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An important message from Mrs. Kahan

 In response to Rav Willig's recent call for a communal cheshbon hanefesh about the place of advanced Talmud Torah, including Gemara study, in Modern Orthodox girls' education, I would like to share some thoughts based on my own experience.

There is always a need for cheshbon hanefesh as we strive to educate toward reverence and faith in our increasingly cynical and disaffected culture. Committed Torah educators everywhere engage constantly in considering how to infuse Talmud Torah with religious values and meaning, and this holy task becomes ever more complex and challenging. However, it is best accomplished by engaging our students more fully--not less--in the sacred enterprise of Talmud Torah. Deep exposure to Torah texts and Torah personalities is the most authentic way to help students develop the conviction that the Torah speaks to them as individuals and is the bedrock of their religious identity. I entered the field of Jewish education because I believed in the unparalleled power of Talmud Torah, and I continue to see the truth of this belief in the experiences of high school students.

In my experience, young women who are most engaged in Talmud Torah are among those who are most invested in avodat Hashem writ large. While some find deep religious meaning in pursuits such as prayer, community service, chesed, and activism, many are transformed into ovdot Hashem through their involvement in the awesome experience of challenging, rigorous Talmud Torah, which by definition includes Gemara study. We live in an age of education and reflection, and, for many women, a religious life devoid of advanced Talmud Torah is circumscribed and shallow. This is a point that is absolutely critical to understand: in our Modern Orthodox community, the alternative to advanced Talmud Torah is not emunah, but apathy.

Far from being a subversive force, the movement to advance women's Talmud Torah continually deepens the avodat Hashem of individuals and our community. It is not of a piece with all other modern developments in the Jewish community. On the contrary, it has produced and continues to produce women who dedicate their lives to teaching and learning Torah with emunah and deep commitment to the values and principles of halakha. While our community faces many challenges to faith, the commitment to increased access to devar Hashem is not among them.