August 18, 2014

When Rabbi Robby and Shoshana Charnoff arrived at Queens College two years ago as the inaugural Torah Educators of the Orthodox Union’s Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) program at the university, they emphasized their goal of “transforming a commuter campus into a Queens College Jewish Community.”

The Charnoffs serve as Torah educators, role models and community organizers on campus, which is no small feat for a constituency of almost 1,000 Orthodox Jewish students. After their first few months on campus, Rabbi Charnoff reflected, “We are re-envisioning Jewish life here at Queens College—the student leadership is here, the passion is here, the Hillel staff is here, and with JLIC here, Queens College will be a massive force on Jewish campus life within the next few years.”

True to that statement, the influence of JLIC has positively permeated the campus.Withhin their first year, the Charnoffs noticed a growing trend of young women wishing to create JLIC learning groups to continue their studies. Throughout the week small groups of female chaburot kept organizing, creating an almost accidental midrasha.  “Male students have many yeshivas in the surrounding neighborhoods of Kew Gardens Hills and Forest Hills, to schedule times to learn, but women have far fewer choices,” the Charnoffs said. Realizing they could fill a void for significant Torah learning for their female students, Rabbi Robby and Shoshana set off to formalize a full-fledged midrasha for women on campus.

Beginning Wednesday, September 3, the Charnoffs will launch JLIC’s HaMidrasha@QC, an on-campus intensive beit midrash program for women with a focus on developing central concepts and philosophies in Judaism, as well as facilitating in-depth, text-based chevruta learning.  Comprehensive perspectives on chumash, navi, halacha, and hashkafa will be taught in chevrutah and chaburah style over the course of each three-year cycle.

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