Nishmat (midrasha)

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Nishmat: The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women is a Modern Orthodox Jewish institution of higher Torah learning for women, or midrasha.[1] It was one of the first places in the world to teach Jewish women Talmud and in-depth Halakha intensely and systematically. Along with Midreshet Lindenbaum it is one of the foremost institutions for expanding the formal religious role of women in the Modern Orthodox world. First located in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem, then in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood in Jerusalem,[2] where its space was rented from a synagogue,[3] it is now found in the Pat neighborhood of Jerusalem.[4]


Nishmat was founded in 1990 by Rabbanit Chana Henkin to open the gates of higher Torah learning to women. Now situated in its campus in Jerusalem's Pat neighborhood, south of Katamon, Nishmat has become a world center for women's scholarship, leadership, and social responsibility, and a world leader in paving a new path for women in Jewish life. Ten years after its founding, Nishmat created the new religious role of Yoatzot Halacha,[5] women halachic advisors, opening the way for women in religious leadership. At the same time, the school established what has become an acclaimed advancement program for Ethiopian-Israelis, coupling Jewish studies with an intensive program moving young Ethiopian women from the social margins to the mainstream of Israeli society.

In 1995, Nishmat filed a discrimination lawsuit in Israel's High Court. The complaint was that male students received a monthly allowance of 375 NIS, 280% more than female students, who each received 135 NIS.[6]

In 2013, the first class of female halachic advisers trained to practice in the US graduated; they graduated from the North American branch of Nishmat’s yoetzet halacha program in a ceremony at Congregation Shearith Israel, Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Manhattan. [7]


In addition to general programs in advanced Jewish studies, Nishmat has a program to train Yoatzot, advisers in Jewish law concerning matters particular to women, such as laws of Niddah (family purity) and health issues.[8] The hotline was established in 1997.[9] In addition to community roles, the Yoatzot operate a 24-hour hotline, for women with questions regarding Jewish family law.

Nishmat offers text-based learning programs to women of different ages and background. The English-speaking programs offer beginners, intermediate and advanced level shiurim (classes). Nishmat prides itself on chevruta-based (pairs) learning, as well as guided intellectual and spiritual growth.

In 2004, Nishmat began a one-year program called Shana Ba'aretz for American students who wanted to study in Israel during their gap year before college. All students learn in the bet midrash (study room) together, regardless of program, background or age.

Nishmat is known for its enrollment of Ethiopian Jews.[10]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jerusalem diaries: in tense times By Judy Lash Balint: page 130
  3. ^ Jewish feminism in Israel: some contemporary perspectives By Kalpana Misra, Melanie S. Rich: page 37
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Jerusalem Post - Jerusalem Author: EVELYN GORDON Date: Feb 5, 1995 Start Page: 12
  7. ^
  8. ^ Taking back God: American women rising up for religious equality By Leora Tanenbaum: page 237
  9. ^ Jewish feminism in Israel: some contemporary perspectives By Kalpana Misra, Melanie S. Rich: page 36
  10. ^ Jerusalem diaries: in tense times By Judy Lash Balint: pages 130-32

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