By: Sara Schatz
Starting in the Fall 2020 semester, GPATS (Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies), Stern College for Women’s Talmud master’s program, will be expanding, offering a brand new Tanach track option. Following the December 3rd announcement through an sstud from the Office of Student Life, word spread rapidly throughout the Beren Beit Midrash and other social media platforms about this new addition to the program.
Since the inception of GPATS in 2000, launched by then-YU president Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel, and Dean Karen Bacon, the program has been marketed as a two-year master’s program with a stipend. Upon completion of the full two years, the student would receive an M.A. in Biblical and Talmudic Interpretation.
Despite the “Biblical” aspect of the M.A., the crux of the program has mostly focused on the “Talmudic” aspect. Traditionally, GPATS students have Gemara seder in the morning, and Halacha seder in the afternoon.
Professor Nechama Price, Director of GPATS and an alumna of the program, expressed that she has been vigorously fighting to add a Tanach track since she was first appointed to her position in 2014. ““It should be a necessity to have a Tanach track especially because of lot of our students plan to go into chinuch, including teaching Tanach after GPATS. The opportunity to seriously study Tanach b’chavruta under expert scholars is something uniquely special,” Professor Price commented to the YU Observer.
Professor Price noted that the reason for the new Tanach track was twofold. GPATS was initially supposed to have two tracks, as the aforementioned M.A. title implicates. Additionally, on a personal level, Professor Price desired to add a Tanach program simply because she loves learning Tanach and believes it to be incredibly important.
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Halpern, Senior Advisor to the Provost, and President Ari Berman were both involved in bringing this new track to fruition. Rabbi Dr. Halpern noted that they are “excited to offer greater optionality for the students who wish to deepen their knowledge and devote dedicated time in the Beit Midrash learning from renowned faculty.” President Berman added, “The complete access to Jewish learning for women today is one of the great berakhot of our times. We are proud to launch a new track in [T]anach so that our students can continue to grow in their areas of interest.”
Many students have voiced great excitement regarding the expansion of the GPATS program. Aliza Pollack, GPATS ’21, has been persistently pushing Professor Price to have a Tanach track ever since she was a junior at Stern. “I always knew I wanted to take the time to invest in my own Torah learning at a high level before I embarked on my career in chinuch,” she said. “I’m very excited to be part of the first cohort of Tanach…students! I think this Tanach track is going to be such a game-changer for students who want to take time to invest in their… learning skills either before a career in chinuch, or…who want to take a gap year or two to enrich their Torah learning before heading into the professional world.”
Professor Price conveyed a similar sentiment; she predicted that the Tanach learning availability “will double the size of GPATS.”
The new track was designed through a collaboration between Professor Price, President Rabbi Ari Berman, Provost Selma Botman, and Rabbi Dr. Halpern. Together, through the assistance of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, they chose Dr. Michelle Levine, who has been a popular Tanach professor at Stern for years, to focus on parshanut hamikra (commentaries on the text), and Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Berger, who is currently the Head of the Hebrew Division at Hunter College and a professor at Revel in the summers, to focus on literary analysis of text. All of the Tanach learning will be b’chavruta with shiur, yet all GPATS participants will learn together during weekly guest “Lunch & Learns.” Halacha seder in the afternoons will be learned with Rabbi Gedalyah Berger, longtime GPATS teacher.
The new track comes with a number of perks. Students who learn Tanach seder in the morning and Halacha seder with the women in the Talmud track in the afternoon, will receive an M.A. from GPATS and are eligible for the $5,000 stipend. Alternatively, they can opt to use their Tanach seder as credit towards the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies (up to 12 credits) to obtain an M.A. in Bible. The option to be a part-time student with no stipend still stands for both programs.
Professor Price has high hopes for this new learning addition that she has been working so hard to initiate. “It took a great amount of work to make this change happen,” she said. “My hope is that people take advantage.”
Applications for the 2020-2021 year are due February 25th. For any questions, contact Professor Price at firstname.lastname@example.org.