A group of 18 women scholars from around the world came to Israel last week to meet face to face and learn together after studying Torah intensively via zoom, in classrooms, and pairs, for over a year. The participants in this unique summer seminar are all enrolled in the 4-year International Halakha Scholars Program (IHSP), a division of the Israel-based Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) that is geared specifically toward an international student body, with representation from the US, England, Germany, Israel, Canada, and Australia,
“This summer seminar represents a continued commitment to change in our communities as it pertains to women in leadership positions,” explained Rabbanit Dr. Hannah Hashkes, director of the program. “The Jewish world, both here in Israel and abroad, has clearly demonstrated their desire to see women as full partners in Torah study and the overall halakhic conversation and serve as leaders within our communities. The Ohr Torah Stone educational network responded to this growing level of interest with the establishment of the IHSP and by hosting this seminar dedicated to exploring women’s leadership positions in the world of Torah and halakha.”
The IHSP study program for women educators, scholars, and Jewish communal leaders features an advanced course of halakha study in the subjects of Shabbat, Aveilut (Mourning), Kashrut, and Nidda (Family Purity and fertility). The program also offers two intensive in-person summer seminars on leadership development, writing and communication skills, and the philosophy of halakha.
Over the week, participants met with leading figures in the world of women’s Torah study and took part in classes focused on topics ranging from religion-state issues, challenges between traditional theology and contemporary women’s thought, new initiatives among female halachic leaders, and others.
Reflecting upon the experience, Joanne Greenaway, Chief Executive of the London School of Jewish Studies said, “We were treated to a range of master classes with pioneers and role models, some of the greatest women Torah scholars of our generation, who have developed the space for women learning and provided us with critical role models, running institutions, publishing halachic writing and most importantly, teaching.”
“I return to my work at LSJS and my mission of educational excellence and the training of the next generation of educational leaders for the UK with excitement to continue my own learning, a renewed sense of purpose,” she continued. “With a belief in creating opportunities for high-level learning, spaces for women to thrive and contribute, and a knowledge that, as it says in Ethics of the Fathers, ‘whilst we are not here to complete the work, neither are we free to desist from it.’”
“This seminar gave all of us a chance to meet in person, to bond as a group, to study Torah in-depth, and explore deeply many issues that affect the participants’ leadership and Jewish communities around the world,” added Dr. Yardaena Osband, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College, and Joanne Greenaway’s international chavruta – study partner – for five hours a week during the academic year.
“We are honored to be the home for Torah and halakha studies for serious Jewish women around the world and delighted to be hosting the IHSP’s inaugural cohort here in Israel this summer,” said Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone. “Providing advanced learning opportunities for women Torah scholars will ultimately lead to a more expansive and effective Jewish leadership landscape that will benefit our entire community.”