July 11, 2024
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OU Launches Women’s Rosh Chodesh Series

In promoting its mission of spreading high-level Torah study to women worldwide, the OU Women’s Initiative launched a new program, its Virtual Rosh Chodesh Lunch & Learn Series on August 12, Rosh Chodesh Elul, with a noon shiur presented by Rebbetzin Shani Taragin. Women throughout the world can now infuse their marking of rosh chodesh with divrei Torah offered by erudite women Torah scholars from the U.S. and Israel.

Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, founding director of the OU’s Department of Women Initiatives, said she was thrilled with the initiative’s reception, adding, “This is our rosh chodesh gift. We are capitalizing on the unique feminine spirit of rosh chodesh by engaging in Torah study together. This monthly shiur is an opportunity for each of us to take time to recharge and reconnect.”

In the inaugural shiur, Rebbetzin Shani Taragin, educational director of MaTan Eshkolot, renowned for her scholarship and inspirational presentations, focused upon how the 40 days introduced to the Jewish calendar by Rosh Chodesh Elul are pivotal and crucial in our search to come “face to face” with Hashem.

Utilizing the repetition of the word “panim,” face, in Psalm 27, which we recite daily from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shemini Atzeret, Taragin suggested that we use these special days to reconnect with Hashem and come to face Him through our hearts and our mouths. Through our hearts we should look back to the preceding 11 months and assess our success in living lives that reflect Torah and kiyum ha’mitzvot. Where we see weaknesses and flaws, we should determine to strengthen our commitments and ties.

She added that the month of Elul is our gift from our Beloved, an opportunity to change our trajectory through “tzedakah, tze’akah, change of name and change of actions” so that we can be comforted in our belief that “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me,” the initial letters of which spell out Elul.

In speaking with Rebbetzin Shmidman about the past accomplishments to date of the OU Women’s Initiative during its inaugural year, she shared that this past Shavuot the initiative sent out 10 speakers to speak in 10 communities across the U.S. and highlighted 70 shuls that had hosted female Torah scholars.

Last spring, the OU Women’s Initiative hosted a mikvah-attendant training program for women in the greater Philadelphia area. The professional development program for mikvah attendants featured presentations on how to best support mikvah clients’ medical and mental health needs. The group was addressed by representatives of Shalom Task Force and Sharsheret among others. A similar program is being planned for the New York-Long Island area this coming October.

In preparation for the Yamim Noraim, the OU Initiative is planning a “Weekend of Hitorirut” (inspiration) on Shabbat Shuva to feature Sivan Rahav-Meir, noted Israeli journalist and Torah speaker. Rahav-Meir will present in Great Neck, West Hempstead, Teaneck and the Five Towns, sharing her meaningful and contemporary thoughts about teshuva and greeting the New Year.

Planning ahead for January, the Women’s Initiative is planning a Women’s Impact Institute. Through in-person and online sessions, a cohort of young, professional women working in Jewish non-profits will be offered a program geared to provide them with tools, confidence and the support to hone their talents for the benefit of their organizations and communities.

According to Rebbetzin Shmidman, the initial rosh chodesh shiur to date attracted over 1,000 viewers, 550 of whom are already signed up for future broadcasts. Future speakers in the rosh chodesh series include Rebbetzin Tzipora Weinberg, founding executive director at the WELL and rebbetzin of Kahal Lev Avos in North Woodmere; Rachel Kosowsky, Tanach department head at the Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, Maryland; Yael Leibowitz, instructor at Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Learning, Jerusalem; Channah Cohen, JLIC educator, Queens College; C.B. Neugroschl, head of school at Yeshiva University’s High School for Girls, Queens, New York; Dina Schoonmaker, Torah educator and student mentor, Michlalah College, Jerusalem; Esther Wein, Torah educator, New York; Raizi Chechik, head of school, Manhattan Day School, New Yorkl; and Rebbetzin Aviva Feiner, Congregation Knesseth Israel and menaheles of Machon Basya Rachel Seminary, Far Rockaway, New York.

A new shiur of approximately 30 minutes will premiere every rosh chodesh throughout the coming year at noon EST. To register for the shiurim, visit https:/www.ou.org/women/rc/. To view the video, go to https://ou.org/women/video.

By Pearl Markovitz

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