Over 180 rebbetzins [wives of pulpit rabbis] throughout the world joined together online to learn, network and exchange ideas at the Rebbetzin Esther Rosenblatt Virtual Yarchei Kallah from Monday, Feb. 7, through Tuesday, Feb. 15.
The theme of this year’s program, “Surmounting the Struggles: When Communal Issues Get Personal,” was jointly presented by the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), both of Yeshiva University. Participants included rebbetzins from the United States, Canada and Israel, and one from as far away as Hong Kong.
The event, which in past years has been in person, consisted of four Zoom sessions with approximately 100 rebbetzins joining each. The topics they explored during the conference included, among others, contemporary issues facing today’s rebbetzins, their evolving roles in a changing world and strategies for working within the Orthodox community to effect change.
Speakers included Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, and his wife, Mrs. Adeena Penner; Mrs. Peshi Neuburger; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, university professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought and senior scholar at CJF; Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, the David Mitzner Dean of CJF; Dr. Shoshana Klein Poupko; Mrs. Alexandra Fleksher; and many others.
Dr. Jason Rosenblatt spoke on behalf of the family of Rebbetzin Esther Rosenblatt, for whom the event is named. Mrs. Rosenblatt was a beloved rebbetzin for many decades and a full partner to her husband, Rabbi Morris Rosenblatt, rabbi of Kneseth Israel in Annapolis, Maryland. She was a vital member of the shul’s sisterhood, religious committees and boards and was widely considered the soul and guiding light of the congregation.
Many of the participants appreciated that the event was virtual, as they would not have been able to attend otherwise. Responses from the participants after the conference were overwhelmingly positive in their comments: “The feeling of achdus [unity], warmth and connection was amazing even though we were on Zoom”; “I loved hearing from the more experienced rebbetzins so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as there are already so many great ideas out there”; and “The event helped me recharge and re-energize, and it was validating to hear from other rebbetzins who expressed similar challenges and frustrations through the pandemic.”
The conference was coordinated by Mrs. Meira Davis, director of programming for rebbetzins at YU. “The educational and inspirational presentations provided greatly needed chizuk [strength] and guidance at this time,” she said. “Seeing the faces of so many of our rebbetzin peers on the screen was very uplifting and further reaffirmed the yearning to network, support and be with each other, whether virtually or in person.”