“I’m not here to start a revolution”: Devorah Evron Appointed Bar Ilan Spiritual Leader
Bar Ilan University announced new campus position – Spiritual Leader, to be filled by Rabbanit Devorah Evron
By Moshe Maiersdorff | February 2, 2021
The field of women’s Torah leadership in Israel was given an additional boost this week when Bar Ilan University announced it was introducing a new position on campus: Spiritual Leader. Rabbanit Devorah Evron, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum, was appointed to fill this position.
“By nature I’m a long-distance runner. I’m a great believer in the Jewish pace of development which is assisted by halakha. On the one hand there is innovation, and on the other hand there is a commitment to previous generations, so the result is development and not rebellion,” says Evron, who does not view this step as revolutionary. “This step by the university was obviously not taken suddenly, but responsibly, as part of a process. I’m not here to start a revolution, but to be attentive and act in collaboration with others on campus.”
The fact that Evron will be the first to staff this new position enables her to greatly impact its character and direction. The university created this position to bring a woman’s Torah voice to the campus. Rabbanit Evron means to realize this in two main ways: “One goal is to serve as an address for men and women on campus who need someone to talk to. The second is to bring the feminist-Torah voice to the public sphere when working with student groups, conferences, ceremonies, events, think tanks – anyone interested in this voice and in what we can bring to the table. The university recognized the fact that this voice exists in religious society in particular, and in Israeli society in general, and they chose to add it to the campus’ sphere.”
Attentive readers will notice that Rabbanit Evron does not limit her work to women, whether female students or staff members, and this is clearly deliberate. “I assume that at the end of the day, more women than men will approach me, but I will be available to anyone, man or woman, who seeks my guidance.”
“The decision to approach someone is not based only on gender, but also on personality and world view,” she says. In her experience, Evron relates, men approach her when they want advice on topics such as education or grief, and when there are couples in which each is in a different place on the religious spectrum. “They ask to speak to me because they know they will feel comfortable consulting with me.”
On campus there is a men’s seminary (kollel), a women’s seminary (midrasha), and the office of Rabbi Shlomo Scheffer, the university rabbi. When asked to explain where she fits in among these, she emphasizes: “I’m not here to replace anyone, but to add my voice, in addition to the rabbi’s excellent work. During my undergraduate degree I studied at the midrasha – it is a very important, growing institute with an outstanding staff. The midrasha and the kollel offer very important solutions, and not only to religious people. But there are many students who are looking for a different approach.”
Is there already a work plan?
“I am conducting many meetings with faculty and leadership, to get a feel for the campus, and also to learn from them regarding possible collaborations. For instance, Bar Ilan’s School of Education emphasizes educating society. We are looking into how we can bring a voice of women’s Torah leadership into the field of education. The Department of Gender Studies is a place in which the women’s Torah perspective can be expressed. I have great hopes of entering the legal sphere and seeing how these voices can be expressed in the Jewish legal tradition. To my mind, the significant challenge is to reach the students and for them to know that I am here to help them in any way I can.”