women’s Leadership – Houston

May 15, 2009 — This Shavuot, Houston’s Ahavat Yisrael synagogue will offer two 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, 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.

“As women play leadership roles that are on par with men in the corporate world, it has become increasingly imperative that young women are encouraged to pursue leadership roles in our community,” said Rabbi Ari Segal, head of school at the Robert M. Beren Academy. “If these women are not shown an equally engaging and empowering notion of Judaism, they will be left with an imbalanced perspective of what Judaism has to offer.”

Dena Katz of Teaneck, NJ and Chava Chaitovsky of Paramus, NJ will serve as scholars-in-residence over the Shavuot holiday, delivering lectures on Torah and Halakha to teens and adults. Both women are currently first year fellows in 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 CJF has been enormously helpful in connecting us with crucial Jewish resources, including young torah scholars, community planning vision and expertise and perhaps most importantly, a sense of support that has kept our community strong,” said Rabbi Avi Pollak, Judaic studies principal at the Beren Academy. “The entire Jewish community will benefit from this forward-thinking initiative.”

The Women’s Leadership Initiative is made possible in part by a grant from the Covenant Foundation. To learn more about the Initiative contact Daphne Fishman Secunda at 212-340-7700, ext.430 or email

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