Sarit-Chen, of Beer Sheva, attended Nishmat’s Israeli Midrasha program 20 years ago and is now in her second year of the Keren Ariel Yoatzot Halacha Fellowship. She has a BA in Social Work, an MA in Public Administration with a specialty in non-profits, and is a mother of four boys, ages 8-16. In addition to maintaining a senior position at MATAV, a center that works to advance adults with mental and physical disabilities, Sarit-Chen advises women after birth, gives shiurim in three different shuls in her community, and teaches two online learning groups with almost 200 participants.
Sarit-Chen and her husband are a host family for two conversion programs, hosting converts for Jewish holidays and Shabbatot and aiding them through the Rabbinical courts. She founded a local chesed organization, Yad Tamar, that assists families in distress. Add all of this a two hour commute to Nishmat in Jerusalem each way, 3 times a week by public transportation! Sarit-Chen leaves her home at 5:45 AM and doesn’t return home until 7:00 PM with eight hours of intensive study in-between. One night a week, she sleeps at Nishmat to save a commute.
Sarit-Chen always dreamed of becoming a Yoetzet Halacha—yet struggled to maintain her level of fluency in gemara as there was a dearth of advanced Torah study options in Beer Sheva. She also needed to wait for her family to be ready for her to make the intensive commitment. In 2016, after 18 years of being away from formalized Talmud study, Sarit-Chen decided the time was right. She found herself a chevruta, a student in Ben Gurion University’s Medical School and began preparations for the Keren Ariel Yoetzet Halacha Fellowship’s entrance exam. She also began putting aside funds so she could reduce her work hours to make room in her schedule to study at Nishmat. Sarit- Chen’s advice to women who want to become Yoatzot Halacha, yet life circumstances are not yet conducive or they live outside of a Torah learning metropolis?
“There is a time for everything. Do not give up on your dream. I have to work much harder than most other women in the program. I am older and need to spend extra hours on my studies—but it’s all worth it. Be patient. The joy and fulfillment of returning to the bet midrash after so many years and being able to sit around a table with so many women, talmidot chachamim, with the same love for Torah and commitment to studying, has been a very meaningful experience for me.”