Rosh Hashana 2020 Newsletter

 ROSH HASHANA 5781

Keeping Connections

It is no secret that She’arim is far more than an educational institution.  She’arim is about fostering connection, relationships, and long-term growth which continues to have a positive impact on students well after they have “left” our doors. As Rebbetzin Kaganoff always says “you never leave She’arim.” We aim at staying in tune with the needs of both current students and alumnae.

So, when the Corona crisis hit, the first question was “How can we continue to support our students while they are in lockdown?” Although most of the staff had never heard of zoom, we were patiently trained by former student, Zisi Darrow, in how to use it. Thus, a new world of connection opened up to us.

We invited Israeli alum to join us and many did. But the time zone didn’t work for those outside of Israel - so we started videoing some of the classes and sending them out to alum. The appreciation of our alumnae encouraged us to continue, as we have done until now.

As we returned to the in-person learning, we continued to use our new-found knowledge of online teaching to reach out to alumnae and offer classes that would work in their own time zone.

At present, we have three designated alumnae classes – Chumash with Rebbetzin Friedman, Navi with Rebbetzin Kaganoff, and Duties of the Heart with Rebbetzin Pavlov.

Current student or alumna. In person or on Zoom. As always, She’arim is here for you. Staying connected so that you can stay connected to the One Above

Once a Talmida, Always a Talmida

“The hour once a week builds me so much”

At present, in addition to in-house students, there are Talmidot from 5 countries who participate in our zoom classes.

The impact is tremendous.

Avital Golinski, a talmida in 2005 -6 , lives in Israel. Weekly, she participates in the class on Chovos Halevavos together with her two older children. “Mommy it's time for OUR shiur”

The weekly shiur has become a focal point for her family, who rush through dinner in order to be ready.

How has this shiur impacted Avital’s family? “The topic of Bitachon has become central in our daily lives. I feel like it is building us all.” 

Clarifying the relationship between hishtadlus (our efforts) and  Hashgacha (Divine influence) has impacted my entire family for the good.” Avital has seen positive changes in her relationship with her children, their schools, and perhaps most importantly, with herself.

Avital is also taking advantage of the alumni class on Sefer Melachim (Kings) given by Rebbetzin Kaganoff. “My daughter is going to have a nationwide exam on all of Sefer Melachim in two years. It is exciting and bonding for both of us to know that I am learning this now.” Avital is looking forward to being able to help her daughter prepare for this test, something she otherwise might not have been able to do. 

Continuing Education from Home

“I have never had such a wonderful time”

Jenny Zinn is a mature woman who came to Torah observance 18 months ago. Encouraged by fellow Neve Ya’akov resident, Rebbetzin Kaganoff, to attend She’arim, Jenny was a welcome addition to Taste of Torah for several months. The oldest person in the class, Jenny added a zest of life, a yearning for growth and the message that it is never too late to grow in Torah.

Unfortunately, medical issues made it difficult for Jenny to continue to make the long trek to Har Nof by bus, and sadly she stopped attending classes. She missed it, and we missed her smile and positive approach to life.

Until Zoom. Now, Jenny participates in 29 classes per week!! Jenny lives in a very small one room apartment, and due to her health issues she rarely goes out. Asked how she is coping with the restrictions, Jenny beams, “I’ve never had such a wonderful time!”

She does not have enough praise for “the wonderful lecturers” and says with the greatest sincerity, “I am truly blessed”.

A New Meaning to Working and Learning

“It gives structure, purpose, substance and meaning to my life ”

Yochana Modiano was a student in the early years of She’arim (1998= 2000), and has retained a close relationship with several members of the staff. Working as a cook in Jerusalem, and living in Rehovot made attending classes at She’arim impossible

Now, Yochana is online with She’arim every day. The classes have given her not only a strengthened connection with staff, but an increased focus on spirituality, together with chizuk (spiritual strengthening) and direction for personal growth. “I learn things I hadn't learned before, or that maybe I forgot in the busyness of everyday life”  

Yochana gives new meaning to the phrase “working and learning”. Since I work as a cook, I prepare the sources on my own and am able to listen in on classes as I work.”

Echoing Jenny, Yochana tells us “it’s been a real blessing during this Corona crisis.” Now, instead of obsessing over yet another worrisome news report, Yochana hears the daily update from Rebbetzin Pavlov, which enables her to understand the news in a Torah context.

Learning Torah and hearing the hashkafic outlook on current events has enabled Yochana to “connect the dots'' in a way she never would have been able to do without her Shearim learning.

Opening up My Jewelry Box

Rebbetzin Chaya Chava Pavlov

Every week, I open up my jewelry box and see my gems on zoom.

I see all ages, from recent students to long ago students, from short term to long term, donors, friends and alum. All treasures in my life.

Perhaps I am at an age where one starts to look back and reframe life’s circumstances, the hard ones and the joyful ones. Perhaps it is seeing so many people whom I love together on the screen at the same time. Perhaps – no, for sure- it is the pure nachas of seeing who you’ve become and the lives you are leading.

In this difficult time, this is what keeps us, the She’arim staff, going. We see what has been accomplished and what you are accomplishing, and we dream about what we hope to still accomplish. 

I know that there are many more of you who cannot join in. You give me no less pleasure. Just knowing that you are living lives of Torah is a source of joy for me.

Thank you all for being the precious gems in my life. My jewelry box – and my heart - are full. 

Our Zoom Talmidot Speak

Shayna (Brownstein) Drori (2011-2012). The zoom class brings me back to my days studying at She'arim 9 years ago.  I feel like I'm sitting at the big long table upstairs, absorbing words of Torah that continue to help shape me and the way I lead my life.

Chava (Goldsmith) Avner (1998-1999): It is such a gift to be able to learn with you and with some of my friends from my time in Shearim. This program keeps things alive inside of me. I am grateful.

Shirel Elisheva Lipkowitz (summer 2018) When I attended She’arim in the summer of 2018, it was the best 5 weeks of my life. I left, planning to return in Elul, but that didn’t happen. While I continued to yearn to return, it never worked out.  But it turns out She’arim came to me! It’s like I’m being teleported to Israel each time I listen to a Zoom class, while sitting on my couch in Chicago! The shiurim energize me every day and continue to light the burning desire to learn as much Torah as possible.

Ilana Guggenheim (midwinter program 2002-3 first time) I didn't imagine there could be something positive about our current situation, but I was proved wrong!  Rebbetzin Pavlov’s shiur on Choivos Halevavos I am zoche to participate connects me to She’arim, and uplifts me.   

July Hodara (2011) You have sent rays of light coming from Jerusalem for those of us who live in far away corners of the world.

Join Us – It’s Not Too Late!
Rebbetzin Pavlov is teaching Duties of the Heart – The Gate of Trust -Sunday 6 PM Israel time.

Rebbetzin Friedman is teaching Chumash on Wednesdays at 5 PM Israel time.

Rebbetzin Kaganoff is teaching Sefer Melachim - The Book of Kings 11:30 on Wed mornings.

Rabbi Priel, our Sefardic halacha teacher is interested in giving a class to interested alum. It could be halacha or hashkafa. Please let us know if you are interested. We are here to continue teaching you.

To register for these or any of our regular classes via Zoom, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (and don’t forget to say hello to Mrs. Migdal)

Six Powerful Words
by Rebbetzin Malka Kaganoff
Elul is upon us and thoughts of the Days of Awe are in our minds. Elul is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the upcoming holidays: Rosh Hashanah, the annual day that we coronate Hashem as King, and Yom Kippur, the day we hope to merit atonement due to our teshuva. Intense preparation is needed to celebrate a coronation and much inner work is needed to cleanse ourselves through teshuva.

We add the daily blast of the shofar in Elul to function as a spiritual alarm clock. We recite Tehillim 27 which alludes to Rosh Hashanah (אורי- my light) and Yom Kippur (וישעי- my salvation) to focus our efforts. 

Sefer Sifsei HaChaim of Rav Chaim Friedlander presents another tool to help us to utilize Elul properly.  A short 6-word phrase in our Shemoneh Esrei is replete with Elul-related messages. Since we recite the Amidah daily, we may mouth words without giving much thought to the messages that lay within.

This Elul let us contemplate some major themes within the words of the fifth bracha. הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ אָבִינוּ לְתוֹרָתֶךָ. וְקָרְבֵנוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ לַעֲבוֹ.   Our Father, return us to Your Torah. Our King draw us close to Your service. We address Hashem with the very same words that comprise the basis of the אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנו  prayer! He is both our Father, connoting a paternal love for us, His children, and He is also our King, requiring our service. But He is first our Father. He cares for us and wants us to reap eternal rewards; it is for that reason that He prescribes service. We are first His children who crave a close relationship with Him, and we are also His awestruck subjects, focused on doing His bidding as explained to us in the Torah. 

Let us continue to look at these powerful phrases. One of the first requests that we utter daily in our Amida is הֲשִׁיבֵנו Return us our Father. We may have strayed, but we are cognizant that our soul truly wants to return to the straight path. It is not easy to stay on track, so we ask our Father in heaven assistance for our return to the path of Torah. We initiate our return by begging for Divine assistance. Hashem, we say, I know what the right path is, I really want to get there, but I am not capable of getting there on my own, so please Hashem reach out and guide us to return. We ask for help. Hashem comes through and opens doors for us.

Then we continue. Not only do we ask to return to the Torah. We crave connection, closeness to Hashem. So we beg Hashem וְקָרְבֵנו- draw us close.  Misdeeds create barriers between our neshama and its Source. Therefore, the next blessing of the Amida is a request for pardon. We will do our best to return, and we ask for Divine assistance in that endeavor. Then we ask that our previous errors be pardoned, as a result of our Teshuva.

Teshuva is one of the greatest gifts ever. If we do sincere teshuva, then our slates are cleared by Hashem, our caring Father. He does not store up our sins, but treats us as blameless despite our past- as long as we properly admit, desist, regret and pledge to rise about our past. 

So, when we say these words in the daily Amida, let our pleas be sincere, not just the recitation of standard words. Let us remember that we are accessing our dual relationship with Hashem – that of Father and of King - and realize that we are begging for His assistance in this preparatory month of Elul. May our efforts be blessed, so that we merit to sincerely coronate the King, achieve the Atonement of Yom Kippur and merit an ever- increasing closeness to Hashem

Hands on Chesed 

Rebbetzin Lynn Finson

I often tell people when they ask me what I teach, “I teach the best subject there is, Bein Adam L’Chaveiro!”  The class weaves together textual sources, stories from the lives of both great and simple people, experiential activities that bring to life what we discuss in class and most importantly, lots of emotional sharing between students about how they grapple with the requirements of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro.  One of the major goals I have in the teaching of this subject is to further the life mission of Avraham Avinu in building a life built on chesed.  Every action, every relationship, every tefilla we have is conditional on how it is affecting those around you.  I am writing this a few days before Tisha B’Av and it feels so relevant to say that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is surely watching us all, His children, with a very careful eye on how well we are doing in the realm of thinking about and caring for those around us.  It is to this end that I would like to describe a bit about our learning at She’arim this past year. 

The midrash tells us that when Noach entered the ark, Hashem did not make it easy for him and his children. All day every day they were busy taking care of the animals. Some needed to eat every two hours, some needed to eat every three hours.  The midrash describes that one time, Noach delayed in feeding the lion. The lion bit him and he was left with a limp for the rest of his life.

This midrash is highly significant. When Hashem destroyed the world by flood, He was washing away a culture that perpetuated violence and thievery. It was a culture built on the idea of entitlement. Anything I want, whether I own it or not, is mine for the taking. Rav Soloveitchik zt’l explains that when a person has no respect for the concept of ownership, he is ultimately disrespecting Hashem Himself, the true Owner.  The culture at the time of the flood was one of selfishness and greed. Generosity of spirit had ceased to exist. Because man lived his life for personal gain only, he lost his raison d’etre. Thus, the great flood.

Noach’s ark, and all that transpired within it, became a blueprint designed by the Almighty Himself, for the new world that was to come. Hashem set up a situation that required chesed  24/7 regardless of the difficulty.  Coming late to feed the king of the beasts, even one time, was untenable, because “coming late” represented some imperfection, however minute, in the chesed being done.  And that was intolerable to Hashem. It had to be made clear for all time that without proper chesed the world simply has no reason to exist. 

The waters of the flood began on the seventeenth of Cheshvan. Cheshvan, a month with no holidays, a month called Mar, bitter because of that, was in fact the month that teaches the whole world the indelible lesson of chesed as the lifeblood of any viable society. A few years ago, it occurred to me to harness the power of Cheshvan at She’arim and turn it into “Chesed Awareness Month.” It started with learning about Avraham and Sarah, the paradigms of this mida. This naturally led into a discussion with the students about hachnassat orchim, what it means to put yourself out, how far should a person go in chesed; confronting motivation, do we do the “nice things we do'' for the feel good pat on the back, or do we actually do these things because Hashem said so?  We then hosted a panel of speakers who spoke about their personal involvement in the realm of chesed.  This was quite enlightening for the women to hear. Some of the speakers were seasoned organization builders, some developed smaller chesed opportunities that suited their lifestyle and abilities. What the students got to take home from this panel was that everyone can find a niche in the world of chesed, from helping needy brides, dispersing charity funds, to cooking soup!

For some, chesed awareness training was at its most brilliant when visiting some of the truly impressive organizations here in Yerushalayim. Our trip to Zichron Menachem, an organization that helps kids who have cancer and their families, was magnificent. The facility offers these families a chance to unwind and have a good time despite the harsh reality cancer has thrust on them.  After seeing how much Zichron Menachem does, students asked, “how can we help them??” Chesed can not be learned solely in a classroom, it must be experienced. After that trip, I knew we were succeeding. 

Another important aspect of the month was volunteering at the local Yad Gittel Chinese Auction.  Inspired by the importance of the cause, seven out of eight She’arim students who volunteered for this event decided to buy some tickets themselves and place them in bowls. All seven won something! And I won the biggest prize of all, seeing students get such a charge from being part of this beautiful chesed!

Throughout the month I had students do the following activity. In a hat, I had written down an assortment of chesed assignments on little pieces of paper. Students would pick one on any given week and report back a week later. The assignments ranged from visiting an older person, to helping a young mother, from cleaning up something you don’t want to, to calling your grandparents.  It was surprising to see how the students related to this. Most came back and said they really enjoyed it, that they never would have done this if not for the assignment…and.....could they take another paper?

Could they take another paper! It is the day before Tisha B’Av, I will end by quoting the prophet Micha 6:8    

הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם מַה טּוֹב וּמָה ה' דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ כִּי אִם עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת עִם אֱלקיךָ

 He has told you Man, what is good and what Hashem requires of you? Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

I can think of no better antidote to the uncertainty of the times we live in than to take the prophets' words very seriously…and take another chesed paper out of the hat.


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She’arim College of Jewish Studies for Women

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Phone: +972-2-651-4240

U.S.# in Israel 646-506-9306

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