The shelves of the Beit Midrash are overwhelmingly dominated by books and articles written by men — enter the second cohort of Maharat's writing fellowship called Va'tichtov: She Writes. The fellowship aims to elevate Jewish women's scholarship by building a cohort of scholars, and providing the skills, support, and resources necessary to produce new content. Highly educated female authors are vital because they give insight into additional perspectives, while maintaining a high level of scholarship. We must allow all important ideas, perspectives and understandings of Jewish text to augment our community, regardless of the author’s gender.
Although more women are entering the upper echelons of Torah scholarship, women’s voices are still largely missing from the discourse around key philosophical and halakhic issues. As a result, fewer women see themselves as contributors and lack the confidence in their ideas and skills to seek out publishing opportunities. By omitting them, we, as a Jewish community, lose out on the knowledge, perspective, passion and skills those women could bring to our discourse. Women need to be encouraged and guided so that their thought leadership is available throughout our community and so that their voices become a part of the Jewish textual tradition.
An independent selection committee of seasoned Jewish women scholars reviewed the applications and ultimately selected these 12 impressive leaders. Fellows will benefit from specific training and individualized writing coaching, and will present their 3,000-word pieces at a virtual convening in December 2022.
Introducing the Va'tichtov: She Writes 2022 Fellows
Dr. Rachel Furst is a research fellow and adjunct lecturer in Jewish history and Jewish law at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Her academic scholarship focuses on Jewish law-in-practice and Jewish-Christian relations in medieval Europe, as well as on the history of women and gender. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her B.A. from Barnard College. She is also a graduate of advanced Talmud and halakhah programs at Matan, Midreshet Lindenbaum, and Beit Morasha. Dr. Furst has taught and lectured widely in high school, university, and adult education settings in the United States, Israel, and Europe. She currently lives in Munich, Germany with her husband and daughters.
Rabba Shani Gross is the Director of Programs at Pardes North America. Shani most recently served as Pardes’s Assistant Director of North American Education. Shani earned rabbinic ordination from Yeshivat Maharat, is a Wexner Graduate Fellow/Davidson Scholar (Class 29), and a former Hillel Fellow for Rabbinic Entrepreneurship (OOI). Shani was the Director of the Silicon Valley Beit Midrash, a center of learning on the West Coast. Shani loves to teach on topics related to Tanakh & Midrash. When not teaching, she can usually be found with her husband Chaim, chasing after their two beautiful sons.
Avigayil Halpern is studying toward rabbinic ordination as a member of Hadar's Advanced Kollel. She has taught Torah in spaces including the Drisha Institute, Hunter Hillel and Brandeis Hillel, and the Kreuzberg Kollel (now Ze Kollel), and is trained as a Mikveh Guide through Rising Tide, the national network of community mikvaot. Avigayil holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Yale University, where she completed a senior thesis exploring Talmudic narratives of women engaged in Torah discourse and the implications of such stories for feminists committed to the study of Talmud today. She has written on issues of Judaism and gender in Jewish and other media and is currently writing a weekly dvar Torah on the parsha incorporating queer and feminist insights through her newsletter, Approaching (avigayil.substack.com).
Nomi Kaltmann is from Melbourne, Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Jewish Civilizations from Monash University, as well as a Master’s degree in Legal Practice from the Australian National University. Previously Nomi has worked for the Shadow Attorney General of Australia and for the Victorian Legislative Assembly. Nomi also coordinated and accompanied a Parliamentary delegation to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Nomi is one of the founding members of the Women’s Orthodox Tefillah Group in Victoria. She is also the founder and inaugural president of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA) in Australia. Previously Nomi completed several fellowships, including at Hillel International’s Centre for Rabbinic Innovation and the Orthodox Leadership Program for Women (OLP). She writes regularly, with her pieces most often appearing in Tablet Magazine, where she is the Australian correspondent and Plus61J, where she has a monthly piece.
Morah Deborah Klapper is an innovative and progressive educator specializing in big picture understandings of Tanach narratives and literacy-based Torah education. After many years as a classroom teacher and school administrator, Morah Klapper is now a full-time tutor, teaching adults and children to read and understand the texts of our tradition independently, so they can form their own relationships with Hashem and truly inherit their heritage. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard College and certificate from the Drisha Scholars' Circle. She lives and works in Sharon, Ma.
Rina Krautwirth attended Barnard College, where she majored in Biology. She is a graduate of the Drisha Scholar’s Circle, where she studied for three years. She also holds a Master’s degree in Modern Jewish History from YU and an MLIS from Queens College. Rina has served on the young leadership board of the New York chapter of the Israel Cancer Research Fund, where she helped to organize fundraising events. She also has interned at the American Museum of Natural History, including at its butterfly exhibit. She is interested in the intersection between science and Judaism and has written articles and spoken on the topic. Additionally, she has authored an article for Researchers Remember, an anthology of writings by children of Holocaust survivors.
Dr. Tamar Marvin is a scholar, writer, and educator currently based in Los Angeles. She holds a Ph.D. in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary, a B.A. in Literature and Journalism from New York University, and is currently a student in the semicha program at Yeshivat Maharat. She has taught in a number of university and Jewish settings, including American Jewish University, Hebrew Union College, and the Wexner Heritage Foundation, and published her work in academic and broader media. Tamar is particularly interested in the theory and codification of halakhah, the transmission of texts and traditions, and Jewish theology. She is passionate about creating access to foundational Jewish texts in their full complexity for all who wish to approach them. She believes that magic happens when people encounter Jewish text—that this process is transformative and generative both for them and for Judaism.
Trobairitz Dana Pulver is a cultural art and social entrepreneur, exploring new formats and genres in approaching Jewish literature. She is the creator of a musical interpretive project Talmudic Ballads, which brings a surprising match between Talmudic stories and European folk music. Another new genre of her foundation: Midrashirt or T-Midrash, on dresstelling.com. In this initiative Dana creates clothes that tell a story, via a dialogue between Jewish heritage and pop culture. A few years back Dana appeared on RTVi, an international Russian language television network broadcast all over the world discussing the weekly Torah portion. She also commented on Jewish texts for Israeli press like Maariv online, Makor Rishon and Eretz Acheret, and contributed to Dirshuni – a compendium of women’s midrashim. She holds an MA from the HU in cognitive sciences and an MSc in molecular biology from Ariel University. She was born in Kiev, Ukraine, made aliya to Israel, and today lives in Maale Shomron with her family.
Rabbanit Chani Ravhon Klein is a scholar, educator, and perpetual student. Chani studied in both Migdal Oz and Midreshet Lindenbaum and graduated from the Susi Bradfield Women's Institute of Halachic Leadership at Midreshet Lindenbaum (WIHL). Currently, a participant of the RIKMA Beit Midrash for Rabbinic Leadership alongside studying couples and family therapy. Chani loves teaching Torah and interacting with people. Her real joy comes from the space where the two connect. This reflects upon her writing where she shares a relatable interpretation of the parsha. She is also a certified life coach who guides others on the journey to find their unique voices and answers within. Lives in Maale Adumim and teaches groups and individuals around Israel.
Tikva Blaukopf Schein lives in Jerusalem, where she periodically runs Torah-poetry slams, learns, and teaches (although she sees all her teaching as learning). She is finishing up her doctoral research at Bar-Ilan University on the threatening nature of laughter in Ancient Jewish and Classical literature. Her first and second degrees are from Oxford University in Classics and Oriental Studies. Tikva was involved in fostering Jewish learning globally via Limmud for many years and she is a teacher by profession. She is looking forward to developing her learning through cultivating a strong writing (and sharing) practice, together with the gem of this community that the Fellowship coheres.
Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn is a Board Certified Chaplain through Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC) and a trailblazer in Orthodox Jewish female spiritual leadership. From 2014 to 2022, Rabbanit Alissa served as a spiritual leader at B'nai David-Judea Congregation, as the first Orthodox female clergy in Los Angeles. She received her ordination from Yeshivat Maharat and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Classical Studies Archaeology and Ancient History. Rabbanit Alissa is a prolific writer and speaker, with specialties in end of life care, palliative care, and psychiatric care. She is the current President-Elect of NAJC, and in 2017 she was chosen as one of the Forward50, the Forward's annual list of the 50 most influential, accomplished, and interesting American Jews. Starting in May 2022, she is thrilled to join the Pastoral Care Department at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Rabbanit Alissa is married to Akiva Newborn, and they have a wonderful toddler named Ella.
Dalia Wolfson is a graduate student in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. A gap-year alum of Nishmat, Dalia received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania, and her MPhil in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University. She currently serves as the editor of Texts & Translations at In Geveb, and is working on translating the short prose of Yente Serdatzky with the support of the 2021-2022 Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellowship. She has previously taught Yiddish at the Boston Workers Circle and the Yiddish Book Center. Dalia lives in Boston, where she enjoys organizing events as a resident of Moishe House Somerville.