A new phenomenon: Female scholars-in-residence in Israel

Over the past 19 years, I have had the honor of being hosted as a scholar-in-residence in many different Modern Orthodox communities across North America including Merrick, Nashville, Houston, Chicago and Springfield.

In each city, I was hosted by a family for Shabbat and I spoke from the pulpit and gave shiurim (classes) to the community. When I made aliyah almost 13 years ago, it never occurred to me that this could be an option in Israel as well.

This past Shabbat, Kolech Religious Women’s Forum organized a special Shabbat across Israel called “Dorshot Tov” where over 50 women served as scholars-in-residence in synagogues throughout the country.

At first I was hesitant about venturing out and asked to speak in Jerusalem so that I would not have to uproot myself for the whole Shabbat. When that didn’t work out (there aren’t that many shuls in Jerusalem that are willing to have a woman speak in shul and the ones that were open to it already had placements), I accepted the challenge to go to Modiin. I had only been to Modiin a few times and only for a few hours so I wasn’t very familiar with the community, but I decided to give it a try.

Naama Margolis, a member of the Darchei Noam shul in the Nechalim neighborhood made all of the arrangements for me. When she asked what I wanted to speak about I told her “Shabbat VeHadarta,” the Shabbat that focuses on respecting the elderly that was initiated by Knesset Member of Pensioner Affairs Uri Orbach z”l. Naama was excited to learn about “Shabbat VeHadarta” and thought that it was a great idea. She even invited Michal Orbach, Uri’s widow to join us for the class! The community adopted some of the customs that Michal Orbach suggested, such as giving flowers to the elderly members of the community before Shabbat and giving an aliyah to the Torah in shul to a Holocaust survivor.

The members of the community and hosts were very gracious and made me feel at home. On Shabbat morning I spoke during the service about “not putting a stumbling block before a blind person” and the importance of making synagogues accessible for those with special needs. After Musaf, I taught an interactive class, in memory of Batsheva Stadlan z”l, on the Jewish view of respecting the elderly and how the community in Modiin can get more involved.

The Seudah Shlishit was conducted in a private home by the Renana congregation in the Shvatim neighborhood. Danielle, the hostess, said that when she heard that I was going to be in Modiin, she didn’t want her community to miss out.

We read in Parshat Emor “Ki tavo-oo el ha’aretz…”, “When you come to the Land that I give you…”

When we come to the Land of Israel there is a lot that we can contribute and accomplish. Scholar-in-residence programs are not only appropriate for synagogues outside of Israel. Israelis are also interested in learning Torah from both men and women, as well as studying about important topics, such as how we can help the elderly and those with special needs.

It was an honor to be part of this project along with my teachers, friends, and colleagues who taught in cities ranging from Zikhron Yaakov to Yeruham. Hopefully, Shabbat Dorshot Tov will inspire more congregations to invite female scholars-in-residence throughout the year.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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