Israel opens first-ever mixed-observance seminary for Jewish girls

The year-long, post-high school program aims to bring together girls from diverse backgrounds for a meaningful learning experience. 

Hamidrasha Yisraelit (photo credit: AVIYA COHEN)
Hamidrasha Yisraelit
(photo credit: AVIYA COHEN)

The Ohr Torah Stone (OTS) has launched “HaMidrasha HaYisraelit”, a mixed-observance seminary for girls, in Pardes-Hanna in Israel’s North.

The year-long post-high school program aims to bring together girls from diverse backgrounds for a meaningful learning experience. 

What will the students be learning?

The school’s study hall will host a variety of lectures throughout the course which will be paired with studies focusing on Jewish and Israeli thought, Zionism, spirituality, philosophy and Jewish and Israeli identity.

The teaching will be done through an equal and respectful discourse where every opinion is heard and every insight is important so that everyone can bring her own world to the table, according to the school’s mission statement. 

The program’s goal is to create a ‘Jewish-Israeli language based on our roots and the ideals and values we all share,’ according to a release from the seminary. 

Hamidrasha Yisraelit (credit: AVIYA COHEN)
Hamidrasha Yisraelit (credit: AVIYA COHEN)

After the students graduate from the course, the staff will accompany them through their military or national service.

The seminary’s board and teaching staff are of mixed religiosity, according to the school who explained that the seminary director Avital Wilner-Shalev is religious while her deputy Esther Meir-Horowitz is secular.

"My aim is to make sure that each and every student feels at home amongst the treasures of the Jewish bookshelf," explains Wilner-Shalev. "There is great power in learning with those who are different from us - despite, or perhaps because of, the gaps that allow us to learn from one another's worlds. Our goal is to be a home of partnership within an environment of dialogue, finding our way to mutual understandings, inclusion and respect for the background and lifestyle of each individual."

"Our vision is to create an opportunity to deepen the various identities within the seminary, to amplify voices and to develop a powerful and unique female voice", adds Meir-Horowitz. "A place in which students are engaged, by choice, in all aspects of the spiritual world. The combination of religious and secular young women, precisely in these times, and their joint studies in the beit midrash, which is based on the discourse of debate, will enable an important encounter between identities, which is the key to social rehabilitation." 

"In the face of the widening rifts in Israeli society, the existence of a seminary that will serve as a home for religious, traditional and secular young women is the kind of step that can serve as a bridge and increase unity," notes Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone.  "As a network whose main focus is the vision of lighting the way in Jewish education, outreach and leadership, we believe that the Torah and the beit midrash have the power to be the glue that connects all parts of Israeli society, to ensure the continuity of our common life here together."

The seminary held an opening ceremony to celebrate the school’s first class of students. OTS administration, the seminary's staff and students, Pardes Hanna Mayor Hagar Perry and IDF officers were in attendance to celebrate the momentous occasion.