By Deb Silverthorn
Teaching and learning aren’t mutually exclusive, and Torat Imecha Nach Yomi, a program from the Orthodox Union Women’s Initiative, celebrates its completion this month with a siyum, a festive gathering at the conclusion of a course of Torah study, as well as the start of a new cycle. The Dallas contingency of participants, and any woman interested in participating in the next cycle, are invited to gather to hear Rebbetzin Shira Hochheimer — one of the Nach Yomi teachers — at 3:30 p.m. and at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, in North Dallas.
Torat Imecha Nach Yomi was designed for women and by women; it consists of the daily study of Nevi’im (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings). It was first introduced in January 2020; the cycle was completed and begun again on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. The first cycle had more than 6,500 women subscribed to the daily learning modules of 742 individual lessons.
Participants can read the lessons, dedicated by Eta Brandman Klaristenfeld in memory of Malka Nussbaum, in Hebrew and/or English, or listen to the audio lessons.
“Nach Yomi is a game-changer for learning, understanding and having confidence in one’s ability to grow. We started just before the pandemic began but we have come through together, through difficult times, simchas and just all that life brings us. We keep each other accountable,” said Marcy Fried, a rebbetzin, who, with Miriam Goldfeder, Rebbetzin Dr. Jessica Rackovsky and Joan White, completed the first cycle. Since they began the program, 23 more people joined the group.
“Even though we’re 15 days in, it’s never too late to join and easy to do at your own pace,” said Fried. “The dynamic of women studying with women is remarkable.”
The festivities will include an afternoon shiur (Torah lesson) sponsored by the Orthodox Union Women’s Initiative, as well as the evening Melava Malka (special meal to bid farewell to Shabbat), which is sponsored by Binah Consulting, DATA/Dallas Area Torah Association, Jewish Learning Center, Kosher Palate and congregations Ohev Shalom, Ohr HaTorah and Shaare Tefilla.
Hochheimer, the program administrator, lives in Baltimore and is a teacher, tech solutions consultant and the author of “Eishes Chayil: Ancient Wisdom for Women of Today.” She was also featured on the “Lessons from the Tz’enah Ur’enah” podcast on allparsha.org.
“I had never studied this all before and it made for a very intense but unbelievable summer, to learn for myself and to learn to teach each lesson in 15 minutes,” said Hochheimer, who taught Ezekiel in the first round, and is teaching Jeremiah this session. “This study propelled my own learning to a new level and I look forward with sharing to the Dallas community how we can be inspired and why the stories of Nach Yomi are important.”
Fried and Goldfeder represented Dallas at a siyum with over 200 other participants in New York on Jan. 16. The following week, Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried, the dean and rosh hakollel of DATA and TJP columnist (and Fried’s husband), hosted a local siyum for the Dallas group; on Jan. 23, a siyum was held virtually from Israel.
“I studied this in high school — Esther, for instance, many times —but not to this depth,” Goldfeder said. “I love how much I’m still learning. It’s just mind-blowing.
“The energy in New York had me even more inspired and encouraged to go on and bring my family, friends and community with me,” she added. “The same way we read Torah over and again, and hopefully get something new, it’s the same with this.”
Women of all ages are participating, including an 11-year-old child who completed the program. In addition, Goldfeder’s daughter Nechama joined her for the siyum in New York. While first attending only to have time with her mother, Nechama was inspired by the program and has now created her own WhatsApp group.
“I didn’t think I had the time to commit but when I heard the focus this time would be on tefillos (prayers), I changed my mind,” she said. “I didn’t want to do it alone, so I invited friends and there are people from New York, a friend in Chile — all over — and we post what we learned from the daily study.”
Rackovsky was studying the first cycle with four women, which has grown to more than 16 from her congregation, Shaare Tefilla.
“I love how the structured daily learning centers my day and invigorates my purpose. I’ve built it into my routine and it’s a very important part of my life,” said Rackovsky. “Also, once is not enough. I’d studied this before, and the last two years were wonderful, but already just two weeks in I’m learning again. It’s bite-size and there’s no one way to do it. How each woman can find their own meaning and understanding is something very special.”
Joan White learned about the program from Rackovsky just days before the 2020 cycle began.
“I’ve enjoyed it from day one and it’s how I start my day. Reading the summary and then listening to the day’s presenter rarely takes more than a 15-minute commitment each day,” said White. “Starting again, with new presenters, the different perspectives are enlightening. It doesn’t matter if you have been studying this all of your life or if you are just coming to it; whatever your background, there is so much to be gained.”
Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman, director of the OU’s Women’s Initiative, spoke at the Jan. 16 event, welcoming and inspiring participants to carry on.
“We begin with Joshua and go through the end of Chronicles II, and it brings to each participant a great positivity for daily learning,” said Shmidman. “We’ve seen a tremendous energy and following come to us, connecting to these holy texts [from] thousands of years ago bringing relevance to our lives today.”
While Rebbetzin Devora Zakon did not complete the study with the group in January, studying at her own pace has been meaningful to her, and she recommends any woman sign on and make the schedule work for them.
“I had started studying on my own before this program began, a little here and a little there,” said Zakon. “[I’m] still moving a little slower than the group. I listen to the recordings, and I read the review and I absolutely love it. The speakers are amazing; they were last cycle and they are again, and I really appreciate how it helps me connect to prayer.”
Dallas’ program now welcomes more than 60, and the numbers are growing, with participants from at least 40 states in the U.S., as well as from Israel, South Africa, Chile, China, England, France, Panama, Poland and the Netherlands.
For more information, to connect to a local Nach Yomi WhatsApp group and to find meeting locations for the Feb. 5 programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign up for the Torat Imecha Nach Yomi series, visit ou.org/women/nachsiyum/next-cycle.