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Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Matmidot Scholars Publish 5783 Torah Journal

The 220-page journal of Torah articles represent the culmination of the year-long project designed to inspire women to make their voices heard in the world of Jewish scholarship

Matmidot group shot with journals

“A few years ago, we had a book sale with books written by our faculty,” recalls Rabbanit Sally Mayer, Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Lindenbaum. “When a student asked why there were so few books written by women when we have so many talented, learned women teachers, it was a real ‘lightbulb moment’. There is no reason women scholars shouldn’t be writing and sharing their wisdom with the world.”

The Ohr Torah Stone network’s Midreshet Lindenbaum seminary prides itself on training future leaders – women who can navigate Jewish texts and are proud Jews who will become involved members, role models and leaders in their Jewish communities. The Matmidot Scholars Program was founded to give women the confidence and skills to take their place not only as leaders, but as writers of scholarly Jewish works – adding their voices to the “Jewish bookshelf” and scholarship.

“In order to change the trend, we decided to start from the ground up, with our own students,” says Rabbanit Mayer.

Finding their voices

The Matmidot program, which just completed its third year, offers 10-12 students each year the opportunity to research a topic of their choice and write a scholarly article, with ongoing guidance from a faculty mentor.

Mentors assist the Matmidot every step of the way, from developing the idea to honing in on appropriate questions, the angle, texts to research and intensive editing. Final papers are extensive, and they are published at the end of the school year in a Matmidot Journal.

In the three years since the Matmidot program launched, over 30 Midreshet Lindenbaum students have developed creative, original articles – sharing their thoughts and voices while building their confidence and developing their skills in textual research and writing.

This year’s recently published journal included topics such as “The Jewish People on the World Stage: An Explanation of Ohr Le-Goyim [A Light Unto the Nations],” by Ada Perlman of Pittsburgh; “Not a Laughing Matter: Understanding Tzchok [Laughter] in the Torah,” by Hadassah Reich from Hollywood Florida; “Oh Baby! Surrogacy in Halakha,” by Detroit’s Yaffa Klausner; and “Arei Miklat [Cities of Refuge]: The Torah’s Justice-Based Rehab Center,” by Reyna Perelis of Teaneck, New Jersey.

“It was really empowering to gain the skills to develop an idea from inception through the process of writing,” testifies Perelis, who will be attending Princeton in the fall. “My mentor, Rav Alex Israel, helped me figure out each step along the way, including how to structure my article and express my ideas clearly. It was a privilege to work with him and to take part in this program.”

In her article, Perelis explored the model of creating cities of refuge for “accidental murderers.” “I tried to understand the roles of everyone involved, from the person who killed by accident to the Leviim and the Kohen Gadol. Each one had a role to play and choices to make. I found there is a built-in structure for working through anger.” The process gave Perelis much food for thought regarding how we might better handle rehabilitation today.

“I felt a tremendous sense of fulfillment in going through this process and creating a piece steeped in Torah,” she says.

“The Matmidot program was a very big highlight of my year,” enthuses fellow Matmidot Scholar Hadassah Reich. “It was inspiring to meet scholars and leaders who are making a difference right now; and I loved completing the year with a very tangible accomplishment.”

Reich’s article examined the meaning of laughter in the Torah, reviewing the different instances of laughter and what we’re meant to learn. “Laughter is at the heart of B’nei Yisrael’s national identity… a powerful tool we can and should use to better the world,” she notes.

“Although I had written research papers, I had never engaged in such in-depth research. Rabbanit Dena, my mentor, really guided me through the process. I think one of my biggest takeaways was to always be curious, always ask questions.”

Dreaming Big

In addition to the research and writing, Matmidot Scholars enjoy weekly meetings with Jewish community organizational and thought leaders. 

Meeting with Dr. Tamar Ross
Meeting with Dr. Tamar Ross

Over the course of the year, the Matmidot met Ohr Torah Stone President and Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander; Tzohar Chairman, Rabbi David Stav; Tanakh scholar and author Dr. Yael Ziegler; American-Israeli writer and activist, Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll; as well as many other scholars, rabbis and organizational leaders.

Rabbanit Rock explains, “We want them to dream big, to realize that they can make things happen, that they can change the world.”

“We are investing in students who we view as the future leaders of Am Yisrael,” asserts Rabbanit Dena (Freundlich) Rock, who teaches Gemara and halakha (Jewish law) at Midreshet Lindenbaum and coordinates the Matmidot Scholars Program. “As they meet these Jewish personalities in the more informal environment of their homes, it gives our students a real insight into different models of leadership. They realize that people who are now the heads of organizations were once young adults just like them, and this opens their eyes to the endless possibilities and opportunities that lie before them.”

Download the 5783 Torah Journal


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