April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Keter Torah’s Women’s Beit Midrash Attracts All Ages and Backgrounds

As one of the 16 recipients of the Orthodox Union’s Women’s Initiative Challenge Grant, Teaneck’s Congregation Keter Torah, as well as congregations in Fair Lawn and Livingston, was awarded a $5,000 grant to implement proposed plans for innovative programming that addresses the needs of women in the community. Keter Torah’s program, the Summer Women’s Evening Beit Midrash, open to all high school seniors, seminary returnees, college students and community members, was held on six evenings in July, concluding July 18.

Two evenings a week, women of all ages and background gathered to study Torah She’ba’al Peh/Gemara. During the first hour, attendees could select a beginner’s Gemara shiur offered by Meira Wolkenfeld or an advanced shiur offered by Miriam Gedwiser. The second hour was when both groups convened for a case study in Halacha with Israeli instructor Nechama Goldman Barash.

Wolkenfeld, currently a doctoral candidate in Talmud at Yeshiva University, already has an MA in Talmud from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. Wolkenfield’s topic for the beginner’s Gemara shiur was “Third Perek of Sukkah, Lulav Hagazul: Stolen Property and Money for Mitzvot.”

The instructor of the advanced Gemara shiur, Miriam Gedwiser, attended the Maimonides School in Boston where she studied Gemara from grade seven on and spent summers at Drisha’s Matmidot program as well as at the Pardes Kollel, where she added to her skills. Also trained as a lawyer, Gedwiser now teaches at Ramaz and Drisha. Her topic for the advanced shiur at the Summer Beit Midrash was “Sixth Perek of Bava Kamma, Ha-Kones: Sheep on the Run and Responsibility for One’s Possessions.” The class required preparation from sources prior to meetings.

The Halacha component of the evenings was offered by Nechama Goldman Barash, who serves on the faculty of Matan and TVA in Jerusalem. She holds an MA in Talmud from Bar Ilan University and is a Yoetzet Halacha. Her shiurim at the beit midrash dealt with “Kavod Habriyot (human dignity) and Halacha: Where Does the Boundary Lie?” The specific topics addressed were body tattoos, personal cleanliness, shaming a bride and civil marriage and Halacha.

Credit for writing and being awarded the OU Women’s Initiative Challenge Grant went to Gail Stechler, a longtime Teaneck resident and 10-year member of Congregation Keter Torah. As a participant in many of Teaneck’s Torah classes for women during the year, Stechler saw the summer as an opportunity to provide high-level learning opportunities for young women returning from their gap year in Israel, high school students working locally who wanted to pursue evening classes or women from the local shuls interested in the challenge of Gemara. After an extensive search for qualified instructors, with the assistance of Rabbi Shalom Baum, the program was ready to be launched. Among the more than 30 participants on each of the six evenings of the program there was a nice mix of young and more senior women.

Gratified by the success of the program, Stechler shared that the program met her expectations and gave her instructive guidance for further programming. “It provided another level of learning to the opportunities already available in our community. We hope to be able to continue this format in the future with the help of the OU and our local shuls.” Stechler was assisted in the project by Yael Landman, a member of Keter Torah, who holds a PhD in Bible from Yeshiva University.

One participant was Gail Weinrib, a Teaneck resident, who is a graduate of The Frisch School who spent her gap year learning at Migdal Oz in Gush Etzion, and will be attending Brandeis in the fall. Weinrib favorably commented upon the program. “I really love that it’s given me a set time in my schedule to devote to learning Torah She’ba’al Peh. The women in the classes are extremely thoughtful and interested and it’s been wonderful to learn from them as well as the excellent instructors. I am so grateful that Keter Torah hosted this program and I really hope that a similar program will continue in the future.”

Renee Seidman, another participant from Teaneck, who owns Gone Stitching in Bergenfield, added to the praise of the program. “I myself am a ba’alat teshuva and attended public schools. My children, on the other hand, have always been serious students of Gemara. I never saw an opportunity for beginning Gemara studies until this summer. My children are thrilled for me, especially my daughter who attends Stern and studies Gemara in the highest shiur with Rabbi Moshe Kahn.”

By Pearl Markovitz

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