Torah Connection, Call-in study sessions unite women across the country
By Erica Morris
BROWARD [MIAMI] JEWISH JOURNAL, Sept. 6, 2007 -- As Technology makes the world seem smaller and smaller, a group of women are using the information age to their advantage.
The Gem Tele-Torah Women's Group is a program of Aish HaTorah, and allows women from all over to learn and study together, using a simple phone line.
"I went to New York about a year and a half ago and I met this woman there through Hadassah," said Marcia Levy, a resident of Pembroke Pines. "She told me about this program and asked if I wanted to sit in on their lesson, and I said yes."
Levy was hooked from the beginning.
"I've been calling ever since," she said.
The virtual program is a branch of Aish HaTorah's Gem Women's Group, a group that brings women together face-to-face for study groups. The phone version was created to reach an ever-larger demographic.
Each week, the women call in for a conference-style session, led by a teacher in Israel. The Women come from across the United States and Canada and are varied in their religious observance. Their common bond is a thirst for knowledge.
"We have these wonderful sessions," Levy said. "Sometimes they're discussions; sometimes they're lessons. I've learned so much."
The program is for women age 30 and older, a design that was created to combat the lack of Hebrew education opportunities for adult women.
"There are all sorts of materials for men, but very little for women," Levy said. "This is an opportunity for women to learn, too."
About 15 women participate each week, calling in when they are able, and now members are trying to extend the word to other interested parties.
"We're trying to spread the word," Levy said. "I thought more women might like to know about this."
In addition to the phone sessions, the women also participate in activities sponsored by the Gem Women's Program. Next year the members will travel to Israel as part of a global Aish HaTorah initiative.
It will be Levy's second trop to Israel, and she is looking forward to going back.
"I fell in love with the culture, the people, everything," Levy said. "It's going to be a great trip."
Other Gem participants agree the Israel experience is beneficial.
"For anyone who loves learning, the opportunity to grow and study at the center of the world, Jerusalem, is an experience that will be cherished eternally," said Judi Kirk of Woodbury, N.Y. She is a member of the Gem program.
That enthusiasm is shared by other women taking part in education programs.
"It's an empowering thing, women working together to learn, grow and educate others," said Cindy Schneider, a Plantation woman who leads a weekly Hebrew themed book club in her home.
"I teach classes for adult women as sort of our own Sunday school. Children and men aren't the only ones with a want to learn about our heritage," Schneider said.
That want is spreading, and Levy encourages anyone interested to join in the movement.
"It's very interesting to be with this group of women," Levy said. "The women are from all over, some are Reform, some are Conservative, and we all come together to learn,"
Worldwide Aish HaTorah offices are located at One Western Wall Plaza, POB 14149, Old City, Jerusalem. For more information, contact Theda Zuckerman, Gem US Director, 212-877-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.aish.com/gem/.
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