Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Director of J.P.I.

They call them the weaker sex, but we all know better. Traditional Judaism has always stressed the differences and unique qualities of men and women.

But now in the era of E.R.A. and Women's Liberation, we also have a noticeable Baal Teshuva Movement where both men and women from all walks of life are returning to observance of Torah Judaism.

It is not a simple matter for today's liberated Jewish woman to accept separation of the sexes, the laws of Family Purity, bearing many children, covering her hair and many of the other observances by women leading Torah lifestyles.

Yet, tens of thousands of previously disinterested Jewish girls and women have done precisely the opposite of what their grandmothers did a hundred years ago: They run to accept more, not less, of what Yiddishkeit proclaims to be the role of the true woman of valor: A devoted and loyal mother and wife.

If one wants to focus in on the success in reaching out to these women, one needs to look to the unique schools and organizations that have sprung up in America and Israel to deal with these special needs.

One of most charismatic teachers of previously secular Jewish women in America is Rabbi Manis Friedman of the Lubavitch Bais Chana Women's Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota. Each year, hundreds of women come from all over the United States for his intense seminars of Chassidic thought and Tanya. Rabbi Friedman has his own T.V. show, and recently published a national best seller on modesty: "Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore?".

In New York's Upper West Side, The Jewish Renaissance Center headed by Mrs. Leah Kohn, has for the past few years attracted hundreds of dynamic young women to their lectures. They recently began publication of a special newspaper called The Jewish Women's Journal whose motive is outreach. According to its publisher, the Journal's sophisticated style and accessibility appeal to "even estranged Jews. It provides a non-threatening glimpse into Jewish life."

In Israel this feat is accomplished on an even greater scale. The most famous school of Baalot Teshuvah is Neve Yerushalayim College. They have undertaken to build a stupendous campus in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem. According to brochures released by Neve Yerushalayim they cannot keep up with demand for their services. Not only American women, but Israeli, and Russian young women are turning to Neve to learn about their heritage. Headed by its founder and Dean, Rabbi Dr. Dovid Refson, the school has experienced a boom. Established in 1970, it was the first school to introduce serious young women without religious backgrounds to an in-depth study of Judaism Today with an enrollment of over 400 (four hundred) students it is the largest and most diversified institution of its kind in the world.

Other schools in Israel for women are Machon Alta of Lubavitch, IYAHT of Aish Ha Torah headed by Rebbetzin Weinberg, and a network of smaller schools.

Kiruv rechokim for women has come of age, as young secular Jewish women undertake the journey of study and commitment to Judaism, they then go on to marry and establish Torah homes. They in turn go on to inspire others who are seeking the same direction to do the same.

This is but a small sampling from the total panorama of the World of Jewish Outreach and the Baal Teshuvah Movement.

Kiruv: News and Views
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