Learning restarted with a vengeance this week, as students threw themselves into their regular seder of Gemara and Halakha. Students learning Niddah began the topic of ketamim, stains, and continued to work with Rabbi Love to gain practical experience in that field.
This week we began the first two in a series of guest lecturers on Niddah related topics. Sara Mizrachi, a kallah teacher in Brooklyn for the Sephardi community, and one of the participants from the first cohort of Kallah Teachers who were trained by the YCT-JOFA-DrishaKallah Teachers Workshop. Sara spoke about the realities of teaching kallot, the interactions between the kallah teachers and the rabbis, and the difference of attitudes relating to niddah observance between the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities.
This talk was followed by a visit on Thursday from Dr. Valerie Altmann, noted gynecologist and advisor to our Kallah Teacher's network, on female anatomy and the biology of menstruation and reproduction.
We were honored on Thursday by a visit from Rabbi Marc Angel, founder of the Jewish Institute of Ideas and Ideals. Rabbi Angel addressed the topic of tzniut, and how it is playing out today in Israel and in various Orthodox communities. Rabbi Angel met informally with students over lunch, where they continued to talk about this topic and other burning issues that face the Jewish community today.
Our regular classes were no less exciting. We addressed two major topics this week as part of our Lifecycles curriculum. First, Rivka Haut spoke on the topic of divorce and the Beit Din, and the challenges that women - even those who are not agunot - face when they have to go through the divorce process. Following that, students met with a panel of young, gay Orthodox Jews to discuss and reflect on the challenges and struggles they face and what is right and wrong about the current discourse on this topic.
In our Educators Track, students preparing to be rabbis on campus began a project of answering questions that have been posed over the years to our current Hillel and JLIC rabbis. The first group of questions focused on Shabbat issues - from using an automatic toilet in the dorms to sitting in on a class on Shabbat and Yom Tov. They worked on these questions for a week, and on Wednesday presented their responsa to me, and we discussed both the halakhic specifics and considerations of values and policy. Students will be continuing this project, with a new set of questions every other week, for the next few months.
All in all - quite an exciting week back. We look forward to even more learning and more excitement starting next week.