More than 150 modestly dressed women of all ages packed Schenk Synagogue on Yeshiva University’s Washington Heights campus on Sunday for two lectures that kicked off Midreshet Yom Rishon, a free, weekly learning series exclusively for “the second sex.” Many of the women scribbled notes as YU’s Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, discussed Jewish law in the technology age, and Michelle Levine, professor of Torah studies at YU’s Stern College for Women, explored various interpretations of Eve’s creation.“My overriding message,” Levine said, “is that we as women play a tremendous role in marriage, family and community. That role is in no way overshadowed by the role of men.”
Moreover, she said, the new lecture series “acknowledges that women of today are intellectually advanced and curious.”Since the university’s Max Stern Division of Communal Services began sponsoring Sunday morning lectures for men last fall, YU has fielded an onslaught of requests from women wanting the same access to Torah scholars as their male counterparts. “Women don’t have as many learning opportunities as men,” said Debra David, a YU presidential fellow working for the Max Stern Division. The imbalance, she said, was an impetus for Midreshet Yom Rishon.
“There are so many women in the neighborhood who want to learn, but don’t have anywhere to go,” said Masha Bannett, 22, a Washington Heights resident who attended Sunday’s shiurim.
Next Sunday at 9 a.m., YU’s Rosh Yeshiva, Zvi Sobolofsky, will talk about “Tevillas Keilim,” a Jewish dietary law; and Smadar Rosensweig, professor of Judaic studies at New York’s Touro College, will discuss the biblical prophetess Miriam. More information is available at www.midreshetyomrishon.org.