THE DEVORAH SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Jofa’s Devorah Scholars program

is the Slingshot

“10 to Watch” Featured Organization

for November 2022!

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JOFA’s Devorah Scholars Program provides funding for Orthodox synagogues in North America to hire their first paid full-time or part-time Orthodox women in spiritual leadership roles. This is the first program of its kind to meet a growing need for women’s leadership in Orthodox spaces where Devorah Scholars fulfill a range of needs such as pastoral counseling, delivering sermons, leading rituals, enhancing education for youth and adults, and much more. 

Meet the Devorah Scholars!

Second Cohort, 2022-2024

Rabbanit Yael Keller serves as Rabbanit-in-Residence at Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue in Illinois. Prior to that she worked as Rabbinic Intern at Ohev Sholom - the National Synagogue in Washington, DC and Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue. Rabbanit Yael uses her deep love of Torah to embrace teaching opportunities within a variety of community settings. Yael received ordination in June 2022 from Yeshivat Maharat. She is a graduate of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University with a Masters in Public Policy and a Masters in Jewish Professional Leadership. Rabbanit Yael has always believed strongly in building an equitable and just society and worked at several social justice organizations including Uri L’Tzedek, the Joint Distribution Committee and Impact Boston.  Before becoming a student, Yael worked as the Director of Operations at Yeshivat Maharat, working to create opportunities for Orthodox women to receive rabbinic training and ordination.

Rabbanit Atara Lindenbaum is the Associate Rabbanit at Hebrew Institute of White Plains. Rabbanit Atara received ordination from Yeshivat Maharat, after previously completing the Tanakh Educator's Program through Matan and Hebrew University, as well as a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from Hunter University. She has done work in community planning in Westchester and New York City, focusing on methods of inclusion and equity. Her Jewish leadership experience covers all age groups, from young children to teens, and adults/seniors. 

At HIWP, Rabbanit Atara is involved in cohort building, community engagement, programming, teaching, and lifecycle events. She is also helping the community re-engage and re-imagine after the pandemic, as the congregation is now in a new physical building and space. 

Rabbanit Atara’s busy, joyful family includes her husband Jeremy Bressman and their four children⁠, Dahlia, Gabriella, Molly, and JJ. Rabbanit Atara, when she is not in shul, enjoys swimming, paddle boarding, and making potato kugel with her family.

First Cohort, 2020-2022

Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn is a Board Certified Chaplain at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center where she specializes in Palliative Care, Critical Care, and Emergency Psychiatric Care, and she is the current president-elect of NAJC (Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains). Rabbanit Alissa is also the Devorah Scholar at Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ. From 2014 to 2022, Rabbanit Alissa served as a spiritual leader at B'nai David-Judea Congregation, as the first Orthodox female clergy in Los Angeles. She received her ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Classical Studies Archaeology and Ancient History. Rabbanit Alissa has worked at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital, Grateful Palliative Care and Hospice, The Center for Jewish End of Life Care at Metropolitan Jewish Health System, and My Jewish Learning, and is a prolific writer and speaker. In 2017, she was chosen as one of the Forward50, the Forward's annual list of the 50 most influential, accomplished, and interesting American Jews. Rabbanit Alissa is married to Akiva Newborn, and they live in Teaneck with their daughter Ella.

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Rabbanit Avital Engelberg is the Director of Maharat H-HARETZ in Israel, and serves as Ramit at Midreshet Ein HaNatziv. She also facilitates Orthodox weddings outside the rabbinate with the CHUPPOT organization. Rabbanit Avital was a fellow of the halakha program at Midreshet Lindenbaum and holds a B.A. in Theatre from Tel Aviv University, and a Master’s degree in Talmud from Bar Ilan University. She served as Rabbanit at Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, RI, and has taught Talmud at Yeshivat Maharat, and various Jewish educational institutions in Israel, including Elul, Beit Midrash Alma, Midreshet Ein Prat, and Israel’s Bronfman Youth Fellowship Program.

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Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter  is a Devorah Scholar and the founder and spiritual leader of the South Philadelphia Shtiebel, a modern orthodox community. Through prayer, learning and gathering opportunities, the Shtiebel strives to nourish spiritual growth and community connections across experiences and life stages. Rabbanit Fruchter also holds the position of Halachic Advisor for Women's Health and Halacha at Beth Sholom Congregation, where she once served as Assistant Spiritual Leader at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac, Maryland. Rabbanit Fruchter was ordained in 2016 by Yeshivat Maharat upon her completion of the Maharat Semikha Program. She graduated summa cum laude from the Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, and completed an M.P.A. in Non-Profit Administration and an M.A. in Jewish Studies from New York University's Wagner School of Public Service. She and her husband Daniel live in South Philadelphia.

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Rabbanit Jennifer Kotzker Geretz joined the spiritual leadership team at Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ, in Spring 2020 as a Devorah Scholar. Working with Rabbi Nati Helfgot, lay leaders, and members, Rabbanit Geretz developed and lead educational and other programs during the week, and on Shabbat and holidays. Passionate about Jewish education, she developed vision and strategy for programming infrastructure for adults and children. Rabbanit Geretz also provided counseling and pastoral support for congregation members throughout the lifecycle.

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Rabba Amalia Haas served as Director of Spiritual Engagement at Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, Rhode Island, from 2021-22, in the first cohort of Devorah Scholars. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, where she works as a chaplain at the Cleveland Clinic. She is the mother of six incredible children, ages 12-25. She is also the Founder and Chief Bee Whisperer of Amalia’s Bees (formerly Bee Awesome), a company that teaches about pollinators and climate change through the lens of the Jewish calendar, and markets unique, homegrown honeys for Rosh HaShanah. Rabba Amalia facilitates life cycle, professional development, and community events grounded in Torah, mindfulness, bibliodrama, nature, art and music. She studied at several institutions of higher learning in Israel, including Machon Pardes, MaTaN and the Michlala teachers college. She is an alumna of Oberlin College (Music, Women’s Studies), Yeshiva University’s Azrieli School of Jewish Education, and the Executive Kollel of Yeshivat Maharat.

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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.

Devorah Scholars Program News & Updates

 

  • 2022 Selection Process

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 1:2 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:

  • 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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Devorah Scholars FAQ

What is the application process?

  • Click here to access the grant application. 

  • Applications were due Sunday, February 13, 2022 for Cohort 2.

  • Synagogue leadership are 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 were due by Sunday, February 13, 2022.

  • Grantees were chosen in Spring 2022.

  • Grantees were required to make a Devorah Scholar hire in Summer 2022, to begin work before the High Holidays.

 

How does the matching grant work? 

  • Orthodox synagogues may apply for a 1:2 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 are required to supplement at a 1:2 ratio, with a minimum of an additional $20,000 and up to $66,000 per year. 

 

Do 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 Scholars cohort by watching this video from JOFA’s March 2021 virtual conference. 

 

Who can we reach out to if we have questions?:

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Devorah Scholars: Cohort 1, 2020-2022

 

In Spring 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