A Dream that Can Happen: An Open Beit Midrash for Women in Jerusalem

There are wonderful Torah learning institutions for women in Jerusalem. I have attended several of them and gained immensely. It was when I reached a more advanced learning level and also when life started to get busier with family and work that I felt like I needed a new framework that was not being offered in the city. 

What I am looking for is a Beit Midrash for women that focuses on individualized learning and community-building. Instead of having a fixed schedule of classes in a fixed calendar, the Beit Midrash will simply be a public Jewish library for women who come alone or with their chevrutas– at any time of the day and throughout the year- to chip away at their individual learning goals. Each woman or chevruta will have access to one or more advisors- a Rebbetzen, Rabbi or advanced Torah scholar- who will be available (in person or on the phone) to supervise their learning or offer spiritual guidance. This way, each woman will make progress in her individual spiritual/intellectual growth at her own pace and at her own time, but with mentors to help her stay focused and motivated. 

Though each woman or chevruta will have their own individual learning plans, the Beit Midrash will also be a space for community. Many women in Jerusalem are immigrants who do not have the support of their families and friends nearby. The Beit Midrash can also serve as a social outlet for these women, providing them with a community that they can belong to (without needing to pay tuition or commit themselves to a fixed schedule of courses). Women can use the communal space to celebrate their learning successes with pot-luck siyums and for organizing events, workshops and shiurim. The cost of learning at this Beit Midrash will be minimal, the time commitment will be flexible, the culture of the place will be collaborative and the learning done in the Beit Midrash will be relevant to each individual’s learning goals. 

Naturally, the community Beit Midrash will be mother-friendly. Women with kids at home can decide if they want to put money together for a babysitter or simply bring along toys for their kids to play with in the corner while they learn. Ideally, the Beit Midrash will have more than one room to make this set-up of having kids/babies around non-disruptive to other learners.   

A Beit Midrash like this one would be a resource to women in the city who wish to grow in their Judaism and also to be a part of a supportive network of friends and mentors. Their membership in this community does not require them to invest much money or time. All they need is a desire to engage in what is a lifelong process of learning and spiritual growth and to be a supportive presence for other women who share the space. The details of what texts will be learned, with whom, which mentors will be consulted, what times of the day, and for what duration, will be up to each woman to decide for herself with the supervision of an advisor. What will remain constant will be the physical library space as well as the culture of community and mentorship- the primary tools for a practice of lifelong learning. 

Whoever is interested in this kind of Beit Midrash, please sign up:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddJNRZA3tUlgQ5ISHDLRcnfg-hplcDaxbLyP-Z_vZFfhs1UQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

 

About the Author
Originally from Pawtucket "the Bucket," Nava now lives in holy Jerusalem. She studied media theory and production at Brown University but her real concentration was in Judaism since all she could think about was her Jewish identity complex. Today, she is not only a post-grad truth seeker, but also a wife and a mother.
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