OTS Launches New International Halakha Scholars Program

OTS Launches New International Halakha Scholars Program

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the many areas in which Orthodox Jewish women craved the spiritual guidance and support of other women.

Chani’s father died from COVID-19 at the very beginning of the pandemic and while the rabbi of her Modern Orthodox synagogue guided her regarding the various mourning rituals, what she really needed was a woman she could turn to with questions that a woman would best understand. Halakha is central to Chani’s life, and she craved a female spiritual guide who understood the relevant halakhot in depth and who could provide the sensitive support she needed at such a difficult time.

WIHL fellows in the beit midrash
WIHL fellows study in the beit midrash

Ohr Torah Stone’s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) was created 15 years ago precisely to fill this sort of void by training qualified women scholars in an expansive curriculum of Talmud and halakha, while providing them with practical leadership skills and pastoral training necessary to serve as spiritual leaders. WIHL graduates provide the guidance women like Chani need in Israeli communities across the country.

In light of new challenges presented by COVID, directors of the US-based Orthodox Leadership Project (OLP) approached Ohr Torah Stone to develop a new program under the auspices of WIHL which would train qualified women who lived outside of Israel. As alumnae of Midreshet Lindenbaum, the directors of OLP knew that WIHL would provide the approach to halakhic study that they and many of their peers were seeking.

“There are so many women like me who relate to Ohr Torah Stone’s approach to women’s learning and want to deepen our knowledge of halakha in order to serve as resources in communities around the world,” relates Dr. Yardaena Osband, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College and co-founder of the Orthodox Leadership Project. “Just as there are multiple pathways for people who want to study law or medicine, the Jewish community needs multiple pathways to advance women’s Torah study.”

Through the new online International Halakha Scholars Program, set to launch in October 2021, participants from around the world will gain in-depth knowledge of Jewish law alongside the tools they will need to respond to the many issues their communities face on a daily basis. Over a dozen women – teachers, scholars and senior Jewish community professionals – have already expressed interest in the program. “Program candidates are senior Jewish community professionals. They are seeking mastery of halakha, not a title, and that is what the program will offer,” explains Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh Hayeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone.

“As a co-founder of this new WIHL program, I am excited that it will open new opportunities for qualified Orthodox women across the world to study halakha in a deep and comprehensive way,” says Jennifer Raskas, Washington, D.C. Manager for the Shalom Hartman Institute and co-director of the Orthodox Leadership Project. “The knowledge and skills participants gain will transform Jewish communities around the world, as more and more people have the opportunity to turn to qualified women for halakhic and spiritual guidance.”

For more information please contact Rabbanit Dr. Hannah Hashkes

Ohr Torah Stone would like to thank steering committee members Dr. Yardaena Osband and Jennifer Raskas for their guidance and assistance in developing The International Halakha Scholars Program.

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