April 13, 2024
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Rabbanit Sally Mayer: Inspiring Love of Torah

Rabbanit Sally Mayer in the Midrasha.

When West Orange, New Jersey native Rabbanit Sally Mayer stands in front of a classroom of young adults, she is not only giving over a Talmud teaching, she is also hoping to provide her students with lessons for how to live a life of kindness and good character. As the rosh midrasha at the overseas program of Ohr Torah’s Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum, as well as an educator, she has imparted her Torah knowledge and life lessons to hundreds of young adults from around the world who arrived at the midrasha in Jerusalem for a year of post-high school learning. She remembers getting excited about studying Torah as a student at Frisch High School and taking inspiration from many teachers throughout her years of education.

One of the great role models of her life to this day was her rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Khan, z”l, who taught Mayer during her time in the Drisha Scholars Circle Program and at Stern College. She was inspired by his excellence in Torah scholarship and demand for rigorous learning to really understand Torah, together with what she describes as his “impeccable midot and his inspiring character.” Is it these elements of both intellectual rigor and attention to character and personal growth that Mayer has brought to Midreshet Lindenbaum. She first became closely acquainted with the midrasha when she studied there after she graduated from high school. Before making aliyah with her husband, she spent seven years teaching at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and was among the faculty that established the school. Almost immediately after arriving in Israel in 2004 she began teaching at Midreshet Lindenbaum and in 2019 she became rosh midrasha, in addition to her teaching responsibilities.

As part of her responsibilities as rosh midrasha, she oversees about 35 staff members, as well as the beit midrash, the educational experience and informal education activities. She continues to teach classes in Talmud, Halacha, Torah and Jewish philosophy.

In the classroom, Mayer emphasizes to her students the connections that can be found between the subject matter and their lives. While teaching Mesechet Taanit, which addresses prayer, she challenges her students to identify themes throughout the Talmud and what lessons they can draw from these teachings. For example, in what way can her students relate to the story about the man who was dejected because his prayers were not answered? How does one approach prayer when one’s prayers are not always answered favorably? “It’s Torah on a high level but it’s also very personal,” she explained.

She also emphasizes personal growth, not just in religious observance but also in acts of chesed and middot tovot, explaining that the commandments that apply from person to person are equally important to the commandments between people and God. She follows her mentor, Rabbi Khan, zt”l, in integrating these facets of Jewish faith and inspiring her students to pursue these values.

Outside the classroom, she serves as a figurehead for young adults who are spending an incredibly meaningful year of learning in Israel, and who might also be navigating personal challenges in their daily lives. Her approach is to always understand where they are coming from and not just come with a “one-size-fits-all answer to a question.” Often the most meaningful conversations she has with students are not in the classroom or in the halls of the midrasha, but take place on a trip or during a Shabbat retreat. It is these informal yet intimate conversations that students also often speak fondly about long after they have left the midrasha. And when they do leave the midrasha, Mayer hopes that they will carry with them the lessons they learned. “I hope that they gain a sense of deep love and respect for the Torah and deep connection with the Torah and Hashem,” she said. “And I hope that they get a sense of the importance of constantly growing and constantly working on one’s self, and trying to be better all the time.”

An educator at heart, Mayer looks forward to continuing learning and teaching. “It’s really a great blessing and privilege to be back at Midreshet Lindenbaum and continuing to learn along with my students and trying to give them some of the experience that I had, and even more.”


Alisa Bodner is a Fair Lawn native who immigrated to Israel over a decade ago. She is a nonprofit management professional who enjoys writing in her free time.

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