By: Menachem Butler  | 

The Stern Talmud Program — 4 Years Later; Rabbi Binyamin Tabory to Join SCW Faculty (Vol. 70, Issue 1)

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik made headlines in 1972 when he began a new chapter in Modern Orthodox history, by delivering a shiur in Talmud at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women (SCW). While the Maimonides School in Boston, which the Rav started in 1937, had been teaching Talmud in a coeducational environment since its inception, the Rav opened the door for women's study of Torah She Ba'al Peh on an advanced university level with his inaugural Talmud lecture at SCW, highlighting his personal and profound commitment to furthering women's halakhic knowledge.

In February 1999, Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm announced the establishment of a program for advanced Torah She-Ba'al Peh studies at SCW, officially known as the Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmud Studies, sponsored by a grant from the Avi Chai Foundation. Students would receive an annual stipend of $18,000 from the Avi Chai Foundation and would be awarded a certificate upon completion from the intensive two-year program.

Students wishing to pursue a simultaneous Master's degree would have the option of enrolling in tuition-free courses at Yeshiva's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Judaic Studies or Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, both located on Yeshiva's Wilf Campus. After the required 18 credits of required course work, as well as a semester of student teaching and a comprehensive exam, the students would be awarded a Master's degree from either Revel or Azrieli. The Graduate Program admitted its first group of students in the fall of 2000; by the end of May 2004, 18 students will have completed the program.

Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel, the E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History at SCW, is the founding director of the program. Dr. Kanarfogel commented at the commencement of the program that it "marks a significant new step for Yeshiva University and for the Jewish community as a whole... [which] will enable an elite cadre of women to be better prepared to be leaders in Jewish scholarship education."

Dr. Kanarfogel said that in the few years since its initiation, the program has "received overwhelmingly positive reactions both from educators and from the community, although to be sure, high-level education for women is what the community has come to expect from Stern College for Women and Yeshiva University."

The initial three year Avi Chai Foundation grant was renewed, as Dr. Kanarfogel explained, after "a full and very productive and helpful evaluation of the program toward the end of last year."

While the Avi Chai Foundation grant "is continuing in a spectacular way, for which we are most pleased and grateful" said Dr. Kanarfogel, "President Richard Joel increased Yeshiva's share of funding significantly."

When asked about President Joel's commitment to the program, Dr. Kanarfogel remarked, "President Joel is absolutely and fully committed to maintaining the program as evidenced not only by the significant financial commitment... but also by his very strong personal and professional interest in the program and his direct involvement in many aspects."

As The Observer recently reported, two of the program's most popular Talmud lecturers, Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh and Rabbi Eitan Mayer, will be making aliyah this summer with their families as part of Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that seeks to revive North American aliyah. Rabbi Bednarsh will teach Yoreh De'ah at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary's (RIETS) Joseph and Caroline Gruss Kollel at Yeshiva's Jerusalem campus, and Rabbi Mayer will teach at the Midreshet Moriah Seminary for Women, also in Jerusalem.

In an interview with The Commentator, Rabbi Bednarsh spoke highly of his students in the program and said he was very happy with their successes. "I am very impressed with the students on both an intellectual and religious level," he said.

Rabbi Binyamin Tabory, currently Ram at Yeshivat Har Etzion since 1979 where he teaches a second-year shiur, has been chosen to teach in the program for the 2004/2005 academic year.

Rabbi Tabory received Semikha from RIETS and a Master's degree in Jewish philosophy from Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School of Judaic Studies. Before teaching at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Tabory was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshivat Bnei Akiva High School in Toronto. In 1994, under the guidance of Rabbi Yehuda Amital and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Tabory served as the founding Rosh Kollel of the Torah Mitzion Kollel in Cleveland, the first Zionist Kollel in North America. Rabbi Tabory also teaches at Midreshet Moriah where he is highly acclaimed by his many students.

Rabbi Binyamin Tabory will join senior faculty members Rabbi Gedaliah Berger and Rabbi Moshe Kahn. Aside from his responsibilities with the Graduate Program, Rabbi Tabory will also teach classes in the Judaic Studies Department at Stern College two afternoons a week. As of yet, it is unclear if Rabbi Tabory will also teach any classes at Yeshiva College during the upcoming academic year.

Recent speculation has led to rumors regarding the implementation of a Master's program in Talmud, where graduates would receive a Master's Degree in Talmud directly from SCW.

Dr. Kanarfogel explained that "the procedure requires, as one might expect, a very large amount of assessments and paper work and is followed by an evaluation process by the appropriate state academic agencies of unspecified length." The self-assessments and paperwork parts of the process have already begun, but it is not yet known how long the entire process will take.

Avigayil Rosen, SCW '05, was excited to hear the news of Rabbi Tabory's upcoming arrival on the Beren Campus. "I can't wait to take one of his classes. His reputation precedes him," she said.

Rebecca Feldman, SCW '01, a recent graduate of the program and student of Rabbi Tabory during her year at Midreshet Moriah, said she was happy to hear that her former teacher would be joining the Stern College faculty for the coming year. "Not that he has anything more to prove, given his stellar career in both Israel and North America, I think that this undertaking by Rabbi Tabory quintessentially illustrates his dedication to women's education across the globe. The women of Stern College are very fortunate indeed."