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Kitvuni

A Fellowship for women writing books of Torah scholarship

“Esther sent to the Rabbis: Kitvuni ledorot — Record me for all generations.”

(Megilla 7a)

The Kitvuni Fellowship was created by Matan to promote the publication of high-level Torah scholarship by women. The initiative provides female Torah scholars with the support necessary to facilitate their ability to complete a book in a field of Torah scholarship.

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Schedule

Kitvuni fellows 2024-25

Jordanna (Cope) Bodenheimer, Adv. and Halakhic Adviser is lectures and writes on topics such as Family and Personal Status law, Medical ethics and fertility at academic, religious and public institutions and conferences. At Matan she led the Womens’ Advanced Talmud program and established the first Daf Yomi class for women by women. She is a Nishmat certified “halakhic fertility adviser” and holds an M.A. in public and international law from Northwestern and Tel Aviv Universities. Originally from Chicago, (Cope) Bodenheimer lives with her family in Tekoa, Israel. Bodenheimer advises and advocates on fertility technology and other halakhic issues and involved in public leadership aimed at the creation of legal and halakhic solutions. In her current capacity as a legal adviser to the government in the Jewish Law Department of the Ministry of Justice, she writes oninion papers and advises on legislation and litigation from the perspective of Jewish law.

Principles and Dilemmas of ART in Jewish Law–from Story to Theory (or: from Practice to Theory)

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has brought immeasurable blessing to the world, allowing millions of people to realize their yearning for children, yet at the same time it has raised myriad ethical, medical and legal questions and dilemmas. Through the prism of real life stories, and against the backdrop of current Israeli law, we will present the principles and paradigms unique to Jewish Law that address those dilemmas and questions, on topics such as establishing parental identity, gamete and embryo donation and risk-taking. For the benefit of legal and other professionals and for further reasearch, we will include appendices and tables that summarize diverse halakhic opinions  and leading Israeli case law, present up-to-date Israeli legislation, and further analyze select topics.

 Dr. Chagit Blass

Chagit has a BA in Law from Bar Ilan University, an LL.M. from Hebrew University and a PhD in the field of Jewish Law from the University of London.

The Agunah in Jewish Law: Innovations and Limitations

The book will analyze the major legal developments that have occurred within the field of igun in the past two millennia. It will explore how historical changes influenced these developments and the attitudes of Chazal towards the status of igun.

Dr. Tehila Elitzur is a graduate of the first class of the Matan Institute for Talmudic Studies, and she taught in Matan Jerusalem for 15 years. She holds a BA and MA in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, and a PhD from Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Her expertise includes Babylonian Talmud, rabbinic literature, and rabbinic Responsa. Dr. Elitzur is a lecturer at Herzog College and at the School for Basic Jewish Studies at Bar Ilan University, and she teaches at Hadar Institute and Beit Midrash Har’el in Jerusalem. She is a member of the rabbinical organization Beit Hillel, and is socially active in various contexts.

Life Issues: Chapters in Shabbat

The book will examine themes in six chapters of Masekhet Shabbat which are not the explicit subject of the chapter, but are prominent in the halakhic discussion throughout the sugyot, in the actions of the sages, and in the aggadot. I will attempt to demonstrate how the given melakha, the prohibition of shvut, or the Shabbat obligations at the center of each chapter facilitate the discussion of a particular life issue, and advance the discussion of various facets of this theme. The reference to a Talmudic chapter as a literary unit will help to discern how the repeated placement of a theme in various sugyot of differing nature creates a dialogue or a multi-voiced discourse on the particular life issue under discussion, and invites the readers to listen and become active in the discourse and deliberation.

Dr. Ayelet Hoffmann Libson is a senior lecturer in the Department of Talmud at Bar Ilan University. Previously she was a lecturer at Reichman University, and a visiting lecturer at Harvard and University of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Matan, and has taught in various Batei Midrash. Her first book was published by Cambridge University Press, and is entitled Law and Self-Knowledge in the Talmud.

On the Threshold: Introductions to the Talmud

This book provides introductions to each of the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud. Each introduction offers an overview of the discussed tractate, presents the structure of the tractate, explains its fundamental concepts, and gives the reader a glimpse into the ideological foundation and central themes discussed within it.

Rivka Kahan has served in a variety of educational roles at the high school and post-high school levels in America and Israel. She taught Judaic Studies at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls for 20 years, and served as Head of School for ten years, and lectured widely at synagogues and adult education programs in the United States on topics related to Torah and Jewish education. Rivka made Aliyah in 2020, and currently teaches at Midreshet Tehillah, Herzog Global, and YU Israel. She previously served as Director of Educational Projects at AlHaTorah.org, and taught in Midreshet Harova, Nishmat, and Emunah V’Omanut.

Da Levavi: Emotional Landscapes in Tanakh

This book will analyze narratives throughout Tanakh that depict facets of emotional experience and dynamics within relationships.  With an emphasis on literary analysis of the Biblical text and its commentaries throughout the ages, it will seek to develop new insight into the Tanakh’s multifaceted understanding of universal experiences such as shame and guilt, grief, personal change, happiness, and other aspects of human beings’ emotional lives.

develop new insight into these life experiences and a deeper appreciation of Tanakh’s multifaceted approach toward the emotional lives of people.

Dr. Shulamit Lehman has been teaching Jewish thought for many years in various settings and institutions. She is in constant search of ways to touch the soul and deepen internalization; to that end Dr. Lehman has studied unique and innovative therapeutic methods that enrich her classes and help people. Her doctoral dissertation at Hebrew University pointed to the unique traditions of the Baal Shem Tov which are transmitted through his family rather than his students.

The Voice of the Ba’l Shem Tov

The purpose of the book is to pave the way for the application of unity and adhesion within the foundations of Hassidut, and to uncover and make accessible the ideas of the Baal Shem Tov, ‘translating’ them into contemporary language, which provides them with power and meaning.

Rabbanit Debbie Zimmerman is a Meshivat Halakha, a graduate of Matan’s Hilkhata program, and the director of Shayla, an online responsa by graduates of the program. After completing a B.A. in social work, Debbie combined teaching in Midrashot with her own advanced Torah studies. She completed Matan’s program for the study of Bible and Hermeneutics, and studied Gemara in Beit Morasha. Debbie continues to teach Tanakh, Gemara, and Jewish thought to a wide range of students worldwide.

Redemption Redeemed seeks to organize and understand the different visions of redemption within traditional Jewish sources. Almost a millennium ago, Rambam described prevalent misconceptions about reward and punishment in general, and the Messianic era specifically. Still, many of these misconceptions persist, and most modern discussions begin and end with Rambam, neglecting a range of biblical prophecies, midrashic statements, and rabbinic opinions on the topic.

The history of the Jewish people is one of exile and redemption. Where are we now in the arc of history? Should we be doing anything specific to bring about a Messianic era? Do people even want such a thing?

It’s hard to want something we can’t envision and don’t understand. This book aims to explore the possibilities. We’ll study the common themes and major debates that span generations of prophetic and scholarly descriptions of the stages of redemption, and how they fit in with traditional Jewish approaches to the relationship between spirituality and physicality, action and consequences, individual and collective, Jews and Gentiles, and God and people.

Kitvuni fellows 2023-24

Dr. Brachi Elitzur will lead the readers through the paths of Aggadah on the book of Genesis. Brachi lectures on Tanakh and Rabbinic literature at Herzog Teachers College, and is a researcher in the field of Midrash. Her research involves tracking biblical narratives and characters through postbiblical and Rabbinic literature, in an attempt to follow the reasons behind the shift of the character or story throughout the generations. She is the author of Portraits through the Generations.

In the Paths of the Aggadot of Bereishit Rabbinic Midrashim have became foundational stories of Jewish heritage. Young children are well versed in these texts, which are often viewed as inseparable from the biblical narrative, and even adults are often surprised to find that the details of what they know of the biblical plot are midrashic additions to the biblical text.

Sometimes the midrash intertwines with the narrative, providing an additional dimension; at other times, it reverses the evaluation of the protagonists’ actions altogether.

The proposed book will analyze some foundational midrashic texts, trace the early building blocks that led to their design, and grapple with the question of their objectives, and the reason they have been adjoined to the biblical narrative.

This analysis will enable the reader to go back in time to the flourishing midrashic era in Israel, during the Talmudic period; to imagine the bustle of Batei Midrash in Lod and Tiberius; to become familiar with the questions and debates that troubled Jewish society at that time, and understand the religious and cultural challenges posed by non-Jewish neighbors, and also, the yearning for redemption that throbbed in the hearts of Jews throughout the generations.

Dr. Lisa Fredman will be writing on Rashi’s holistic approach to books of the Ketuvim. Lisa has a Ph.D in Bible from Bar Ilan University and has published a Critical Edition of Rashi’s Commentary to Proverbs as well as articles on Rashi’s methodology. She teaches in Efrata College and other prominent women’s Torah institutions.

Rashi’s Holistic Approach to Ketuvim Rashi’s localized interpretive style, glossing verse by verse, often inhibits a panoramic understanding of the text at hand – yet analysis of his commentaries to selected books of the Ketuvim reveals thematically unified compositions with overarching themes, thus uncovering another facet of Rashi’s exegetical artistry and brilliance.

Dr. Achinoam Jacobs will write about the portrayals of God in Rabbinic literature after the destruction of the Temple, and their theological significance. Achinoam holds a Ph.D. in Rabbinic Literature from The Hebrew University, and lectures on Midrash and Aggadah in Migdal Oz and Herzog College. She served for many years as a member of the Ministry of Education committee for the study of Tanakh and literature.

The Changing Face of God Following the Hurban in Aggadic Literature The crisis of the Temple’s destruction led our Sages to portray God experiencing uncharacteristic emotions. How did these homilies emerge? What is their theological meaning? Were these portrayals of God also accepted in the far-away Babylonian community? And what of contemporary relevance can we extrapolate from this discussion?

Rabbanit Karen Miller Jackson will be writing a commentary on the first half of Talmud Berakhot. With a focus on analyzing the Aggadic portions within their halakhic context, this book will demonstrate that more than a code of law on the topic of Jewish prayer, Berakhot contains ideas and themes related to preservation and revitalization of Jewish life and practice for all time. Karen is a certified Meshivat Halacha, lecturer at Matan and beyond and host of the Eden Center podcast “Women & Wellbeing.” She has an MA in Rabbinic Literature from NYU.

Talmudic Aggadot in Berakhot: A Guide to Revitalizing Jewish Life This book will explore how the Sages expressed their concerns, weaknesses and strengths, philosophy and ideals and shaped Jewish life by interweaving midrash and aggada throughout the Talmud. Analysis of the aggadic material, and how it interacts with its halakhic (legal) context, demonstrates that Talmud Berakhot served as more than a code of law on the topic of Jewish prayer and blessings. This book hopes to demonstrate that Berakhot – the beginning of the Oral Torah – provides a model and guide for preserving Torah and tradition alongside necessary adaptations, allowing for the revitalization of Jewish life throughout history, in different times and places. These ideas have relevance for Jewish commitment and practice, particularly in today’s ever-changing world.

Rabbanit Gilla Rosen will be writing about the development and portrayal of the mitzvah of hadlakat ner Shabbat in Halakha, Aggada and women’s tehinnot. Gilla is a yoetzet halakha  and has a Masters degree in Comparative Literary Studies. She helped to create Yakar where she teaches Talmud and Midrash. Gilla has studied and taught at Matan and other prominent Torah institutions.

Hadlakat Ner Shabbat in Halakha, Aggada and Tefilla This book will analyze halakhic issues – the purpose of hadlakat ner Shabbat, its status as a mitzvah, and its liminal transitional nature – as well as parallel perceptions of Shabbat candles in midrash aggadah and in women’s prayers. 

Kitvuni fellows 2022-23

Dr. Shifra Assulin will be writing on Shir HaShirim in the Zohar. Shifra has a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought and is a teaching fellow at Shalem College. She is highly regarded in the field of Kabbala study and is doing extremely innovative work.

“Tell me, my love” – peshat, remez, derash and sod in the Zohar’s Commentary on Shir ha-Shirim Zohar Shir ha-Shirim: Annotated Edition and Commentary The Zohar, the quintessential book of Jewish mysticism, is inaccessible to most people: the Aramaic, the diagrams, the symbols, and the mystical content project unapproachability. This book offers a reading of the Zohar’s commentary on the Song of Songs: first, a translated and annotated version of the text, including basic interpretation and references, on the one hand. Next, the book will offer comprehensive reflections comprising thematic introductions, an in-depth review of content, literary analysis, comparative discussions, and an examination of the existential and practical ramifications of the text. This edition will provide the reader with access to the Zohar, enabling a personal reading of the text, and offering a broad array of commentary and analysis.

Dr. Sharon Galper Grossman will be writing on Halakha and preventive medicine. Sharon is a Harvard-educated oncologist and a graduate of Matan’s Morot L’Halakha program and other Matan Beit Midrash programs.

Jewish Perspectives on Staying Healthy This book will address the ways that halacha approaches disease prevention in general, with specific attention to current topics and cutting-edge interventions, tracing the development and evolution of the halachic perspective from its earliest sources to contemporary decisors.”

Yael Leibowitz will be writing on the Book of Ezra. Yael is an innovative and dynamic educator who teaches Tanakh at Matan and other prominent Torah institutions.

Ezra: Retrograde Revolution This book will explore the revolutionary strategies employed by the Jewish leaders of the Early Second Temple Period, as they grappled with the unprecedented challenge of reconstituting a lost world in an utterly new one.

Dr. Adina Sternberg will be writing an interdisciplinary book on the holidays and the Mikdash, from the perspective of both Tanakh and the Mishna. Adina has a Ph.D. in Talmud, is studying in Hilkhata, Matan’s advanced Halakha program, and teaches in Matan and other prominent women’s Torah institutions.

ימי מועד ואוהל מועד This interdisciplinary book examines the foundational concepts of the Jewish holidays, through their analysis from biblical law to the prism of the prophets; from the details of halakhah to the literary design of the Mishnah; and from Talmudic sugyas to Rishonim.

Dr. Merav Suissa will be writing a guide to literary-philosophical study of the Talmud. Merav has a Ph.D. in Talmud and is the head of Midreshet Siach Hasadeh.

The Secret Talmud: Halakhah and its Significance in Talmudic Sugyas This book will outline a literary approach to the study of the Babylonian Talmud, based on the view that the Talmud as a literary work, and its content is expressed not only in the explicit debates presented in the sugyas, but also in their design and redaction. This approach will be demonstrated through a literary analysis of various opening sugyas and halakhic sugyas in the Talmud. Through an examination of the foundational concepts at the base of the sugya, the book will endeavor to understand the ideological significance of Talmudic themes.

Dr. Miriam Weitman will be writing on the Book of Chronicles. Miriam has a Ph.D. in Contemporary Judaism. She is a Matan graduate and has worked for the Ministry of Education training teachers nationally.

Readings in the Book of Chronicles Chronicles is one of the most inexplicable books in Tanakh. Many of its chapters seem to be a repetition of other biblical texts, and others (primarily the genealogical lists) seem technical and incomprehensible. This book intends to offer a key to deciphering the inaccessible book of Chronicles, by integrating interpretive discussions with textual analysis, providing a broader perspective on the essence, individuality, content, and values embedded in the text. Instead of a chronological reading, this book addresses foundational themes in Chronicles, and is intended for those who study and love Tanakh, and have an appreciation for literature and culture.