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Women, Men, and the Future of Marriage in America

A Tikvah Institute for Women | August 23-25, 2015 / 8–10 Elul, 5775

Program Overview


The Tikvah Fund Institute for Women is a three-day summer learning experience geared toward religiously observant women interested in exploring issues of crucial importance to the Orthodox Jewish community and American society at large.

The institute will be held from August 23rd to August 25th (8 Elul – 10 Elul) in midtown Manhattan. Participation is fully subsidized, including tuition, travel expenses, and a modest stipend. All meals will be provided, with mehadrin standards in Kashrus maintained.

Over the course of the program participants will examine and discuss the institution of marriage through a variety of lenses: Torah sources, philosophical texts, legal debates about religious liberty, including recent Supreme Court decisions, and the lived experiences of fellow Orthodox women as they negotiate between traditional conceptions of family and the shifting demands of the secular world. Classes will be comprised of university-style seminars and  high-level discussions among participants. The topics covered will include:

Men and Women in Judaism
200x200-jewish_conservatismWhat does the Torah have to say about the differences between men and women, and what relevance do these distinctions have in the modern climate? Miriam Kosman, author of the groundbreaking book Circle, Arrow, Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaism, will explore this question through her own perspectives on what drives gender differences in both Judaism and in the world at large. Noted posek Rabbi Dovid Cohen of Congregation Gvul Ya’avitz will also give an overview of these issues as seen through the prism of halacha.

Marriage and Religious Liberty
fall2014-religious_freedom-thumb-200x200What is at stake in the current debates about marriage and religious liberty in the United States? What role, if any, should the state play in defining marriage? Michael Avi Helfand, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University and an expert on religious law and religious liberty, will lead in-depth discussions addressing the growing tensions surrounding freedom of religion, tensions augmented by the rise of same-sex marriage the United States. Sherif Girgis, a rising scholar and political advocate, will offer insight into the political questions surrounding the institution of marriage and the foundational role of marriage in civil society.

From Theory to Practice
How do theoretical debates about the nature and function of marriage actually play out in the private sphere? What kinds of challenges, and opportunities, exist for Orthodox women as they seek to encounter the modern world without compromising their traditional values?

Four prominent observant Jewish women from a variety of professional backgrounds will participate in a panel discussion on prioritizing marriage and family amid personal, spiritual and professional commitments. Important questions will be raised about the viability of traditional marriage in a rapidly changing world and explore the religious community’s unique perspective on this particular issue.

In addition, Mona Charen, noted national syndicated columnist, will offer observations on gender relations in contemporary American society based on her career in national politics and cultural analysis.