A unicorn in the world of women’s Torah learning

Today women scholars teach women and men everything, from Tanach to Talmud and in-depth Halacha.

 MATAN WOMEN learn together. (photo credit: MICHAEL KATZ)
MATAN WOMEN learn together.
(photo credit: MICHAEL KATZ)

Thirty-five years ago, a group of women gathered at a dining room table in Jerusalem and started a Talmud study group that would give birth to a movement.

That group grew into what is today the Matan Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, with 10 branches across the State of Israel. Other organizations and institutions followed, and women today have opportunities to study the full breadth of Jewish law, Talmud, Bible and more, like never before in Jewish history.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to applaud all of our accomplishments but also look to the future and imagine what is still left to achieve. It is breathtaking to think about the journey women have taken and where we are today – everything is within our grasp, nothing is beyond our reach.

With hard work, dedication and determination, a realm of possibilities has opened to women in the Jewish world, shattering the proverbial glass ceiling.

Today women scholars teach women and men everything, from Tanach to Talmud and in-depth Halacha. Our graduates are change agents – inspiring and passionate educators, respected halachic responders, sought-after community leaders and role models for the next generation. In modern-day parlance, Matan was a start-up which grew into a unicorn in the world of women’s Torah learning. It succeeded beyond expectation in the face of great uncertainty.

With many women now as knowledgeable as their male counterparts, the time is ripe for the next stage in the advancement of women’s learning – the creation of female authored Torah scholarship.

In Jewish homes where study is important, several key texts can be found – anything from the Talmud, to the Shulhan Aruch and the Mishna Brura. It is time that these books be joined with texts written by women and from the female perspective.

There are women scholars today who have the knowledge and depth, and, as a result, we at Matan have launched a new program called “Kitvuni,” which aims to catapult women Torah scholars and educators onto bookshelves, supporting them to write books that will leave an enduring Torah legacy.

We find the word “kitvuni” in Talmud Megillah 7a, where we read that Esther sent to the Sages: “Establish me for future generations.... Write me for future generations (Kitvuni l’dorot).” The Matan Kitvuni Fellowship is fulfilling that mission with a modern twist.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when women didn’t have the opportunity to study Torah with other women or be taught by women scholars. Thanks to women who were dreamers and doers, there are institutions like Matan that have changed the landscape. For my own daughters, this has become the norm, just as it should be.

Now is the time for the next stage, so that when my daughters go to the bookshelf, they will have a diverse selection of texts to choose from – those written by men and now those authored by women. That will be another sign that we have arrived.

Golda Meir once said: “Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” That is what we have always strived to do. Today is an opportunity to applaud the scholars of Matan who are fanning the sparks of Torah and lighting the way for us all.

The writer is the CEO of Matan – Women’s Institute for Torah Studies.