Office of the Chief Rabbi

Neshama 2019

Hundreds of women at the Chief Rabbi’s Neshama Event

More than 300 women from fifty different communities – from Ealing United Synagogue to Machzikei Hadass, Golders Green – gathered at the new South Hampstead Synagogue yesterday (22/09/2019) for some pre-High Holy Day inspiration.

This was the latest in a series of learning events under the Neshama umbrella which was set up by the Chief Rabbi to promote women’s learning.

Following a welcome from Valerie Mirvis and an inspirational video produced by Rebbetzen Ma’ayan Lisa Levine, participants enjoyed a buffet dinner and a choice of educational sessions on a wide variety of topics – all followed by music and song to conclude an extraordinary evening. Guest speakers at the event included: Rebbetzen Dr Adina Shmidman, Founding Director of the Women’s Initiative at the Orthodox Union (OU), Yael Leibowitz, a prominent international educator and acclaimed artist Chava Erlanger.

The sessions ranged from text-based study to learning through song and art – and there was content to appeal to the most knowledgeable of participants as well as those without any previous learning experience.

Over recent years, the Chief Rabbi has made women’s learning a priority, launching Neshama in January 2018 with a huge inaugural event at the Hilton London Metropole. Since then, opportunities for women to advance their learning have increased significantly, with the creation of a new dedicated Women’s Officer role in United Synagogues and a Ma’ayan Roadshow in which graduates from the Chief Rabbi’s Ma’ayan course, taught in communities around London.

Louise Moont, recently elected women’s officer at Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue, said, “The atmosphere at Neshama is truly unique. It was an incredible evening which has, once again, raised the bar for women’s Torah learning. It means so much to take part in an event like this – particularly one led by women who are more than able to educate in a manner that we can not only relate to through our own experiences but also inspires and enhances our connection to Torah. These are exciting times and as opportunities for women’s learning continue to increase, I very much hope that many more women will take advantage of them.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said, “These events are so important. Not just because of the wisdom and inspiration that they offer in and of themselves, but because they set a tone far greater engagement with women teaching and learning Torah. Neshama has set a high bar and our collective challenge now is to continuously strive to emulate it.”