By: Pinchas Shapiro  | 

Yeshiva Announces Graduate Program In Jewish Studies for Women (Vol. 65, Issue 7)

On February 18, Rabbi Norman Lamm, esteemed president of Yeshiva University, announced the establishment of a two-year graduate program for women in Torah She-Ba’al Peh - Oral Law. The program, which has been in the planning stages for some time, is being sponsored by a grant from The Avi Chai Foundation, a private foundation established in 1984 and endowed by the late Zalman C. Bernstein.

Those students who complete the two-year advanced learning program will be awarded a certificate. Students desiring to simultaneously pursue a Master’s degree in Jewish education will have the option of enrolling in evening courses, tuition-free, at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. Upon completion of 18 credits of course work in Azrieli, a semester of student teaching and a comprehensive exam, students will earn a Master’s degree in Jewish education.

The current proposal will make the program extremely competitive by limiting admission to up to ten new students each year. Entering students will be expected to have completed at least two years of college-level Talmud study and to have acquired appropriate textual skills in Aramaic and the Talmudic texts. However, it is not clear what would constitute the equivalent to two years of college-level Talmud study outside of Stern College.

Although graduates of other universities who possess the requisite strong textual skills and commitment to intensive study are encouraged to apply, the University anticipates that the majority of applicants to the program will be Stern College graduates. Those accepted as full-time students will be eligible to receive annual stipends of $18,000.

The program continues Yeshiva University’s contribution to the Jewish Community by adding to its existing higher education for women. “Yeshiva University, through its Stern College for Women, has been a perennial leader in educating Jewish women at the highest levels,” said Rabbi Lamm. “This program represents a unique opportunity for women to continue their study of Talmud and Talmudic Literature beyond the college years. This initiative is directed toward outstanding students who are committed to pursuing advanced Jewish studies full time,” continued Lamm.

Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel, the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History at Stern College for Women, will be the director of the program. He is also chairman of the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies, a position he has held for 15 years. Rabbi Kanarfogel is a widely respected scholar in the field of medieval Jewish history and rabbinic literature and is author of two books and over 40 articles.

“This marks a significant new step for Yeshiva University and for the Jewish community as a whole,” said Rabbi Kanarfogel. “It will enable an elite cadre of women to be better prepared to be leaders in Jewish scholarship education.”

An advisory committee, presently consisting of Rabbi Hayim Soloveitchik, University Professor of Jewish History and Literature at the Bernard Revel Graduate School; Stern College for Women Dean Karen Bacon; and Rabbi Moshe Kahn, instructor of Talmud at Stern College, will work with Rabbi Kanarfogel to refine and implement the program.

The Talmud component of the curriculum will be taught by Rabbi Kahn, a leading figure in the growth and development of the Talmud and Oral Law program at Stern College. Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh who earned his bachelor’s degree at Princeton University and was ordained by Yeshiva will present a regular shiur in Halacha as well as an accelerated overview of Talmudic literature or bekiut. Rabbi Bednarsh, who is completing his third year as a fellow of the Israel Henry Beren Institute for Higher Talmudic Studies, will serve as assistant to the director and student mentor.

Rounding out the curriculum will be weekly sessions in Jewish history and Jewish thought. In addition, speakers drawn primarily from RIETS Roshei Yeshiva, Yeshiva’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who have expertise in areas such as comparative law and medical ethics will periodically address the students. During the second year of the program, students will deliver weekly presentations to faculty and peers.