Perhaps one of the silver linings of a worldwide pandemic is that our little island of Australia suddenly feels a lot closer to the likes of Israel and Europe. We have embraced the use of Zoom, thereby shaving off a few kilometers and broadening our horizons. I have been the beneficiary of one such example of this newfound accessibility, recently completing the first 10 weeks of the Eden Center’s Kallah Teacher Training course as part of the JOFA Australia Kallah Teacher Scholarship Program. Together with a cohort of women from Melbourne and Sydney we meet weekly for 3 hours with lecturers from the Eden Center on Zoom.
I know that halacha is dynamic, and that keeping the laws of taharat hamishpacha should not be burdensome for a couple. I also felt that there was scope to explore different teaching methods that aligned more with what modern women were facing in their everyday lives.
As a young newly engaged bride-to-be, I was excited for my kallah classes. I was going to be handed the keys to the ‘secret women’s club.’ I was going to have the answers! But as my pre-marriage classes wrapped up, and my halachic knowledge about the intricacies of nidda and mikvah expanded, the list of unanswered questions grew: weren’t we supposed to learn about sexuality and intimacy in kallah classes? And with each life stage, and all the physical and emotional challenges that accompany them – trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth and postpartum – the list of questions grew. I found myself connecting to Yoatzot Halacha in the UK and Israel, listening to lectures, and educating myself through books and shiurim. I know that halacha is dynamic, and that keeping the laws of taharat hamishpacha should not be burdensome for a couple. I also felt that there was scope to explore different teaching methods that aligned more with what modern women were facing in their everyday lives.
I knew things needed to change, and I wanted to be part of it.
Enter JOFA’s Kallah teacher scholarship program. To say I was excited to accept a place in the course is an understatement. I always dreamed of becoming a kallah teacher but until now, the opportunity had never presented itself. The Eden Center training course is a world-class course, with assessments and exams, and it makes me feel like I am right back in university. We all remember that hyper eager mature age student, in the front row, that made the class run overtime * cough* me * cough*.
Through our lessons so far, I have gained not only halachic insight into the sources behind the laws of niddah, mikvah and the development of halacha; but also, a holistic understanding of the importance of healthy communication, intimacy, desires and needs. Each lesson has been taught with the intention of training us to meet our bride where she is in her relationship, joining her on her journey and empowering her and her chatan to create a strong Jewish marriage.
This vulnerability sparked moments of connection between the participants in the course. It has been fascinating to learn with women from so many different backgrounds; we are all coming with unique stories and personal experiences.
Our lead instructor Dr. Judith Fogel (Yoetzet Halacha with a PhD in Human Sexuality) ensured we were all comfortable with the information we learned and allowed us to question freely and process the material we were taught. This was made possible through the use of break-out rooms and allows for raw discussion about the challenges and rewards of keeping these age-old laws. This vulnerability sparked moments of connection between the participants in the course. It has been fascinating to learn with women from so many different backgrounds; we are all coming with unique stories and personal experiences.
Each lecture has been infused with halacha and Torah observance which highlights the beauty of Modern Orthodox practice.
Kallah education has evolved, and it is refreshing to be trained to teach in a relevant way that synthesizes halacha and living in a modern world. We have been gifted the opportunity to hear lectures from sex therapists and relationship counselors about current best practices in teaching new brides to communicate their desires and perhaps reservations when it comes to their intimate relationships. Each lecture has been infused with halacha and Torah observance which highlights the beauty of Modern Orthodox practice. The type of education we are receiving is exciting, eye-opening and provides me with a sense of hope for the next generation of young couples, who will be taught by all of us and be given a set of skills and knowledge that will allow them to enter their marriages empowered. I am excited to complete the next 30 hours of the course after our summer break where we will cover topics such as contraception, financial planning, and fertility concerns. Thank you to JOFA Australia and the generous donors for having the vision to create this scholarship. We, the women of Australia, are indebted to you for launching this vital revolution.