Creating a Torah inspired life at Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya

'You want to learn how to inspire yourself? First you need to learn how to learn by yourself!'

Shmuel Jablon, | updated: 06:53

Girls Studying in Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya
Girls Studying in Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya
Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya

It is easy to find experiences that are inspiring but often this inspiration is short lived and doesn’t truly make an impact on the mind and soul. As Rabbi Yitzchak Shurin, Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya said, “Women always tell me, ‘I keep being inspired. I need to learn how to inspire myself.’ I reply, ‘You want to learn how to inspire yourself? First you need to learn how to learn by yourself!’”

When Orthodox women in their 20’s and 30’s are ready to make the jump from attending inspiring programs to learning how to learn independently in a mature setting that encourages their growth, they are ready to attend Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya in Jerusalem (the women’s division of Shapell’s/Darche Noam). There they don’t just learn about concepts through hearing engaging speakers, they delve deeply into the original texts. There they aren’t forced to fit into a box of a particular approach to Torah Judaism, but, rather, are exposed to many paths in Orthodoxy and are encouraged to select the community most appropriate for them (while loving and respecting the others).

Programs outside of the seminary - such as meaningful trips throughout Israel, Shabbatonim in a variety of cities and towns in which alumni have settled (e.g. Gush Etzion, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Yad Binyamin and Tzfat) and a variety of chesed programs, provide them with the opportunity to experience and fall in love with diverse communities. Some (about 25-30%) make Aliyah, and all are inspired with a love for Israel and the diversity of the Jewish people.

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Above- Celebrating Jerusalem Day in the Kotel Plaza

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Shapell’s/Darche Noam explained, “We want to empower them to take the complexity of Torah, make it their own, and then apply it to the complexity of their lives.”

Midreshet Rachel has successfully done this for decades, both for students who come without a prior Judaic studies background and for those who may have gone to Jewish schools but now want to deepen their understanding and skills in a mature and caring setting where, as Education Director Yaffa Moskowitz describes it, “I feel like they’re my daughters. I really do.”

Danielle Tondreau, a recent alumnae, reported that “the text classes were unbelievable, learning how to learn on my own. I came from a background where I couldn’t even read any Hebrew.” Alumnae Melissa Rosenbaum said, “Midreshet Rachel provided me with a foundation I couldn’t have found anywhere else. We were challenged to struggle with the material and not take anything blindly.”

Alumni of Midreshet Rachel then take what they gained and use it to shape their families and choices of how they seek to impact the Jewish world. Allison Josephs, founder of Jew in the City and Project Makom looks back at her year at Midreshet Rachel as truly formative. She said, “What I learned at Midreshet Rachel has carried on through how I live my life as an Observant Jew and how I teach my children. The hashkafa (religious philosophy) is “d’racheha darche noam” (the Torah’s many ways are pleasant) and that we should be respectful of all ways (not to mention respectful of all people). With a diverse group of teachers and rabbis spanning the spectrum of Orthodoxy and Shabbat placements at homes of every type and stripe, as well as shabbatons specifically dedicated to learning about different hashkafot I ultimately saw that each community has its strengths and each has its weaknesses. I ended up landing somewhere in the center – trying to take the best of the modern and the charedi. It is with this philosophy that I founded Jew in the City and then Project Makom.”

Lots of places can provide inspiration, but Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya provides a meaningful education that provides the tools for women to learn, inspire themselves, and inspire others for years to come.

For more information on Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya, including how to apply, please visit www.darchenoam.org or contact Rabbi Moshe Baron, rmb@darchenoam.org




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