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Citing ‘outpouring of interest,’ Yeshiva U restores women’s Talmud classes whose cancelation incited an uproar


(JTA) — Beginner and intermediate Talmud courses are back on the course schedule for undergraduate students at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, after an uproar over their cancellation.

Stern College administrators had said the school would not offer beginning and intermediate Talmud — courses about a foundational Jewish text for women at the country’s flagship Modern Orthodox university — because of low enrollment in those classes. That prompted more than 1,400 students, graduates and others to sign a petition urging the school to reinstate the classes and to endow a full-time chair of Talmud studies.

Now, Stern College says it is adding several Talmud classes to next semester’s schedule, citing increased interest among students. (Registration opens May 2.)

“It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of interest revolving around women’s Talmud learning on the Beren campus,” Shoshana Schechter, Stern’s associate dean of Torah and spiritual life, and Deena Rabinovich, chair of the Jewish studies department, said in a letter distributed to students by email and WhatsApp on Tuesday.

The two Talmud courses being added to the schedule will be taught by Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier, who studied Talmud and ancient Jewish texts at Yeshiva University and at Yale University, from which he received a PhD. He has already been teaching the advanced Talmud course for undergraduates, taking over after the death of Rabbi Moshe Kahn, the longtime advanced Talmud teacher who died of lung cancer in January. In the fall, he will teach intermediate and advanced Talmud, adding a second advanced option to the women’s course schedule.

“This is great news,” said Tamar Beer Horowitz, one of the organizers of the petition. “It’s amazing how much this was able to accomplish in only a few days. I think it really showed people how much this means to people. Everyone got a very clear message about the fact that there is interest and that this is something valuable.”

A beginner Talmud class for undergraduates called “Talmud Psychology” is also being added to the schedule, and it will be taught by third-year graduate student Ariella Etshalom.

A representative from Stern College did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter to students notifying them of the course schedule update did not refer further to a search for a full-time chair, which another note sent out by administrators on Friday invited people concerned about the future of women’s Talmud study at Stern College to support. It also did not mention a canceled graduate-level Gemara course, which is one class that Beer Horowitz, a current student in the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud/Tanach Studies, wants to see make its way back onto the schedule.

“I’d love to see a reinstatement of the second GPATS shiur [study session] as well, and also further advancements in terms of the Gemara studies on the undergraduate campus,” Beer Horowitz said. “But this is a really great response and we’re very happy with it.”

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