By Tamar Beer
It all started as a daydream. I was at my teacher, Shani Tarigain’s shabbat table. At the time, I was nearing the end of my shana bet. My friends and I were about to part our separate ways. We savored the last moments, the words of Torah, and the growth-centered environment we thought we would never experience again. In some of our last in-person conversations together, we had just one question on our minds: “Shani, how are we going to experience the type of learning we had at the midrasha again?”
Shani, in her typical, idealistic fashion responded: “you can build your own beit midrash of course!”
The thought was exhilarating. We spent late nights in the beit midrash thinking about what this program would look like. But it wasn’t put into a practical plan until I had left the walls of the Beit Midrash.
Prior to my transfer to YU, I attended a different college for one semester where most of my learning was independent. Sure, I had a few Skype chavrusas here and there when I was able to and attended some online shiurim, but it wasn’t the same. I missed the excitement, the discussion, and the challenge of the Beit Midrash. I missed the arguments, the common goal, and the mutual attachment we felt towards trying to understand God’s Torah with all of its complexities. I therefore decided to take Shani Tarigan’s words to heart and make it a reality.
I began by making a WhatsApp group of like-minded individuals seeking advanced learning opportunities. I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going with it at first. As the idea of the Beit Midrash became more fleshed out, more and more people joined the group. I emailed torah educators I knew who expressed willingness and enthusiasm in teaching us. Once I had my teachers and my students, I was pretty much set. All I needed was a location and a budget to make my dream become a reality.
I was able to create a partnership with Yavneh, which helped me to manage finances and find a few more quality educators. They invested in our project, and Yavneh associate Rabbi Jonathan Shulman provided me with his experienced advice as well. The OU Women’s Initiative also provided us with a grant. Acquiring money was difficult. But in the end, we were able to get the program off the ground.
Running the first Orthodox, all-women’s beit midrash in the Five Towns was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. But it wasn’t without its challenges. At only 20 years old, I found myself having to make administrative decisions, draft professional emails, make financial decisions, and involve myself in marketing and recruitment. I am still struggling to come up with funds for future programming, and contemplating how to set up the program in order to optimally serve the maximum amount of people. Ultimately, I will go through whatever stress and hard work needed in order to achieve the thing that is most important to me: a space for Orthodox women to engage in high level learning. To be challenged and stimulated by shiur, and to expand our torah knowledge and growth.
Last summer’s run of Bnot Sinai was a massive success. We ran for 2 weeks with 20 sign ups. We had three sedarim a day and studied an array of topics, including Gemara, Tanach, Halacha, and Jewish philosophy. The students who attended Bnot Sinai were self-motivated, strong learners, who wanted to increase their Torah knowledge and improve in their avodat HaShem. I’m proud to be a part of the Bnot Sinai community and mission, and I hope I can continue to provide high level learning opportunities for Orthodox women for many years to come.
If you are interested in finding out more about Bnot Sinai, an all-women’s summer beit midrash, check out or website at: https://www.bnotsinai.org/. To make a donation to our Beit Midrash, fill out the form at: https://www.ou.org/giving/bnot-sinai-donations/. If you are a woman interested in joining our programming, sign up links will be released soon both on the website and on the Bnot Sinai Facebook page.