May 27, 2009 — This Shavuot, a group of young Jewish women, all advanced scholars in Talmud, will serve as scholars-in-residence at synagogues in Houston, Washington, D.C. and Silver Spring, MD, as part of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future.
The women will deliver lectures on Torah and Halakha [Jewish law] to adults and teens.
Dena Katz and Chava Chaitovsky will be at Houston’s Ahavat Yisrael synagogue and Malka Adatto, Vera Wexler, Talia Cottrell and Rebecca Winter will be assigned to National Synagogue of Washington, D.C., with Adatto and Winter also teaching at Ahavas Torah of Silver Spring, MD.
The young women are all either enrolled in or are graduates of Stern College for Women’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS), which develops an elite cadre of female scholars of Talmud and Halakha.
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.
The objective is that they will assume professional or lay leadership roles within the Jewish community.
“There is a need within the Jewish community for talented, 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 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 attend 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, which serves the same community as Ahavat Yisrael in Houston. “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.”
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld ’95Y, ’99R, of the National Synagogues, said his congregation was excited to learn that the women were coming to D.C. “These women serve as positive role models, demonstrating that an Orthodox woman can be a spiritual and intellectual leader in an Orthodox setting,” Rabbi Herzfeld said.