Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, has high hopes for the Teaneck Beit Midrash Summer Program for Women. Brander, who moved to Teaneck in September, told The Jewish Standard that the program, sponsored by the center, is unique in two ways.
Malka Adatto will coordinate the Teaneck Beit Midrash program.
First, he said, "it allows YU to convene the energies of its students to educate a large tri-state-area Jewish community on the issue of women’s learning." Second, he noted, "it empowers the women of GPATS [the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies at YU’s Stern College] to grow pedagogically by teaching Torah."
"It creates an incubator for future Jewish teachers," he said, adding that when he moved to Teaneck, he found that while there were a lot of local classes for men, there were not many for women. Locating the upcoming beit midrash in Teaneck will help rectify that situation, he said, while providing a convenient location for the GPATS students, many of whom live in New York, "to roll out their first beit midrash."
The program, administered by GPATS fellows and including offerings for women of all ages, will take place at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls from July ‘ to July ‘6. "I have a 16-year-old daughter," said Brander, "and this will give her an excellent opportunity to learn and expose her to female role models."
According to the CJF head, the idea for the project arose from a conversation with Teaneck resident Jordana Schoor, CJF director of special projects. Schoor told the Standard that she was bothered by dearth of teaching opportunities for women in Teaneck and suggested that YU might use its resources to help redress that inequity.
Brander called the summer program designed to provide women of all ages with the knowledge and tools to become both Judaic scholars and role models for the Orthodox community "the first of its kind at Yeshiva University."
Said Brander, "This is an opportunity for women to take time from their very busy lives and grow in ways that will empower them in their personal relationship with God."
Malka Adatto, a graduate of the GPATS program who will be returning as a senior fellow, is coordinating the beit midrash. Growing up in Seattle, she said, she "craved more opportunities both to learn and to see women as role models in higher education and community leadership." Adatto said she is "thrilled" now to have the opportunity to run this kind of initiative.
"This is the first time YU is launching an initiative focusing on [educating] women of all ages and providing learning opportunities that [for the most part] don’t exist," she said.
The project coordinator said she is expecting a large turnout and noted that applications have already been received from women in Teaneck, Bergenfield, Fair Lawn, Monsey, and Passaic. Brander said queries have also come in from Riverdale, Queens, and Long Island.
Elana Stein Hain, a GPATS graduate who grew up in Teaneck and is one of the presenters at the beit midrash, said she remembers being inspired in synagogue "by the men sitting and learning." Now, as resident scholar at the Jewish Center in Manhattan, she said, "I have seen how many people, men and women, are interested in learning, in challenging themselves, [and] in engaging with their community in serious Torah discussions."
Hain added that, "as a female, I have certainly faced unique challenges as well as unexpected opportunities." But, she said, "I hope that more people who are interested in teaching in Jewish communities will be given the chance that I have been privileged to receive."