December 2022

Tevet 5782

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) is excited to announce that applications are now open for the second cohort of Devorah Scholars. 

 

Seeking to increase the number of paid spiritual leadership positions for Orthodox women in Orthodox synagogues, the Devorah Scholars program offers a challenge grant to synagogues ready to make their first full or part-time hire. This opportunity is made possible by Micah Philanthropies, Ann and Jeremy Pava, Trustees.

 

Orthodox synagogues may apply for a 2:1 matching grant of $10,000 to $33,000 per year for up to two years of funding to support the hire of a Devorah Scholar.

 

“As we've witnessed firsthand, the ability to facilitate and model high-level female Torah leadership has facilitated increased religious engagement, learning, and growth in our community,” says Rabbi Barry Dolinger, whose synagogue Congregation Beth Sholom hired one of the first Devorah Scholars. “We're confident this will allow our synagogue to better meet members' thirst for more, relevant, high-quality Torah learning and spiritual engagement.”

 

Devorah Scholars bring to their communities a unique set of skills and talent.

 

They will:

 

  • Deliver congregational sermons

  • Present shiurim and drashot to the broader community

  • Offer pastoral care and counseling

  • Enhance youth and adult education

  • Meet the distinct needs of their community

 

Ruthie Braffman Shulman from the first cohort of Devorah Scholars reflected, “There are so many topics that arise in the congregational setting as well as in pastoral care surrounding infertility, mikvah, and women’s roles that having a woman’s perspective and voice is vital.”

 

For questions, please contact Sarah Kranz-Ciment at Sarah@jofa.org

 

JOFA advocates for expanding women’s rights and opportunities within the framework of halakha, to build a vibrant and equitable Orthodox community.

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FAQ

What is the application process?

  • Click here to access the grant application. 

  • Applications are due by Sunday, February 12, 2022.

  • Synagogue leadership will be interviewed by the JOFA selection committee and must provide a job description subject to approval.

  • Applicants are currently limited to North American congregations.

 

What is the grant timeline?

  • Applications are due by Sunday, February 12, 2022.

  • Grantees will be chosen in March, 2022

  • Grantees will be required to make a Devorah Scholar hire in summer 2022, so she can begin work before the High Holidays.

 

How does the matching grant work? 

  • Orthodox synagogues may apply for a 2:1 matching grant of $10,000 to $33,000 per year for up to two years of funding to support the hire of a Devorah Scholar.

  • Congregations will be required to supplement at a 2:1 ratio, with a minimum of an additional $20,000 and up to $66,000 per year. 

 

Will Devorah Scholars hold full or part-time positions?

  • Devorah Scholars may hold either full or part-time positions. Part-time positions require a minimum of 10-15 hours of congregational work per week.

 

If our congregation is awarded the grant, does that guarantee 2 years of funding?

  • Synagogues that are the recipients of grants will be evaluated after the first year in order to guarantee the second year of funding. 

What qualifications does a Devorah Scholar need to have?

  • For applying congregations: eligible applicants to be a Devorah Scholar include (but are not limited to) graduates of the following educational institutions:

    • Drisha

    • Nishmat (Yoetzet Halacha program)

    • Ohr Torah Stone

    • Yeshivat Maharat

    • Yeshiva University (GPATS)

 

Can we apply if we do not have a specific individual to fill the role? Can JOFA help us find a candidate for the Devorah Scholar position in our community?

  • Yes! You can apply without first identifying your hire. Please see the timeline in question #2 as to the process. 

  • JOFA can help circulate your job description within our network. We are also collecting names of women who are interested in the work. However, we cannot guarantee finding someone to fill the position. 

 

What reporting is our congregation required to complete throughout the grant period?

  • Congregations will be required to complete a mid-grant and end-of-grant report. 

 

In addition to her congregational role and responsibilities, what else is a Devorah Scholar required to participate in as part of her cohort experience? 

  • Devorah Scholars will be required to write for a JOFA publication (such as the JOFA Journal, Shema Bekolah, or blog posting) and participate in one of JOFA’s public events (webinar, synagogue event, conference).

 

What are some additional benefits for Devorah Scholars?

  • Devorah Scholars will participate in a cohort experience with other Devorah Scholars.

  • Devorah Scholars will benefit from additional professional development programming.

  • Devorah Scholars will benefit from liaising with JOFA leadership and other stakeholders.

 

Can I hear more about the first cohort and outcomes?

  • You can hear directly from the president of Micah Philanthropies and select participants of the first Devorah Scholar cohort by watching this video from JOFA’s March 2021 virtual conference. 

 

Who can we reach out to if we have questions:

Devorah Scholars: Cohort 1

 

In the spring of 2020, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance awarded Orthodox Synagogues with Devorah Scholar Grants, an innovative program designed to seed the American landscape with women spiritual leaders. This groundbreaking program was made possible thanks to the generosity of Micah Philanthropies. 

Since 1997, JOFA has been advocating for expanding women's rights and opportunities within the framework of halakha to build a vibrant and equitable Orthodox community. Pam Scheininger, President of the JOFA board, said: “Hiring Devorah Scholars is an inspiring and ambitious leap forward. We are heartened by the growth and flourishing of women’s spiritual leadership in Orthodox synagogues. Judging by the number of inquiries and applications we received from women and men across the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia, it is clear that there is a demand for women’s leadership roles in Orthodox synagogues around the world.”
 

"We are truly happy to pilot this program which will enable communities across North America to benefit from Orthodox women’s leadership and scholarship. We know these communities will be deeply enriched,” said Ann & Jeremy Pava, trustees of Micah Philanthropies.

“The value added by creating a space for women spiritual leaders who will serve as role models in Orthodox synagogues is incalculable. The positive ripple effects will benefit community members, both young and old for generations to come. Girls and women can aspire to lead as other synagogues can aspire to emulate this model,” said Daphne Lazar Price, JOFA’s Executive Director. 

The $20,000 two-year challenge grant was awarded to these Orthodox synagogues who are seeking to increase paid spiritual leadership positions for Orthodox women. 

The 2020 grant recipients who hired a woman to fill the role of the Devorah Scholar are: 

Congregation Beth Sholom, Providence, RI
Netivot Shalom, Teaneck, NJ
South Philadelphia Shtiebel, Philadelphia, PA 
United Orthodox Synagogues, Houston, TX

Meet the Devorah Scholars

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Rabbanit
Avital Engelberg

Rabbanit Avital Engelberg, a JOFA Devorah Scholar, served as Director of Spiritual Engagement at Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, RI; and is Ramit (rabbi and educator) at Midreshet Ein HaNatziv, Israel.  During her time at the congregation, Rabbanit Engelberg continued to run robust remote educational programming from her home in Israel. 

Rabbanit Engelberg innovated programs in the synagogue such as a joint sephardic and ashkenazi selichot services, women led-megillah reading and women tefillah services. She trained gabbayot who have since formally joined the ritual committee.

 

Thanks to Rabbanit Engelberg’s work in the community, bat mitzvah celebrations have become elevated and there is a new cadre of women who can read from the Torah.

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Rabbanit
Dasi Fruchter

Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter is the founder and spiritual leader of the South Philadelphia Shtiebel. She is also one of JOFA's Devorah Scholars. 

 

Rabbanit Fruchter is driven by relationship-based community building, facilitating meaningful ritual, and harnessing the power of spiritual community to make the world a better place. Under her leadership (and despite opening just prior to the outbreak of the pandemic), the South Philadelphia Shtiebel has quickly established itself as a synagogue and community center. 

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Rabbanit Jennifer Geretz

Rabbanit Jennifer Kotzker Geretz joined the spiritual leadership team at Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ in the spring of 2020 as a Devorah Scholar. Rabbanit Geretz, in consultation with Rabbi Helfgot, lay leaders, and members, is developing and leading educational and other programs on over the holidays, on Shabbat and during the week. Passionate about Jewish education, she is also working to provide vision and strategy for programming infrastructure for adults and children. She is also providing counseling and pastoral support for members throughout the lifecycle.

 

Rabbanit Geretz’s leadership will continue to attract new members to Netivot Shalom allowing it to grow and flourish. 

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Rabbanit
Amalia Haas

Rabba Amalia Haas is the Director of Spiritual Engagement and the current Devorah Scholar at Congregation Beth 

Sholom in Providence, RI.  There she will offer pastoral meetings, shiurim, and digital learning. 

Rabbanit Haas is an experiential educator, writer, and organic beekeeper, who designs and teaches Judaism-informed honeybee education programs, sells raw honey and is “Rabba of the Bees” at the Shalom Institute in Malibu, CA. Previous education includes Michlalah, Machon Pardes, MaTaN, Yeshiva University, and Oberlin Conservatory. She is also a chaplaincy resident at the Center for Spiritual Care at the Cleveland Clinic, and serves as a Holding Space Consultant at the Institute for the Study of Birth, Breath and Death, a program created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Rabba Amalia lives in Beachwood, Ohio with her husband Adam and six children ages 9 - 23.

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Ruthie Braffman Shulman

Ruthie Braffman Shulman served as a Devorah Scholar at the United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston, TX.  There she held the role of  Director of Education and Engagement and halachic consultant at United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston. Her role there as a member of the leadership team was multi-faceted; she led educational programming for community members, online webinars on current events and was able to advise community members on halachic matters.