Thoughts

Campaign Spotlight: Nishmat

Next up in our campaign spotlight series is Nishmat’s inHERitance Campaign. We interviewed the team at Nishmat before their campaign went live. Read on to learn more about this organization.

Tell us about your organization:

Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, in Jerusalem, empowers Jewish women with knowledge and skills to master advanced Torah & Talmud study, preparing them to engage with both the Jewish community and modern society. In the United States and Israel, Nishmat is most well-know for its Yoatzot Halacha, women advisors in Jewish law. Considering its pioneering role, under the leadership of its Founder and Dean Rabbanit Chana Henkin, Nishmat is uniquely placed to define the future of women’s Torah study and women’s role in religious scholarship and leadership.

What is your mission?

All that Nishmat accomplishes is to enhance and strengthen Torah scholarship, religious faith, Israel and the Jewish people in the modern era. Ki’mitzion tatze Torah. “Out of Zion comes Torah.”  As a dati-leumi institution (modern Orthodox), Nishmat encourages its alumnae to engage with the broader world, engage in public service and become leaders.

What are the opportunities you provide?

While dedicated to educating advanced Torah scholars, Nishmat has always been passionate about providing opportunities for all Jewish women who want to master textual study.  Twenty-something years ago, Alisa Flatow, hy”d, put aside her studies at Brandeis for a year to nourish her soul and enhance her Torah skills at Nishmat. After her murder by terrorists, Nishmat named a program after her that has attracted women from all over the world. Nishmat’s  post-army/post-national service program enrolls over 100 Israelis who replenish their spirits and delve into Talmud study. Ethiopian-Israeli veterans get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prepare for college in an award-winning program and Americans and Brits come to Nishmat for gap-year before college. These diverse young women learn from each other, studying and living together on Nishmat’s Jerusalem campus. Our most advanced program is Yoatzot Halacha (women advisors in Jewish law), which certifies scholars in Israel and the U.S.  Nishmat sponsors free services to women all over, with websites in four languages, a hotline, scholarly publications and a very personal approach to women’s questions.

How has your organization impacted the community?

It’s difficult to imagine, but in 1990, when Nishmat was founded, many people believed women were not capable of mastering classical Talmud study and halacha. Rabbanit Chana Henkin’s approach is that evolution rather than revolution builds consensus. Her contributions to the quality of Jewish life, such as the introduction of Yoatzot Halacha, are proof. This is a worldwide innovation that’s profoundly touched hundreds of thousands of women’s lives. Notonly this, but Nishmat alumnae are highly sought educators, physicians and artists whose personal lives and careers were empowered in Nishmat’s beit midrash, where women are encouraged to master the storehouse of sacred Jewish knowledge and contribute to its future.

Any success stories you would like to share?

In less than a generation, Nishmat and its founder, Rabbanit Chana Henkin, created a professional role for women in Orthodox Jewish life that had never existed before.  With its 122 certified Yoatzot Halacha, who advise women in the area of where Jewish law (halacha) and wellness intersect, Nishmat makes it possible for Jewish women to get the best guidance available on intimate subjects related to marriage. As a result, for instance, untold Jewish women who were fertility challenged have given birth. Yoatzot have responded to 367,000 questions through yoatzot.org and a Women’s Halachic Hotline. Fifty Orthodox congregations in the U.S. and Canada have hired Yoatzot Halacha. Nishmat haBayit is the first major publication of halachic questions and responses authored by women and endorsed by esteemed rabbinic authorities. All this happened while remaining within the classical framework of Orthodox Judaism.

What do you hope to accomplish from the Charidy partnership?

Our dream is to expand the free services provided by Nishmat’s Yoatzot Halacha and provide housing for married women who are advancing in their scholarship. We will strengthen our program that enables Ethiopian-Israelis to change their lives by qualifying for college education. Every student in this program, which has seen some 300 earn their degrees, receives a full scholarship. And we will create opportunities for more young women to immerse themselves in their Torah inHERitance at Nishmat.

You can follow along on the progress of the Nishmat’s campaign here!