By: Rivka Bennun  | 

GPATS Announces Third-Year Option For Students Among Other New Developments

YU announced on Tuesday, Dec. 14 that its Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS) for women will be adding a Shana Gimmel (third year) option to its program beginning in Fall 2022, among other program developments, after receiving significant funding. Shana Gimmel will be limited to seven students.

The funding is due largely to a $1 million donation, spread across five years, by the Micah Foundation, a Jewish nonprofit that partially aims to help support Modern Orthodox educational institutions. There was also a separate anonymous donation that will “facilitate the creation of the Shana Gimmel initiative,” according to YU’s press release.

Beginning next year, the donation from the Micah Foundation will raise first-year GPATS students’ stipend from $5,000 to $7,500. Second-year students will receive a stipend of $10,000, as opposed to their current $5,000. Shana Gimmel students will receive a stipend of $20,000. 

The press release added that in addition to learning full-time, Shana Gimmel students will “engage in additional pedagogical training outside the classroom” by teaching at YU and other places in the United States. 

GPATS was founded in 1999 under the auspices of then-YU President Norman Lamm and was funded by the Avi Chai Foundation. In September 2020, GPATS celebrated 20 years since its inauguration. Currently, there are 23 women enrolled in GPATS, making this the largest class in program history. 

“It has been a dream of mine for many years for GPATS to be able to have a formal Shana Gimmel program, which includes an exclusive afternoon seder for the Shana Gimmel students as well as a generous stipend. Such a program will allow more women to spend three years immersed in full time Torah study,” Program Director Nechama Price, who is also senior lecturer of Judaic studies and Bible, shared with The Commentator. “We believe that having a Shana Gimmel program will propel our students to even greater heights in Torah knowledge and skills.”

The current two-year program consists of two options for morning seder — Talmud or Tanakh. The Talmud track has two shiurim, one with Rabbi Moshe Kahn and the other with Rabbi David Nachbar. The Tanakh track is led by Dr. Michelle Levin and Rabbi Allen Schwartz. Afternoon seder is a Halacha track led by Rabbi Gedalya Berger. 

“Ultimately, a GPATS education and experience – whether one, two or three years – is primarily about Torah study and religious education and leadership,” Price shared. “In that sense, the experience in the third year will be similar to the first two years.”

The regular two-year program requires participants to choose one of the morning seder tracks and remain in that track for the full two years. Price shared that in the Shana Gimmel program, students will be allowed to choose whichever track they want. 

For afternoon seder in Shana Gimmel, students will have already graduated the two-year Halacha track with Rabbi Berger, which is currently learning hilchot niddah and kashrut, and will therefore have a different schedule. The afternoon program will consist of hilchot shabbat classes twice a week, pedagogical leadership training once a week, and teaching a chabura to Beren students once a week. 

Heads of the Micah Foundation, namely trustees Jeremy and Ann Pava and Executive Director Deena Fuchs, have stated that they are funding GPATS with the goal of promoting the expansion of women’s roles in Modern Orthodoxy.

“As the mother of three daughters (and the proud mother of an amazing son!), my eye is always towards their religious role models and educators. Who will teach and inspire their Torah growth and religious personalities?” Price shared. “As the Director of GPATS, I am always looking for more ways to grow GPATS and provide women more opportunities to grow in Torah skills and knowledge, pedagogue and leadership skills.” 

Second-year GPATS student Sara Schatz (SCW ‘20) agreed. “It’s so revolutionary. Usually only one or two people have stayed Shana Gimmel throughout the years. The fact that it is actually a set program adds more legitimacy to GPATS,” she told The Commentator. “Increasing the amount of years that women can learn is incredible. It creates so many more opportunities for women to continue to do what they love in the YU environment.”

“GPATS alumni are the female leaders and educators of today, and we want to continue to create female scholars and role models for the next generation. This new program inspires me as a mom and GPATS Director,” Price added. “Enabling our students the opportunity to study for an additional year undoubtedly will produce even greater female Torah scholars, educators, and role models.”

Photo Caption: GPATS Class of 2019 making a siyum  

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University