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OTS Newsletter - Spring 2008

Preparing Jewish Women to Lead

The revolutionary Women’s Leadership Program (”Chachamot”) provides women with a combination of high-level Jewish studies and communal skills that will qualify them to assume leadership roles within the Jewish community.

Anat Novoselsky 

Five years ago, at the age of 45, Anat Novoselsky left a successful career as a rehabilitative psychologist and began to study Talmud. “I decided it was time to devote myself to learning something that interested me and had social value,” recalls Novoselsky. But she soon found herself yearning for more. “I felt that my studies focused on the more academic side of gemara. I wanted to intensify my studies in the area of halacha – Jewish law.” The initiation of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Women’s Leadership Program (”Chachamot”) last year provided the rare opportunity she was looking for. “This program combines gemara and halacha studies, with an emphasis on halacha,” Novoselsky says. “Here, I have the opportunity to acquire knowledge not only of Jewish law, but to explore the sources that provide a better understanding of its evolution and background.”

The revolutionary three-year Women’s Leadership Program was initiated to provide women with a combination of high-level Jewish studies and communal skills that will qualify them to assume leadership roles in the Jewish community. Like Anat Novoselsky, who, in addition to having an M.A. in psychology is also a graduate of OTS’s Monica Dennis Goldberg School for Women Advocates, the program’s nine participants, ranging in age from 23 to 50, are all highly accomplished women with extensive backgrounds in Torah study. They are currently learning the Talmudic tractate of Shabbat together with the laws of Shabbat, and scoring top marks in tests that are equivalent to those taken by male rabbinical students.

Chachamot-in-training 

“The Women’s Leadership Program is the only one in the world to offer such in-depth halachic studies to women,” states its director, Rabbi Ohad Tehar-Lev. “Our students are extremely intelligent, capable, accomplished, and full of motivation. Through this program, Midreshet Lindenbaum is providing them with the tools to impart their knowledge to benefit the Jewish community at large.”

Anat Novoselsky feels that people will seek out women who are extremely well-versed in Jewish law. “As a result of experiencing such intense, comprehensive learning, we will be qualified to present the unique, feminine perspective on halachic thought,” she explains. “We will be able to offer our distinctive perceptions to the rabbis. Our experience as women adds an extremely valuable element to our learning.”

With the goal of teaching advanced halachic studies to others, Novoselsky has already initiated a gemara class for women in her synagogue in the community of Modiin. “Eventually, I’d like to be involved in writing commentaries and applying a living Jewish law to society,” she says.

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