With familyMrs. Tova Rhein, Director of the Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum, has retired after a quarter-century of exemplary service.

On June 22, the Menahel of Midreshet Lindenbaum, Rabbi Shlomo Brown, hosted an evening in honor of Tova, with speakers including OTS Founder and Chancellor, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin; former OTS Dean, Rabbi Chaim Brovender; and long-time Mashgiach Ruchani Rabbi Tuvia Kaplan.

Rabbi Kaplan summarized Tova’s legacy wonderfully, noting, “AsMashgiach, I got all the easy questions; questions from students who didn’t believe in God. Tova got the really hard questions – questions from students who didn’t believe in themselves…. I saw the difference in students who Tova talked to, mentored, cared for and taught. She helped them develop their identity as proud, confident and competent young Jewish women.”Gift

In recognition of Tova’s remarkable dedication on behalf of the some 2,000 students who attended the program during her tenure, Ohr Torah Stone has established the Tova Rhein Scholarship Fund at Midreshet Lindenbaum.

Alumnae and parents of Midreshet Lindenbaum students recently participated in an online campaign to launch the scholarship. The nearly 150 people who have thus far made a donation toward the fund marks the largest number of gifts ever made toward a fundraising campaign at Midreshet Lindenbaum, and is a testament to the widespread sense of hakarat ha-tov (gratitude) that so many feel toward Tova.

Our goal is to raise $250,000 by the end of 2016. To help make it happen, please visit:

Translated from Hebrew article by Shira Ravid
Kipa Website – Published 24/06/2016 17:23

Emissaries in their Own Right

The wives of the rabbis and educators who go on shlichut as emissaries are no longer simply an appendage to their husbands. In a recent conference which took place in Warsaw, emphasis was placed on their central role in their adoptive communities.

20160516_164323Each year, male educators and rabbis embark on emissary work in Jewish communities scattered across the world’s various continents. In the past, the wives of these rabbis and teachers were considered adjunct accessories to their husband’s emissarial role, working behind the scenes as a support system. As the years have progressed, the wives’ central roles have become clearer; she is now considered in many locations not only the “shaliach‘s wife,” but rather as a second shaliach. The Ohr Torah Stone network has taken this a step further, and in parallel to their Straus-Amiel institute which trains rabbis for emissary service in the Diaspora, they established the Claudia Cohen Women Educator Institute, a separate institute for Torah and professional training for the wives, preparing them to work in Jewish communities throughout the world as emissaries in their own right. Last week, the Institute marked an additional important achievement with the first ever conference of its kind in Warsaw, for 30 graduates of the program who today serve as emissaries in various communities throughout Europe, and who, together with their husbands, are spreading a message of unity, continuity and justice, who exude warmth and acceptance and embody a Judaism which is relevant to modern life.

The conference’s primary focus was on how the female emissaries contend with the challenges of serving modern Diaspora communities and their roles in safeguarding the future of European Jewry. Within this framework, emphasis was placed on the women’s roles in leading the communities, with discussions on a host of subjects ranging from Jewish legal issues to the place of the other in the community, from ways in which to bring people closer to maintaining normative family life. The conference also offered participants an opportunity to share with one another any feelings of frustration, loneliness or struggles they may have in their roles, and to provide one another with professional and personal support.20160516_155352

“This is the first year that we have held a conference for the Institute’s graduate emissaries, out of an understanding of the importance of the potential empowerment the women receive from one another,” says Claudia Cohen director Renana Birnbaum. “The atmosphere was inspiring and heartwarming, with each participant listening to and truly understanding her peers. I was delighted to see the mutual consideration of the participants, all of whom are doing incredible work in the field out of a strong conviction and belief in the importance of Jewish unity and continuity. There is no doubt that this conference will become a tradition that we will uphold annually.”

Birnbaum continues: “the Institute’s mission is to train the wives of emissaries to fill a very important role in the personal, professional and spiritual realms. The communities they serve are in need of female leadership and female role models no less than than male. The Claudia Cohen Institute provides them with the tools and the knowledge which assist them to carry out these important tasks and to radiate rich Jewish spirituality to the community.”

2“The conference was extremely significant to me,” relates Rivka Magzimoff, a graduate of the Institute who today serves alongside her husband, Rabbi Eli, as the chaplains of Leeds University in England. “Meeting with the women who are involved in the same types of situations as me was so beneficial, being able to discuss, share and debate issues with them in a free manner without having to be ‘politically correct’ opened up an entirely new and fascinating world to me,” she says.

Mark your calendars for this year’s Shabbat Hagadol Drasha

Shabbat Hagadol Drasha 5776
by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
in memory of Rose and Harry Riskin, z”l
Monday Night — April 18, 2016
The Jerusalem Great Synagogue – 8:00 PM
TOPIC: “The Chosenness of Israel and its Implications Regarding our Treatment of the Gentile, the Convert and the non-Orthodox Jew

Scroll down for photos, courtesy of Nurit Jacobs-Yinon/Aluma Films

New Spiritual Leaders

After five years of intense study, two women were certified as spiritual leaders and morot hora’ah (arbiters of Jewish law) at a ceremony which took place on 20 October, 2015 at Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Chana and Yaacov Tilles Campus.

(Translated from Hebrew post-graduation press release)

The magnificent Linda and Murray Laulicht Beit Midrash provided a worthy backdrop to a ceremony last week in which Chana Klein-Ravhon and Meira Welt-Maarek were certified spiritual leaders and morot hora’ah by the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL), a program of Midreshet Lindenbaum, an Ohr Torah Stone (OTS) institution.

The WIHL is a unique five-year program which features in-depth study of halakha on a broad scope and at the highest of levels. Graduates have covered extensively the sources pertaining to Shabbat, kashrut, conversion, mourning, family purity, marriage, ritual baths and more. After passing exams equivalent to those administered by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to men, they are certified to serve as spiritual leaders and arbiters of Jewish law.

Present at the ceremony were Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder and Chancellor of OTS and Chief Rabbi of Efrat; Rabbi David Stav, Chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, Chief Rabbi of Shoham and newly-appointed Co-Chancellor of OTS; Yinon Ahiman, Director General of OTS; Rabbi Shuki Reich, Head of the WIHL; Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner, Director of the WIHL; Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, head of the Israeli programs at Midreshet Lindenbaum; Rabbanit Anat Novoselsky, one of the WIHL’s first two graduates who currently heads the women’s beit midrashShaalina” in Modiin; graduates, their families and guests.

“I stand before you excited, emotional and thankful to G-d,” said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone and Chief Rabbi of Efrat.  During his remarks, Rabbi Riskin cited a host of halakhic sources showing that women can judge and make halakhic decisions, mentioning Deborah the prophetess who judged Israel, the Sefer Ha-chinuch, in which it’s written that a woman can and should make halakhic decisions, and the Choshen Mishpat, in which it states that a woman can judge. Rabbi Riskin also quoted former Israel Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, who stated that a woman can be a leader, even a spiritual authority and instructor of halakha.

“My blessing for you is to be in fearful awe of the halakha,” said Rabbi David Stav, Chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, Chief Rabbi of Shoham and newly-appointed co-Chancellor of OTS. “By fearful awe I do not mean you should be afraid of ruling,” he explained, “but rather that you be in awe of the halakha, that you know and understand what must be said and what our Torah says before you answer. When a person comes to you for a ruling, first and foremost you must always remember that our discourse is one of Torah scholars, a discourse which is rooted in the sources of Jewish law. This is true for males who rule on Jewish law; all the more so for females. With God’s help, may your fountains spill over, and may we merit greater numbers of women who study Torah, grow in Torah and are capable of bringing God’s words to all who are thirsty.”

Rabbi Shuki Reich, head of the WIHL: “Improving the status of women is a part of the making sure that the Jewish legal system relates to the reality of the whole, rather than just the individual,” he maintained. “We must sharpen, expand and update the significance of our being because we are here, in the state of Israel. We must understand that Judaism is coming out of a deep freeze that lasted for 2000 years and is emerging in a new era, and that we must refresh in order to be relevant and significant in the world. As such, today we have exposed in our beit midrash two women who have dedicated their lives to rigorous, exhausting and time-consuming study, and who have developed and grown as a result. Although the process will take a long time, their progress is one of the signs that we are on the right track. I hope that we merit to see additional fruits borne from this beit midrash, that we merit to see a better world, and that we merit to be able to continue to teach and glorify the Torah.”

The WIHL’s director, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner said, “During the course of their studies, the women had to be extremely motivated and dedicated to conquer tractate after tractate, clause after clause. In order to march on a narrow road, which is not considered to be the property of women, and to strive toward a professional horizon which in the best circumstances still doesn’t exist and in most cases will need to be created, one must be blessed with a pioneering nature and a brave, groundbreaking spirit, like Chani and Meira.”

Graduate Meira Welt-Maarek shared some of her thoughts and feelings with the attendees: “From a very young age I was attracted to the world of Torah learning as a means of getting closer to God and as an answer to the questions that arose within me as a person who abided by the Torah’s commandments,” she said. “After many years of Gemara study I wanted more, and this desire to learn pushed me and others like me to Midreshet Lindenbaum. As opposed to academic work, the training to become a Spiritual Leader is work with people and for them. The voices from outside, therefore, don’t represent a distraction but rather an invitation to continue the halakhic discourse, to be involved in ongoing, daily matters and to have a public influence. In Torah study there is an element of discovery through which framework your basic principles and expectations are shattered and rebuilt anew, like with labor pains. For me, it’s the significance of the acquisition: that God’s Torah becomes mine. As a woman I am, indeed, an outsider in the discourse, but at the same time being an outsider provides me with sensitivity and empathy for others in the same situation, for example converts or the newly-observant.” Meira maintained that “the problem of women studying Torah is not the glass ceiling, but rather the obstacles constantly placed on the road, and in particular the lack of equality at the final destination. Where every male with a beard is already considered to be half a rabbi, the lack of recognition accorded to serious women’s study programs translates into the inability of women to apply for positions of spiritual leadership which require a formal degree. As visionaries, Rabbi Riskin and Rabbi Stav are training women for professional positions which do not yet exist, but you have the power to turn them into a reality,” she said. Welt-Maarek concluded her remarks with a blessing of praise to God for the great merit of being able to immerse herself in Torah study and the innovation inherent in doing so.

The evening’s second new graduate, Chana Klein-Ravhon, added “An appropriate halakhic response exhibits its power at the right time and place, and that power transforms the words of Torah into a person’s needs. Each person has a leaf in the Torah, a place that is special just for him, and when the Torah surrounds him like a vine it carries him along with its fruits and wisdom. The core of human strength is in thought; the more deeply one thinks, the more one acts valiantly. The more people are included in the thought process and the more people utilize the tools of discourse, memory, decision and arbitration, the more power we have to act valiantly.” Klein-Ravhon ended her comments with thanks to everyone present, especially to OTS for “building a place which enabled her to flourish and merit to taste the discourse of Torah.”

Rabbanit Anat Novoselsky, who graduated from the WIHL four years ago and today heads the “Shaalina” women’s beit midrash in Modiin, pointed out that the ceremony transported her back in time to when she received her degree, as one of the first two women to complete the WIHL’s grueling five-year program. “The certificate-granting ceremony was extremely emotional at that time,” she recalled, “but it was very modest and suppressed. In the evolutionary process taking place in women’s place in religious life in general and in the realm of halakhic rendering in particular, it’s possible to say that tonight was the placing of another significant milestone.” Novoselsky lauded the new graduates for not being shaken by the intense workload nor by the time schedule during the course of study: “That’s how it is when one is motivated to study by a tremendous love of Torah learning, an understanding of how rare the opportunity is and an appreciation of the crucial need for women arbiters of Jewish law,” she concluded.

Photos: Nurit Jacobs-Yinon: Aluma Films

Mark your calendars for this year’s Shabbat Hagadol Drasha:

 Shabbat Hagadol Drasha 5775
by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin
in memory of Rose and Harry Riskin, z”l
Motzei Shabbat Hagadol — March 28th 2015
The Jerusalem Great Synagogue – 9:15 PM
Topic: “Who is Really a Jew? Esther the Jew from Birth vs. Ruth the Jew by Choice; Ancient Persia vs. Modern-day Iran; Religious Conversion vs. National Conversion”

Below is an invitation (and an English translation) to an exciting evening of learning about “Things We Don’t Usually Talk About,”under the auspices of OTS’s Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL).

The WIHL broke new ground eight years ago by enabling women scholars to engage in a five-year course of study covering the same material covered by male rabbinical students, and certifying graduates – who pass exams equivalent to those administered to men by the Rabbinate – to provide authoritative halachic decisions (psak) to the Jewish community in all matters of Jewish law and Jewish living.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

jpg מנהיגות ערב עיון פלייר

erev iyyun WIHL


living tree final 2D - korenpub

We are delighted to share that Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s newest book has been released by Maggid Books, an imprint for books on contemporary Jewish thought from Koren Publishers, Jerusalem. 

The Living Tree: Studies in Modern Orthodoxy comprises a collection of thought-provoking articles that fearlessly confront the most pressing issues facing Orthodox Judaism today. Rabbi Riskin does not flinch from such controversial questions as the possibility of trading land for peace, dialogue with Christians, and finding new solutions for women chained to their marriages (agunot). In his inimitable style that combines halakha, midrash, and a flair for storytelling, Rabbi Riskin treats the reader to a delectable mix of free-wheeling intellect and passionate love of Jewish tradition, Torah, the Land of Israel, and the Jewish people. An inspiration and aspirational must for anyone who cares about the future of Jewish tradition.




photo 3The fifth and final volume of Rabbi Riskin’s acclaimed “Torah Lights” Parsha commentary has now been released, just in time — we begin reading Devarim on Shabbat, 6 Av — 2 August.

Torah Lights is Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s highly acclaimed five-volume commentary on the Torah portion. Replete with personal stories from his rich rabbinical career and observations on political and social issues of our time, Torah Lights contemporizes the significance and relevance of the biblical narratives.

The final volume, Devarim: Moses Bequeaths Legacy, History and Covenant, examines the themes of the fifth book of the Torah, along with their theological and textual nuances. As in previous volumes, Riskin incorporates a treasure trove of insights garnered from his revered teachers, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Prof. Neḥama Leibowtiz and Rabbi Moshe Besdin, in concise and thought-provoking essays. This series is perfect for all those who seek to deepen their understanding of the biblical text, while getting doses of inspiration for contemporary life.

Torah Lights is published by Maggid Books, an imprint for books of contemporary Jewish thought from Koren Publishers Jerusalem.

Click here to order.