Gila Weiner

On top of the world with Torah from Down-Under

In March 2021 I sent an email to The Eden Center. It was completely out of the blue as I did not know of anyone associated with the Eden Center, nor had I been recommended their course, but from a quick Google search of ‘kallah courses’ I was directed to their site. Unfortunately, living in Sydney Australia in an upside-down time zone with only a small cohort of interested women, the prospect of having a course run remotely seemed impossible. Whilst the staff member who I corresponded with was excited by my interest, I was disheartened to see the reply “we are happy to open a course with hours that are good for Australia, but we need at least 120 women who would be interested in doing this.” Finding this many engaged Jewish women in the Australian Jewish community on my own was daunting and seemingly impossible. It is for this exact reason that my passion and desire to become a kallah teacher was and is so real. Simply put, there is a lack of relatable, accessible Orthodox Jewish female role models equipped with the knowledge and experience required to engage young kallot and I was eager to fill this gap.

Fast forward to an evening in August 2021. By this point I had given up on  the idea of accessing higher learning opportunities  while living abroad, and assumed it would be something I’d revisit in later years once hopefully having made Aliya. I had just put my baby to sleep and received a message from a friend advertising that JOFA Australia was partnering with The Eden Center to run an Australian exclusive Kallah Teacher’s course because  she thought I might be interested. I simply could not believe what I was reading. Not only was she spot on – I was most definitely interested – I was simply floored by the coincidence and timing of this message. A mere 5 months earlier this prospect was  impossible  and now I was being handed the opportunity to make my dream of becoming a kallah teacher, a reality. Needless to say, I applied instantly and ‘the rest is history.’

With a career in Jewish education and a psychology background, the role of kallah teacher seemed like a natural progression, marrying these two passions. Since 2018, I have been the Director of the Jewish Leadership Brownstone Program that involves taking university aged students to New York and Tel Aviv for professional, spiritual and personal development. While learning with and mentoring these young professionals on occasion, conversations veer into the personal, with women seeking guidance on personal relationships. There is something powerful about sharing and learning with someone who has ventured into the process of understanding their own Jewish identity, coming out stronger, more confident and having found profound meaning as a result. I gain so much from these sessions and relationships, not only as an opportunity to share my love for Torah but also as a chance to reflect upon my own connection and ever-changing relationship with Judaism.

Prior to my involvement in the course, we joked that one day our  conversations  could progress into kallah lessons.  And now, to be armed with the necessary tools to guide these same individuals through their next stage of life, through another Jewish framework is an honour I do not take lightly. The privilege of equipping  Jewish women with the ability to understand and find meaning in the laws taharat hamispacha, to share advice on successful communication in marriage and to empower them to fulfil these mitzvot with understanding  and purpose is something I hope I never take for granted. Strengthening these Jewish women means strengthening their families, which in turn strengthens our community. I am so deeply grateful to The Eden Center and JOFA Australia for expanding Torah learning and women’s leadership opportunities in the Australian Jewish community. This is an investment that will no doubt yield positive ripples for generations to come.

About the Author
Gila Weiner is the Director of the Moriah Brownstone Jewish Leadership Program and is passionate about Jewish education and positive psychology. As an active member of the Sydney Jewish community she gives shiurim, mentoring sessions and is a kallah teacher in training. Gila is a proud wife and mother.
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