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.

The Devorah Scholars program is made possible with the generous support of Micah Philanthropies, Ann and Jeremy Pava, Trustees. 

 * MAY 2023 UPDATE *
Announcing Devorah Scholars Challenge Grant Opportunity for Orthodox Congregations
Cohort 3: 2024-2026

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (Jofa) is pleased to launch the applications for the third cohort of the Devorah Scholars Program (2024-2026), a challenge grant opportunity generously made possible by Micah Philanthropies, Ann & Jeremy Pava, Trustees. Jofa advocates for expanding women’s rights and opportunities within the framework of halakha, to build a vibrant and equitable Orthodox community.  

The Devorah Scholars Program seeks to increase paid spiritual leadership positions for Orthodox women in Orthodox synagogues. Orthodox synagogues may apply for a minimum grant of $10,000 for a part-time position (10-15 hours/week), or a maximum grant of $33,000 for a full-time position. Congregations will be required to supplement a 2:1 match of the grant amount received. Synagogues that receive grants will be evaluated after the first year in order to guarantee the second year of funding.

Synagogues must provide a job description to be considered as part of the application process. Applicants advancing to the next round will be invited to have their current clergy and president of the board interview with the Jofa selection committee. 

Required components of the position include (but are not limited to):

  • Deliver congregational sermons
  • Provide shiurim and drashot to the broader community
  • Pastoral care and counseling
  • Youth and adult education
  • Participate in cohort-building experiences, including professional development workshops

 
For applicant congregations: Eligible Devorah Scholars include (but are not limited to) graduates of the following educational institutions:

  • Drisha Institute
  • Nishmat (Yoetzet Halacha program)
  • Ohr Torah Stone
  • Yeshivat Maharat
  • Yeshiva University (GPATS)

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

Key Dates: 

  • Application submission deadline: November 17, 2023.
  • Selections made by: January 8, 2024.
  • Intended start date: August 1, 2024.

For Interested Devorah Scholar Candidates:

Jofa is collecting information from qualified women who are interested in serving as Devorah Scholars. If you or someone you know would like to be considered to apply for a Devorah Scholar position, please complete this Devorah Scholar Candidate Interest Form. Jofa will share candidate information with interested synagogue leadership who may reach out to the candidate directly.

For more information or questions, please contact Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment at Sarah@jofa.org

Devorah Scholars Program Testimonials:

“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.”

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.”

Rabba Amalia Haas, who served as a Devorah Scholar at Congregation Beth Sholom in Providence, Rhode Island, expressed: “Being a Devorah Scholar has shaped my development as a leader in ways that are impossible to overstate. Teaching my congregation, comforting and counseling congregants seeking pastoral care, having congregants approach me to describe the impact of my leadership on their spiritual lives, has allowed me to fully step into my authority as a rabba.”


Devorah Scholars Cohort 3: FAQ

What is the application process?

  • Click here to access the grant application. 
  • Applications are due by November 17, 2023.
  • 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 November 17, 2023.
  • Grantees will be chosen by January 8, 2024.
  • Grantees will be required to make a Devorah Scholar hire by August 1, 2024, 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 hiring 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 receive 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?

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 adhere to the same timeline. 
  • Jofa can help circulate your job description within our network. However, we cannot guarantee finding someone to fill the position. 
  • Jofa is collecting information from qualified women interested in serving as a Devorah Scholar. If you or someone you know would like to be considered to apply for a Devorah Scholar position, please complete this Devorah Scholar Candidate Interest Form. Jofa will share candidate information with interested synagogue leadership who may reach out to the candidate directly.

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 an article for the Jofa Journal, Shema Bekolah, or a blog posting) and participate in one of Jofa’s public events (webinar, synagogue event, conference).
  • Devorah Scholars will be required to participate in a monthly professional development cohort that will be organized by Jofa.

What are some additional benefits for Devorah Scholars?

  • Devorah Scholars will participate in a cohort experience with other Devorah Scholars and will benefit from professional development programming.
  • Devorah Scholars will benefit from connecting with Jofa leadership and other stakeholders.

How can I hear more about Devorah Scholars’ experiences and communal 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. 
  • Click here to see Devorah Scholars highlighted as Slingshot’s “10 to Watch” featured organization for November 2022.
  • We can connect you with current or past Devorah Scholars and/or synagogue leadership.

Who can we contact with questions?

Please contact Dr. Sarah Kranz-Ciment at Sarah@jofa.org or review the additional information on our website.