International Halakha Study Program Enters Second Year

International Halakha Study Program Enters its Second Year 

“Women in positions of Jewish leadership need to be able to lead from a position of knowledge,” says Joanne Greenaway, Chief Executive of the London School of Jewish Studies and participant in the International Halakha Scholars Program (IHSP), which has just launched its second year of operation.

While boys are encouraged to learn Talmud and halakha from a young age and often continue this learning into adulthood, opportunities for similar, high-level study for women remain limited. The online, part-time structure of the IHSP, under the auspices of the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership (WIHL), has enabled women Torah scholars from around the world to engage in serious study, all the while continuing in their senior professional positions.

Twenty-four highly qualified professional Jewish educators and organizational leaders from Israel, the United States, Germany, the UK and Australia delve deeply into the study of halakha through weekly online classes and chavruta (paired) study – and participants report that just just one year into the four-year program, the increased knowledge they have gained of halakha and the halakhic process is already changing the way they work and teach.

The Knowledge to Serve as a Halakhic Resource

Becky Friedman
Becky Friedman

IHSP participant Becky Friedman, who is a teacher and administrator at Associated Hebrew Schools in Toronto, attests that she has “always loved learning Torah. I appreciated the opportunity to learn through IHSP because it offered the perfect balance – enabling me to learn in a serious way without giving up my job; rather, enhancing what I bring to the table at the school where I work.”

Friedman oversees the Judaic Studies curriculum at her school and teaches Torah and Talmud. This year, she is also serving as Interim Operations Director. Students often come to her with questions related to halakha, and she is periodically asked to address issues of school policy from the perspective of Jewish law. “I am now much more confident when asked to provide a ‘halakhic perspective,’ as I have a lot more learning to back me up,” she says.

A Role Model in Jewish Learning and Teaching

Ilana Wilner
Ilana Wilner

Another IHSP participant, Ilana Wilner, was a Judaic Studies teacher and administrator at various Jewish day schools before teaching and providing religious and Israel program guidance at The Ramaz School in New York. “People typically become Jewish Studies teachers because they love Jewish learning.  At a certain point, I realized that all of the learning I was doing was in preparation for my classes,” shares Ilana. “I wanted to learn Torah for my own growth and development and to be a role model of learning ‘lishma‘ (for the sake of learning) for my students. They should see that even for someone who is teaching Torah, the learning never ends.”

Wilner relates that she has already received a tremendous amount from the program after just one year: “I have gained a real appreciation for the passion and dynamism of the halakhic dialogue,” she says.  She is using this passion and her newfound knowledge of halakha to teach classes on topics she never taught before: Hilkhot Shabbat (the laws of Shabbat), Women and Halakha, and Campus Life and Halakha, specifically for high school seniors embarking on the college application process.

“I want to engage my students in the halakhic dialogue, help them understand that halakha is so much more than a list of ‘does and don’ts’, and arm them with knowledge that will help them make decisions,” Wilner explains.

Wilner notes that in the past she had been less interested in halakha and less comfortable teaching it, but thanks to IHSP, that has changed. “I’ve discovered the passion inherent in halakha and I want to pass this on to my students,” she says. “A year of intensive study in the program has given me the knowledge and confidence to do that.”

2022-23 IHSP Cohort

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