One of the things I love about my shul, Congregation Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills, is that it makes room for participation and involvement of women wherever halachically permitted. In recent years, women are demanding more and more opportunities in more and more areas of life. In the Jewish world, one of the demands is for more opportunities for Torah learning – and not just any Torah learning, but high-level and high-quality Torah learning, preferably text-based.
Shiur HaChodesh for Women by Women was created by Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg, mara d’asra of Congregation Etz Chaim, to further increase opportunities for advanced Torah learning for women. The program is directed by Hadassah Waxman and the Shiur HaChodesh Committee and has just completed its 14th year. Women have been getting high-level, high-quality, text-based shiurim on Torah topics from many of the foremost teachers of Torah, Tanach, and Jewish History. Among the many magidei shiur have been Rebbetzin Abby Lerner, Dr. Michelle Levine, Dr. Penina Neuwirth, Prof. Nechama Price, Rabbanit Shani Taragin, Dr. Deena Rabinovich, Prof. Smadar Rosensweig, and Dr. Yael Ziegler. We have also heard lectures from Prof. Elisheva Carlebach, Raizi Chechik, Dr. Sharon Flatto, and Sara Jo Ben Tzvi, teachers/professors of Jewish History.
Based on the substantial audiences drawn by these shiurim, one can tell that the demand is real and that this program is meeting the need. The shiurim are open to any and all women who want to learn. Many of the women who attend are regular attendees and have been coming for years. In fact, each year, the program has subscribers who attend all the shiurim in a given year. I think I myself have been attending these shiurim since the program started. Actually, I remember a time back in 2013 when I had to miss two or three shiurim and Hadassah noticed and welcomed me back when I came to the next one. In addition, I’m sure that I’m not the only attendee who finds that some of these shiurim speak to me on a level beyond the intellectual.
These are the shiurim given this past year alone:
Prof. Smadar Rosensweig, Professor of Tanach and Judaic Studies, Stern College – Was Chedvah HaNeviah’s Prophecy and Torah Teaching Unique?
Miriam Krupka Berger, Dean of Faculty, Ramaz Upper School – Dying to Believe: Modern Martyrdom and the Book of Maccabees
Prof. Deena Rabinovich, Chair, Judaic Studies Dept., Stern College – Will the Real Adam Please Stand Up? Using Torah and Science to Understand the Creation of Man
Dean Rachel Friedman, Dean of the Lamdeinu Center – Endangering our Ohel: The Challenge of Foreign Cultures
Raizi Chechik, Head of School, Manhattan Day School – Molten Letters: The Widow Romm and the Vilna Talmud
Michal Horowitz, Lecturer on Torah and Jewish Thought – Reflecting Mirrors and the Season of G’ulah: An Exploration of the Righteous Women Who Facilitated Redemption
Prof. Nechama Price, Director, Graduate Program of Advanced Talmud Studies, YU – Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? The Charmed Life of Aharon
Prof. Elisheva Carlebach, Baron Professor of Jewish History, Columbia University – Loving the Stranger? Membership and Alienation in Early Modern Jewish Communities
To make the program viable, each of the shiurim is generously sponsored. Many times, the sponsorship is done for the ilui neshamah of a loved one, usually for the month of the deceased person’s yahrzeit. Other times, it’s done for a r’fuah sh’leimah or another z’chus. Some are sponsored in honor of women’s learning (such as the last one this year) or to note a birthday, anniversary or other simchah. Refreshments are provided, again by sponsors for any or all of the above reasons.
The next season of Shiur HaChodesh is expected to start in September before the Yamim Nora’im, with a shiur to be given by one of our masterful women scholars. Sponsorships for the shiurim and refreshments are available.