“I’m quitting Judaism”

“I’m quitting Judaism” -Me, to my friend, after I saw the following.

Yesterday, I was looking through MASA’s Israel programs, and I found a frightening fact: It’s extremely hard to find a women’s seminary that actually teaches Talmud. The closest I found, Mayanot, seemed promising but alas, I found it wanting (there were hints of course, like the fact that Tanya is a class). Here’s why:

This is the schedule for Women’s Yeshiva 2, which is the highest women’s level they have. Note how the majority of classes are either in the “Inspirational” or “Skill” category, and also notice the big gigantic break at the end of the day (and also they say “supper;” what is this, the 50’s?), and remember all this when you look at:

The Men’s Yeshiva 3 schedule. Yes, needless to say the women are being more “inspired”…to do what? (I think you know.) If that’s your ideology, why take the runaround? Why teach women Talmud at all? What’s the point of all this? This is the course listing for women’s Talmud:

This is the course listing for men’s Talmud:

Also just know that women’s Halacha goes up to the 200-level and men’s Halacha goes to the 400-level. Why? I don’t understand. Usually, the idea is that women “don’t need to learn Gemara” or whatever, if you’re going to be that way, but it seems as if the point here at Mayanot is that women can learn Gemara…but only the “applicable” or “inspirational” sections. I mean, not all of the Talmud is about making sufficient challah and being an eshet chayil, I mean come on.

Well, anyway, you already knew all that.

The point is, why can’t they just come out and say it? They make me search around and waste all my time. I learned something though: Separate is never equal.

Why is it so hard to find a moderate yeshiva? I feel like the men’s aren’t much better (like even they spend half their day learn Chassidus, in case you didn’t notice). It’s already totally ingrained in the Orthodox world that “women don’t need to learn as much”. Even Yeshiva University, which allegedly has that women’s MA in Advanced Talmud or whatever program—the admissions guy told me that the women’s Judaic studies course load is more spread out (read: less intensive) because “women learn differently”. Yeah.

Postscript: There’s always Pardes (and Drisha and Nishmat), but that doesn’t solve the problem. (I also heard it’s a beginner’s yeshiva.) What about afterward? Women’s education is in the 15th century.

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16 thoughts on ““I’m quitting Judaism”

  1. I’m too old for that one, sadly; most of these places are for gap year “post-high school” students. At least some exist, though.

  2. AFAIK, Harova, YU, and similar institutions require that all applicants must be Halachically Jewish by the standards of their posek.

  3. There are adult programs. One of my wife’s dreams is to spend a summer at one of the programs in Jerusalem just learning. She learns Mishnah with a coed group; has never been interested in Gemara. Though all my daughters attended a high school where they COULD learn Gemara if they wished. We left that choice to them; we saw our job as making sure that the choice existed.

    One daughter will be at Stern this fall. Whether or not she learns Gemara is up to her. The choice is available.

  4. AFAIK, Harova, YU, and similar institutions require that all applicants must be Halachically Jewish by the standards of their posek.

    Not YU, I learned, at least according to the admissions guy who might have just wanted my money. I’m starting to figure out that anyplace that has “must be Orthodox” as a prerequisite (some do; I’ve seen it) is probably a place that has a fairly, oh, narrow agenda—if only for the fact that the sole voice of the beit midrash is Orthodox. Same for any denomination.

    There are adult programs. One of my wife’s dreams is to spend a summer at one of the programs in Jerusalem just learning.

    There’s Pardes.

    One reason I like Pardes is that they’re (by self-definition) both pluralistic and halachic. That’s rare.

  5. C & I: I like them both, but can’t you see? There’s only two! And they’re egalitarian!
    I’m still holding to my point that separate isn’t equal.

    Oh, and if you’re only teaching your women Talmud to the pre-basic level, don’t call it a yeshiva!

  6. There is Drisha, which has Talmud classes for women from beginning to advanced, and the Stern GPATS program (or whatever it’s called now), which has advanced classes. There are also: Nishmat, Matan, and Beit Morasha in Jerusalem, as well as (if you’re willing to consider co-ed places) Pardes and the Conservative Yeshiva, and a new yeshiva called Yeshivat Talpiot.

    I’m a 32-year-old who went to Ortho day school where I learned Talmud 2x/day from 7th-12th grade and then spent a gap year at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Israel, after which I went to college, after which I studied at Yeshivat Hadar, Pardes, the Conservative Yeshiva, and Drisha. So I’ve been around. There are many, many more options than there were 20 years ago (certainly 30 or 40 years ago), and I think that things are generally improving in the world of women’s learning. It’s really not quite the 15th century out there. It’s also definitely not equal access for women and men. Especially at the higher levels, I think that there are many fewer options for women. Maybe that’s true at the beginning, as well. In the middle, I think that there are a fair number of options for women in Jerusalem and New York City. Elsewhere, of course, it’s a wash.

  7. Thanks for your comment. AND I’m reading your blog right now.

    I was also tired of this business of begging the rabbinic establishment to let us do things, as if they held exclusive keys to the kingdom of God. We all spoke to God every day. Why did they have the monopoly?

    I KNOW!

    Anyway, it’s good to know that there are more places than what I’d thought of. I heard of Yeshivat Talpiot; too bad they don’t have a website that I could find.
    But like I said to my rabbi that one time, NEVER SURRENDER!

    EDIT: Never mind; I guess I didn’t see this the first time around.

  8. Wow, did I write that? That’s pretty good! (I really didn’t even vaguely recognize it.) Maybe I should get back into blogging… I kind of miss it.

    You should—I thought your “Best Of” posts were pretty good!!

    Like their website, though, it is all in Hebrew. Matan’s and Beit Morasha’s classes are also all in Hebrew. I sometimes forget about the Hebrew barrier…

    Oh, I’ll just go to Ulpan first and pick it up! That’s kind of a pretty huge barrier to keep up.

  9. I hear your pain.
    But I echo what was said above- Drisha, Pardes, Hadar, Matan are all great places. Pardes sounds closest to what you are looking for. And if you stay a few years you can work your way up to serious gemarah. It takes time.

    Are you personally looking for a separate sex experience?

    I’m actually a founding member of Yeshivat Talpiot. The web site is in hebrew because it is an Israeli program taught all in hebrew for people with previous learning background. If you thought there weren’t enough open minded programs for men or women, there are way less for Israelis. Right now, in our first program, we’re not aiming at providing a first time learning experience but rather trying to open the talmudic discourse to liberal values. Religion in Israel tends to be all or nothing, fundamentalist right wing and moving to the right or secular and historical and cultural. We’re trying to broaden the religious conversation, in way that is second nature to American Judaism. Religion has serious political ramifications in Israel and we Israeli’s need to find new ways to think about Rabbinic power, the development of halakha and community values.

    You can check out our English site which is under construction if you are curious.
    http://yeshivattalpiotenglish.weebly.com/

  10. Pardes sounds closest to what you are looking for. And if you stay a few years you can work your way up to serious gemarah. It takes time.
    Well, I can’t wait to start. I will probably apply to the year program at Pardes after I graduate.

    Are you personally looking for a separate sex experience?
    Not so much that as I’m just noticing that it’s nearly impossible to find a quality separate sex experience (even in the US, I suspect)—I think it’s part of a bigger issue in that Orthodoxy’s in a place where it’s not quite sure what to do with its women.

    Religion in Israel tends to be all or nothing, fundamentalist right wing and moving to the right or secular and historical and cultural. We’re trying to broaden the religious conversation, in way that is second nature to American Judaism.
    Yeah. This is a great thing that you’re doing, and I’m interested to see where it—and similar institutions in Israel—goes.

  11. Hey, I will say this about women’s schedules and yeshivot, and I hope that it won’t offend you. I’m going through geirus right now, and I’m learning at a midrasha:

    In living a practical Jewish life, ESPECIALLY as someone who wants to convert, it is extremely important to learn practical halacha. When you didn’t grow up religious, you don’t have your parents to absorb shabbat and kashrut from. You have to learn every single detail, it’s not second nature. This is why learning practical is absolutely necessary for all BTs/geirim. You have to learn the reasons behind different rulings about different issues, otherwise, you’ll just (inconsistently) absorb what other people do and not be your own independent Jewish woman.

    Gemara learning is great (I enjoy it myself quite a bit when working with good teachers), so is learning mishnayot, Jewish philosophy, and mysticism. However, you need the practical halacha to pass the beit din and to keep up your observance. We don’t pasken like the Gemara, so even though it is intellectually captivating, it is not practical for day to day use. (I remember learning about the ba’al kari–not something we pasken by today.) If you’re Ashkenaz, you need to know the Rema’s rulings (so check out the Shulchan Aruch) and the Mishnah Berurah.
    Unfortunately, most men who are baalei teshuvas and learning in yeshiva don’t learn much practical halacha, and always have to ask shaylas to their rabbis or they have to ask their wife. Part of being an indepenent Jewis

  12. Oh no, part of your message cut off!

    In living a practical Jewish life, ESPECIALLY as someone who wants to convert, it is extremely important to learn practical halacha.
    Yeah, you’re right. But I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that it stops there, especially in a place that’s supposed to be a yeshiva, a place of advanced learning. It’s like when I was still trying to apply to Stern College and the guy told me that because I’m a transfer (and from public schools) I’d be placed in the mechina program and I’d never be able to graduate out of it.

    Also, what do you learn besides shabbat and kashrut? I have a suspicion that things like business ethics are eschewed in favor of womanly subjects like kashrut (because women cook) and mikveh and stuff. I don’t know though; that’s just what I get from looking at the websites.

    Unfortunately, most men who are baalei teshuvas and learning in yeshiva don’t learn much practical halacha, and always have to ask shaylas to their rabbis or they have to ask their wife.

    You know, now that I’m thinking about it, I could see how both men’s and women’s yeshivot/midrashot could have their pros and cons. I seriously dislike that Talmud is inherently “for men” simply by principle, but at the same time I could see how men’s practical learning could get ignored.

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