Matmidot Program Sets Bar Ever Higher
Exclusive new scholars program at Midreshet Lindenbaum underway, training tomorrow’s Torah scholars and leaders
The idea of a prestigious honors program is common at many institutions of higher learning; a special track through which promising students enjoy the very best of what the school has to offer and receive optimal tools which will enable them to best fulfill their potential and soar into the world. Until now, this was not true of midrashot and seminaries, but that has now changed with the recent arrival of 13 outstanding young women comprising the first cohort of Ohr Torah Stone’s “Matmidot” Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum.
The first group hails from high schools across the United States including Maayanot Yeshiva High School, Kehillah Jewish High School, The Frisch School, Central-Yeshiva University High School for Girls, Yeshiva of Los Angeles, SAR High School, Midreshet Shalhevet, Shalhevet High School, Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and the Hebrew High School of New England. “We are proud to have attracted the very highest quality cohort of students who are exceptionally motivated to learn and lead,” says Rabbanit Dena Freundlich, Matmidot’s coordinator. “The sky is the limit when it comes to learning and leadership, and we truly believe that investing in our students is ultimately an investment in the greater community and, as such, a contribution to all of Am Yisrael.”
Midreshet Lindenbaum has always been a pioneer in the world of women’s seminary studies, both in terms of Torah scholarship and in terms of Torah leadership. The inaugural year of the new “Matmidot” initiative represents the creation of yet another rung on the ladder.
“Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program provides extraordinary opportunities to all students for acquiring learning and leadership skills, spiritual growth and Israel immersion,” says its Rosh Midrasha, Rabbanit Sally Mayer. “We initiated the Matmidot endeavor to allow select students to take their learning and growth to the next level, to guide and support their development as scholars and leaders on their campuses and in their communities.”
A Rare Opportunity
In perhaps the most unique aspect of the program, each Matmidot scholar will research and write a Torah-based article under the guidance of a personal faculty mentor.
“This is a rare opportunity for the students to learn firsthand from Lindenbaum’s well-known Torah personalities while leaving their own mark on the field of religious publication,” says Rabbanit Freundlich. “The subjects our students have chosen range from non-vital organ transplants to women’s involvement in modern Jewish wedding ceremonies; from religious implications on American politics to an examination of various streams of Judaism; from an analysis of the Talmudic sources upon which anti-Zionistic movements lean to what it means to have been created ‘in the image of God,'” she reveals.
“I came to the Matmidot Program because I wanted the highest level of learning, and I didn’t want it to end when I left the classroom” affirms Matmidot scholar Penina Waghalter of Los-Angeles. Waghalter’s article will cover “The Covenant of Parts” from Genesis, the Patriarch Abraham’s original covenant with God, exploring whether or not this was actually a one-time occurrence or rather a recurring pattern in Jewish History. “Writing an actual Torah-based article will allow me to apply what I learn to a subject that truly continues to spark my interest,” she says.
Waghalter’s peer, Meira Saffra of Lawrence, NY will be writing about how various Jewish movements and denominations define Jewish identity, as well as how the Tanach views what it means to be a Jew. “My writing topic has intrigued me for years,” she says. “I’m excited to finally be able to answer questions that I’ve had for so long, and put them in writing for the benefit of others.”
We Believe in You
Every Monday night, as other seminary students enjoy a night off, Matmidot scholars attend special leadership seminars and meet with various inspirational individuals who motivate them to return to their communities and become pillars of light in all that they do. “These meetings take place in the speakers’ own homes, providing an intimate atmosphere which enables the students to experience firsthand a glimpse into their various ways of life,” Rabbanit Freundlich shares. Examples of speakers the Matmidot scholars will visit include Rabbi Yehoshua Fass (Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh), Eli Beer (Founder of United Hatzala for Israel), Dr. Yael Ziegler (senior Bible Lecturer and Professor at Herzog College and Matan), and Dr. Avivah Zornberg (Author and Torah Lecturer at many institutions including Hebrew University, the Jerusalem College for Adults, and the London School of Jewish Studies).
Each scholar is also committed to a number of other special projects including participation in the daily Daf Yomi shiur, taking part in a year-long, in-depth Bible seminar, and mentoring a student with special needs from Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Elaine and Norm Brodsky Darkaynu Program. Additionally, a leadership Shabbaton will take place over Shabbat Shuva in which the Matmidot scholars will have a unique opportunity to build group dynamics and participate in public speaking workshops, followed by Seuda Shlishit at the home of Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone.
“Having direct guidance on how to become a leader in the Jewish world is an opportunity like no other,” Saffra says.
Midreshet Lindenbaum is enthusiastic about the long-term impact of the program. “What makes this program exciting is the fact that these bright young women are so eager to develop their talents in a way that will truly make a difference to the greater good,” concludes Rabbanit Mayer. “Our message to these young women is: We believe in you, and we want you to use your gifts for the sake of Torah and the community.”