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Women’s Wisdom

What Was My Original Reason For Coming to EYAHT?
By Janet Rothman

As an older woman who is becoming religious, I decided I needed to go to the source – and study in Jerusalem. I wasn’t just looking for a learning experience.  I wanted to meet genuine role models. At AISH’s EYAHT College of Jewish Studies for Women, I found women who were highly intelligent and extremely kind.They epitomized Aishas Hile:  Woman of Valour who would not only disseminate what they know but would be living examples of Torah life

Why did I choose AISH’s EYAHT College of Jewish Studies for Women over other places to study?

I wanted an intimate setting with teachers who would present the full picture and were holding at the highest point of Jewish observance. 

One year ago, I participated in Gem, a Jewish Women’s learning program through Aish HaTorah. I attended the program for two reasons:  First, the program was open to Jewish women 30 years plus who had not been brought up religious but were seeking genuine answers to life’s questions. On a more personal level, my son was newly religious and I was impressed with the positive outcome his studies had on his life. 

The Gem program was stunning and I was introduced to EYAHT College and its extraordinary teachers through it. The Torah I studied was profound and living. I found individuals struggling with the same life issues as any ‘secular person’ but these Jews knew where they came from and they knew where they were going…and that made all of the difference when they encountered the business of everyday living.

I returned home hungry and knew I had to return. I wanted more classes that were challenging, genuine, and taught by seasoned Jewish practioners who “talked the talk and walked the walk”. So after a year of studying twice a week over the telephone…(one class with Mrs. Ovadia, the Chumash teacher from EYAHT, and one class with a one-on-one Partner in Torah study partner) I came to study for seven weeks at AISH’s EYAHT College of Jewish Studies for Women.  Although EYAHT is in the middle of completing its new site, I had the privilege of studying at its first home with 30 or so young women students.

What was it like learning at EYAHT?

Now I had heard that EYAHT was a tough woman’s seminary…there was straight talk, rigorous intellectual demands, and no watering down of Torah values. Indeed the atmosphere was very intimate and there was no mincing of truth but it was always encouraging. The love of Yidishkite and Torah values was inspiring. The women who taught and ran the school were open in their approach. When teaching, they gave examples from their own lives and demonstrated how they approached the living Torah. Following Rebbetzen Weinberg’s example, the founder of the school, each teacher radiated warmth and strength.

Indeed what I found was exactly what I had hoped for…the real thing…women struggling to find out who they are, what they can become through the deep study and understanding of the Jewish master-plan as laid out through the Torah and the oral law.

Who were my fellow students and what was expected of students?

Mostly young women were my classmates (in their 20’s and 30’s). They came from Israel, the United States, Canada, England, Mexico, and South Africa. Young married women and middle-aged women from both Israel and the United States would also drop in on classes. The young full-time students were “refugees from materialism” and they were bravely embracing ancient and time-tested Jewish values. Torah was their life-preserver – sometimes easy to grab and sometimes difficult to embrace. The discussions were not censored. No one was told what to do. 

Rather, Torah was the standard and each person was asked to examine themselves in light of this mirror. Would dressing modestly return to them a sense of decency and self-respect? Could prayer be a genuine way to connect to the Source?  By observing Shabbat and honoring the Creator, would a sense of rejuvenation and a sense of holiness be the gift? Did you know you were given an inheritance but you need to embrace it? 

Although the classes were meticulously taught and the text deciphered line by line, getting the right valuation, in my estimation was Rebbetzen Weinberg’s overarching aim. Why did Rebbetzen Weinberg stay on the same page for so many weeks? It wasn’t a race to cover as much text as possible. I think she remained on the same page so that everyone had a solid valuation that couldn’t be easily shaken by secular life. We were learning how to breathe Jewish values deeply into the core of the body…life-giving Torah knowledge. 

So what is it like to be at EYAHT for a day or in my case 49 days? 

Classes ranged from the 48 Ways of Understanding, to Shimros Ha Lahason, to Chumash, To Finding One’s Potential, to Jewish History to Tefilla and Halacha. All the many aspects of the Jewish life…were covered meticulously with brilliant teachers who used common-sense life metaphors to get across complex ideas.

Imagine returning to the fairy tales of your childhood – yes you are a princess who doesn’t indulge in negative speech, who is the master of her own thoughts, feelings, body, and her sexuality. You are a princess who rests on Shabbat because honoring the Creator is the best way to be grateful for this gift of life. You are an example to the world of remembering the true source of life.

Overcoming obstacles and giving oneself permission to grow!

It wasn’t easy to ask for seven weeks off work – with the majority of the time unpaid. But I felt my life was at stake…otherwise I would continue to go round and round on the secular wheel of work, perform, but whatever for???

The door to Torah was not closed to me by my lack of formal religious education nor would it be an obstacle in my seeking answers to many of life’s genuine questions. I might add that my own struggle to penetrate the veil of life and my own disappointments had brought me to a point where I was open to what I heard and what I heard confirmed my deepest intuitions.

EYAHT gave me the chance to study my Jewish inheritance deeply and begin my journey in earnest.

Thank you again Rebbetzen Weinberg and my love to everyone.

Janet Rothman