NEW YORK — In a historic move giving Orthodox women in the United States more authority to answer halachic questions on family purity, the first class of women advisers in Jewish Law graduated on Sunday.
Five women graduated from the North American branch of Nishmat’s yoetzet halacha program in a ceremony at Congregation Sheartith Israel, Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan.
Block, Price, Septimus, Warburg-Sinensky, and Weissman are pioneers in the field, the first women in America to have been trained to be yoatzot halacha, women advisers in Jewish Law, including but not necessarily limited to family purity law.
Housed at Maayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck under the auspices of Rabbi Kenneth Auman, dean of the US Yoatzot Halacha Fellows Program, the five women studied hilchot niddah, as outlined by the Israeli rabbinic curriculum, combined with an overlook of women’s health issues such as contraception, fertility, sexuality, and psychology.
The graduates have all accepted positions in synagogues and institutions in and around the New York area.
Rabbi Yonah Reis, Av Beit Din of the Chicago Rabbinical council and a Yale Law graduate, delivered the keynote address, praising both the program’s depth of study dedication, and its dedication to create strong female leaders in the Jewish community.
Graduate Nechama Price recognized her and her classmate’s innovative accomplishment. “We’re the first women trained in America specifically for an American tzibur [community].”
Price was initially reluctant to join the program when she was approached two years ago as she has taught at a collegiate level for seven years. “I wasn’t sure how much I would gain,” said Price, who continued that the course “added facets to my knowledge that I could not have envisioned.”
The phenomena of yoatzot halacha first evolved in Israel 16 years ago because many women