November 29, 2023
November 29, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Neve Yerushalayim is a network of schools in Jerusalem dedicated to uniquely educating Jewish women about their heritage. “Neve,” as it’s simply called by its thousands of alumnae, is more than just a school. It’s a place where women explore their Jewish identity, cre­ate lifelong friendships, and integrate Torah knowledge into their lives on their levels.

Many readers are familiar with Neve be­cause of its impact on countless Jewish indi­viduals, families, and communities. Neve is known for its world renowned educators such as Rabbi Moshe Chalkowski and Rebbitzen Tzipporah Heller, among many others. Unfor­tunately, Neve is now going through a difficult financial time, so alumnae across the globe have decided to raise visibility and funding for this incredible institution. Many current and former residents of Bergen County are Neve alumnae.

Rachel Zahava “RZ” Ruchlamer, a teacher, community activist, and singles event organ­izer from Teaneck, attended Neve in 2001 and 2003. RZ credits Neve teachers Rabbi Azar and Rabbi Bear for supporting her through the un­expected loss of her only brother. “I could not have gone through my experience without the help and support of my teachers and fel­low Neve girls.”

As Brooke Lewitan, also of Teaneck (Neve ‘01-’02) shared, “Neve has always allowed peo­ple to attend regardless of the ability to pay.”

Neve has an extraordinary pay-it-forward system that enables women to study on cam­pus regardless of their financial circumstances. If a student can’t pay the $1,800 monthly tui­tion (which includes room, board, trips, three meals a day and even potato kugel on Friday afternoon), she is asked to pay what she can manage and commit to pay the remaining balance as a moral obligation to Neve when she is in a better financial state. Neve has ac­crued about $15 million dollars of moral obli­gation debt due from alumnae from just the past 10 years.

Both Lewitan and former Teaneck baby gemach volunteer Rachel Fleischer assert that if it wasn’t for Neve, they would not be raising their families in a religious lifestyle. Lewitan states, “Neve allowed me to learn about Juda­ism in a non-judgmental setting.”

Says Fleischer, “Neve changed the course of my life.”

Rabbi Dovid Refson, Dean of Neve Ye­rushalayim, puts it quite clearly: “In the present day world, everyone has to under­stand that if women don’t receive a Jewish education, there is no Jewish future.”

Rabbi Refson and Rabbi Chalkowski started Neve Yerushalayim in 1970 but had originally intended for the students to be men. “I put an advert in the Jerusalem Post for yeshiva summer courses. As a Brit I nev­er imagined that it wasn’t clear this was for men. Instead, five women showed up! It was an outgrowth of their desire to learn that Neve Yerushalayim was born. We were ahead of everybody else, but not by very much, in understanding the centrality of women and women’s education to Jewish continuity.

“This is our contribution. Our idea of em­powerment is to give women the knowledge to make their own independent decisions. We’ve created an environment which sup­ports and enables women to call the shots at every turn, to experience their personal chal­lenges and remember the process by which they reached their decision regarding their Jewish heritage. The whole essence of Neve is that people need the information with which to make their own choices.”

Allison Gur-Aryeh of Teaneck went to Neve in 2006. She remarked that “Neve enabled me to become a religious Jewish woman with knowledge of her rights and the motivation to keep learning. I wish I could win the lottery just to send them money.”

If you would like to support this revolu­tionary and essential institution, please do­nate to Neve Yerushalayim at https://nevey. org/donation-form/ .

By Aviva Fort

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