JOFA Organizational News

JOFA Organizational News

“My Body, Whose Decision?”

On July 29, at the Sixth Street Synagogue in New York City, JOFA held a panel on reproductive choice, looking at the issue from medical, halakhic, and legal perspectives. Dr. Susan Lobel spoke from her experience as an OB-GYN, describing the medical issues involved in abortion and fertility. Dr. Elana Stein-Hain reviewed the Jewish legal texts applicable to reproductive decisions and noted that halakhah does not speak of “reproductive rights” but of concern for life. Gail Katz, a lawyer, spoke about the potential conflicts that might arise from bringing the government into religiously based decisions. Dr. Michal Raucher was the moderator and guided the panel through many aspects of this complicated conversation. 

More than 100 participants left the event thinking about several questions raised during the Q&A section, including “How do we expand the conversation so that it more actively engages those who are not women able to get pregnant?” and “What is the role of the Jewish people in engaging in this conversation on a national level?” Similar panels will take place under JOFA’s auspices in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles in the coming months.

“Finding the ‘I’ in Identity” Shabbaton

JOFA’s “Finding the ‘I’ in Identity” Shabbaton was geared toward young, largely post-college, women and focused on the topic of identity—specifically, on the intersection of one’s different identities. A particularly powerful activity involved discussing the identities that affect one’s personal life the most: gender, sexuality, religion, socioeconomic status, citizenship, and race. From the discussion, participants realized how one aspect of their identity important to them might not manifest as strongly in another person. 

Shabbat was spent singing and snacking; a warm and open space was created in which participants felt comfortable opening up with their personal stories. The Shabbaton ended with a period of silent reflection during which participants created art, meditated outside, or sat and read relevant articles and books. 

JOFA and Yeshivat Maharat Summer Tour

For the third year, JOFA joined forces with Yeshivat Maharat to send women scholars all over the country in the summer. Some of the topics discussed were Miriam’s legacy; grappling with potential conflicts between ethics and the Torah, as in the case of Amalek; and the Talmud and technology. The goal of the summer tour was to expose communities to the models of female scholarship and leadership espoused by JOFA and Yeshivat Maharat.

Megillat Ruth App

The new Megillat Ruth app launched shortly before Shavuot. Just as in JOFA’s Megillat Esther app, this app helps users learn and practice chanting Megillat Ruth. It offers a translation of the entire text and switches easily from the Hebrew as a vowelized text to the unvocalized text as it appears in the megillah itself. JOFA received feedback from people all over the country who used the app to prepare themselves to read in front of a community for the first time.

93 Queen Movie Premiere

The 93 Queen movie premiere took place at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Washington, D.C., this past June. This movie, directed by JOFA Board member Paula Eiselt, focuses on Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, a lawyer and mother of six who revolutionized the role of women in her ultra-Orthodox community by training them to work as EMTs.They established themselves as an alternative to Hatzolah, the all-male Jewish volunteer ambulance corps, despite the opposition of many in their community who felt this was not work that could be done by a woman. The movie showing was followed by a Q&A session with Paula Eiselt herself.

Screening of The Unorthodox at the Israeli Film Festival

JOFA and JCC Manhattan partnered to screen The Unorthodox at the Seventh Annual Israeli Film Festival in New York. This movie portrays the struggle of Yakov Cohen to establish Israel’s first ethnic political party to fight for the rights of Sephardic Jews. The event was attended by members of the New York City community and was reviewed on JOFA’s blog. (See review, page _.)

First Volume of Hilkhot Nashim Is Out: More to Come

The Hilkhot Nashim series, adapted from JOFA’s Ta Shma series, presents an in-depth review of laws relating to women in Jewish ritual life. Tracing the development of responses on a given topic, from Talmudic to Geonic to medieval to modern, each chapter reproduces all relevant halakhic sources in both Hebrew and English. This first volume is devoted to questions of women in the synagogue: Kaddish, Birkat Hagomel, and Megillah.
The book, published by Maggid Books, is the first in a series of four volumes. Subsequent books will deal with such questions as Kiddush, Hamotzi, Zimmun, She’lo asani ishah, minyan, kol ishah, tefillin, tallit, and head covering. The book is now available for purchase at Keep an eye out for the second volume coming in 2020!
Support JOFA on the DTT Slate for World Zionist Congress Elections

Be a part of history: Vote for Dorshei Torah v’Tzion (DTT) in the next World Zionist Congress. 
Since 1897,  the World Zionist Organization (WZO) holds elections once every five years to seat delegates to the World Zionist Congress (WZC). Today, the WZC focuses on improving the unity of the Jewish people and their connection to Israel, fighting anti-Semitism, creating a vibrant Jewish and democratic state, educating Jews around the world, and more. 

JOFA, Yeshiva Chovevei Torah, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, and Porat have all partnered to form Dorshei Torah v’Tzion—Torah and Israel for All—to bring the voice of a committed and open-minded Modern Orthodox Zionist worldview to the congress. DTT is committed to Orthodoxy, dedicated to working with all Jews, open to expanding the role of women in all areas of religious, spiritual, and political life, and focused on strengthening the ties between the diaspora and the State of Israel. 

To register to vote, visit Elections will take place from January to March 2020. The actual World Zionist Congress will be called into session in October 2020. 

Devorah Scholar Challenge Grant

The Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) seeks to expand the spiritual, ritual, intellectual, and leadership opportunities for women by advocating for meaningful participation and equality for women in family life, synagogues houses of learning, and Jewish communal organizations to the fullest extent possible within halakhah.   

JOFA is pleased to announce the Devorah Scholar program, a new challenge grant opportunity generously made possible by Ann and Jeremy Pava. Orthodox synagogues may apply for a maximum grant of $10,000 per year for up to two years for funding to support the hire of a Devorah Scholar, a woman who will hold a newly created spiritual leadership position within the synagogue.

Eligible applicants to be a Devorah Scholar include (but are not limited to) graduates of the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, Nishmat, Ohr Torah Stone, Yeshivat Maharat, or Yeshiva University’s GPATS program.   

The deadline to apply is March 1, 2020. To complete an application, visit For more information, contact Daphne Lazar-Price at

Events & Updates