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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

On January 9, the Orthodox Union’s Women’s Initiative launched its new Nach Yomi program, “Torat Imecha,” dedicated by Eta Brandman Klaristenfeld in memory of her aunt Malka Nussbaum. Female scholars deliver daily podcasts on each of the 742 chapters of Nevi’im and Ketuvim, in a slightly over two-year cycle. Each shiur targets all levels of learning.

Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, director of Women’s Initiatives, explained that she and her husband participated in the OU’s previous Shoshana Grossman Nach Yomi program. “My husband and I learned nightly together. The Daf Yomi cycle beginning again was a fervor we wanted to capitalize on. We also want to add women’s voices to the current Nach Yomi content. We are very excited to be able to introduce to the community women educators who have expertise in Nach.”

In her current position, Shmidman has met many women who are noted Tanach educators. There are currently over 25 female scholars working on this project.

“I am thrilled by the reception in our communities, built around Torah learning and, in particular, Nach learning. We are seeing not just individuals who participate, but also communities creating programming of their own, such as WhatsApp groups and siyumim on Yehoshua. The reaction to this program from women and others in the Orthodox community is incredibly positive.”

According to Shmidman, Michal Horowitz, their first educator, has been passing along feedback that has been over the top. In one family, for example, a woman is learning with her four daughters. Then, the grandmother started to participate. She created a family WhatsApp group, so three generations are able to share highlights daily of the Torah learning they are doing. In this world of technology, you talk about building on a family level, a geographic community level, and a global community level. This powerful movement seems to be capturing the interest of the community in such a positive way.“

The podcast is now delivered at 12:30 a.m. EST. The existing Nach Yomi emails were going out at 7:30 a.m. EST. With larger participation in Israel, it’s now available for their morning commute. Current podcasts are about 10 minutes long. “We are keeping the podcasts short enough that people can listen when they are on their way to work, even if they are carpooling. It is not a large time commitment,” states Shmidman.

“Certainly, the more people invest, the more they will gain and grow. Someone asked if they are obligated to open and read from the text. There is no right or wrong here. Any learning, whether listening or reading or engaging in a conversation, is all value added.”

Currently the program has 4,200 participants, 99% of them women. It is open to all, and there are definitely some men, but they are positioning this as Torat Imecha, by women. There are participants from 26 different countries—from the largest communities to even Scotland, Serbia, Indonesia, Peru and Uruguay. In the USA, 37 states are represented.

The podcasts are in English. However, you don’t have to be listening to the podcast in order to be participating. “Some people are auditory learners, some visual learners, some like to read, some people like to listen. It is similar to the Daf Yomi. There is no right way, aside from keeping up with a chapter each day. That is really what makes this a movement,” explains Shmidman.

Is it too late to start and catch up? Shmidman declared, “Not at all! It is never too late! This cycle started January 9; if you do two podcasts a day you will be caught up in in no time. The book of Shoftim begins on February 2; you can join at the beginning of this sefer. If you didn’t get in on day one, you didn’t miss the boat. The boat is waiting for you. We’re excited for every person to be involved. More participants enhances the program, and demonstrates how much there is a love for learning. It’s absolutely overpowering to see so many people from around the globe and even from around the USA.”

In announcing the program, OU President Moshe Bane stated, “Torat Imecha is another terrific program from our Women’s Initiative. When OU Torah Initiatives started the Nach Yomi cycle two years ago, there was a desire from the community to have Nach presented by women. We’re excited to offer this program as the new cycle begins.” Executive VP Allen Fagin added, “This series presents a world-class roster of female scholars who will teach Nach Yomi from their perspective, bringing nuance and erudition to the participants in these exciting new shiurim.” To subscribe to the daily Torat Imecha Shiur and to access more content, visit https://www.ou.org/women/torat-imecha-sign-up.

By Judy Berger