By: Rivka Bennun  | 

Stern College for Women Jewish Studies Department Restores Undergrad Talmud Courses

The Stern College for Women (SCW) Jewish studies department has added two Talmud courses for the Fall 2023 semester, Associate Dean of Torah and Spiritual Life Shoshana Schechter and Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies Chair Deena Rabinovich announced Tuesday. 

According to the announcement, the addition of an intermediate and advanced class came due to “increased interest” in the course following news of the classes’ cancellation due to low registration. 

The restored intermediate class and the new advanced class will be taught in the afternoon by Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier. The regular morning advanced class, currently taught by Rabbi Zuckier, will be taken over by Rabbi David Nachbar, who currently teaches in the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud/Tanach Studies (GPATS). 

Additionally, while Introductory Talmud was not offered this semester due to low enrollment, a similar course, titled “Talmud Psychology,” will be offered in the fall and will aim to teach the same content as Introductory Talmud.

“It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of interest revolving around women’s Talmud learning on the Beren campus,” stated Schechter and Rabinovich in the announcement, sent to Beren students through email. 

Following news of both courses’ cancellation, an open letter signed by students and alumni began circulating social media and WhatsApp groups April 19 and expressed protest over the university’s decision to cancel the courses. It has garnered nearly 1500 signatures as of publishing. 

The open letter, authored by several current and former students from SCW and GPATS, called on the university to restore Introductory and Intermediate Talmud, hire a full-time replacement for Rabbi Moshe Kahn, who taught Talmud at SCW for nearly 40 years until he passed away in January and secure funds to endow a chair of Talmud in Rabbi Kahn’s name.

“In a time when women who are dedicated to Torah, mitzvot, and meticulous observance of Halacha learn Torah at the highest levels,” stated the letter, “removing the building blocks that can lead to that advanced Torah study seems to go against all that Yeshiva University has stood for.”

Following the letter’s release, YU issued a press release Friday announcing a “number of new initiatives,” including a scholars program that will offer high-level Talmud and Tanach study for interested students and a chair of Talmud to be made in honor of Rabbi Kahn. The university asked donors to help fund these programs.

“We would be delighted if those who support women’s advanced Torah study and the students, friends and supporters of Rabbi Kahn would endow a Rabbi Moshe Kahn Chair of Talmud Studies for Women,” stated the university. 

Schechter told The Commentator that the new initiatives have been in the works for several months.

Miri Granik (SCW ‘24), who recently published an op-ed expressing her concern over the cancellation of Talmud courses, shared her excitement about their restoration. 

“I am so excited about the decision to add these courses,” said Granik. “These opportunities will make learning Gemara so much more accessible to Stern students.”

Miriam Schwartz (GPATS ‘22) emphasized the importance of endowing a Talmud chair. 

“Having an endowed chair for a full time Gemara professor would solve the problem of not being able to hire an adjunct professor for small groups of students,” said Schwartz, “would enable reinstating the Gemara skills track of GPATS, and would ensure that there are faculty members who are dedicated to growing the Gemara offerings and engaging the broader student body in learning Torah sheBaal Peh at SCW.”

News of the cancellation of Talmud courses garnered debate in the broader YU community, leading to several op-eds published in The Commentator, including from Schechter and GPATS Director Professor Nechama Price

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Photo Caption: Stern College for Women

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University