Is This What Discrimination Looks Like?

A few weeks ago, the rabbi of Bnai David-Judea wrote that he was no longer saying the morning blessing “Thank you God for not making me a woman” because it reflected bigotry towards women and that Orthodox Judaism had a long way to go till it started treating Orthodox women fairly.

This week, Pico-Robertson’s three Modern Orthodox shuls sent out this:

August 18, 2011

Dear Community Members,

As the summer comes to a close and we prepare to begin the new year of 5772/2011-2012, we would like to inform you of an exciting new program that will be coming to our community. A joint committee of volunteers, represented by members of Beth Jacob  Congregation, B’nai David Judea, Young Israel of Century City, and YULA Girls School
has been working under our auspices to bring a Yoetzet Halacha to work in our community on a part-time basis.

For those who may not be familiar with this position, Nishmat, an Orthodox Jewish institution of higher Torah learning for women, based in Jerusalem, established the Keren Ariel Women’s Halachic Institute in1997 to train Yoatzot Halacha, or Women Halachic Consultants. Women preparing to become Yoatzot Halacha are chosen for their
extensive Torah scholarship, leadership ability, and deep religious commitment, and devote two years (over 1000 hours) to intensive Talmudic and Halachic study with rabbinic authorities in Taharat Hamishpachah-laws of Niddah, Mikvah and family purity. They receive training from medical and health professionals who are experts
in modern medicine and psychology, including gynecology, infertility, women’s health, family dynamics and sexuality.

Following comprehensive examinations administered by a panel of distinguished Roshei Kollel and Poskim, graduates are certified by a panel of Orthodox Rabbis to be a  resource for women with questions regarding Taharat Hamishpachah. Graduates of
this program have been working with great success in communities across Israel and in the United States to assist women who are more comfortable discussing very personal issues with another woman. As female Halachic advisors, the Yoatzot consult with  Orthodox Rabbinic authorities when approached with questions which demand a posek’s discretion. For more information on Nishmat’s program, visit

With that background, we are very excited to announce that Shoshana Samuels, a recent graduate of Nishmat’s program and a certified Yoetzet Halacha, will be making regular visits to our Los Angeles community throughout the upcoming year. She will present to small groups of women at the homes of our Shul members on topics related, but  not limited, to general understandings of Taharat Hamishpacha, women’s health, marital intimacy, symbolism of mikvah, family planning, peri-menopause and menopause, and will also be available for individual one on one consultations.

Each of these individual events will be announced through our Shul bulletins and  will be open to members of all of our Kehilot. Between visits, Shoshana will be  reachable for consultation via phone and e-mail and will encourage women to reach out to her with questions related to her knowledge base. Shoshana will be living
 and teaching in Teaneck, New Jersey and will serve in the official role as a Yoetzet Halacha at Congregation Rinat Yisrael. She is not only extremely intelligent, but also outgoing, friendly and very approachable. She looks forward to putting her years of study into practice as a Yoetzet Halacha in the Los Angeles community.

In the coming weeks, we will send out further details for the first Yoetzet Halacha weekend program, scheduled to take place September 16-18th. We encourage you to attend one or more of the sessions as an opportunity to meet Shoshana, and become more familiar with what a Yoetzet Halacha has to offer the members of our community.

This one-year pilot program is being funded by private donations through the American Friends of Nishmat, and additional sponsorship opportunities are available upon request. Please feel free to contact Alison Anziska at[]
for more information.

We look forward to continued growth together as a community, and extend to all of you our sincerest wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

Rabbi Kalman Topp, Beth Jacob Congregation

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, B’nai David Judea

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Young Israel of Century City

Rabbi Avraham Lieberman, YULA Girls School

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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