A new Young Israel of Greater Cleveland program was one of 16 in the country that was selected for an Orthodox Union Women’s Initiative Challenge Grant. 

The challenge grant funds programs up to $5,000 to support spiritual, religious and communal involvement for women. Of 93 applicants, 16 were chosen, according to a news release. 

The Young Israel program, “Saturday night in(side Torah): Learning and entertainment for the women of our community” encourages increased, consistent engagement in Torah learning for a growing cohort of intergenerational women through classes and engaging experiences, said Sarah Rudolph, a member of the grant planning and writing team, which also included Daniella Robicsek Botnick and Alyssa Levi. 

Rudolph said the program at the Beachwood shul is open to girls at

bat mitzvah age and up, which provides an opportunity for mothers and daughters to engage in Torah education together.

“I think we’re trying to build something that a variety of people will find appealing and accessible, but have that component of real dedication to our study along with that,” she said. “People hopefully will be able to encounter something they may not have otherwise, and at the very least, have that opportunity to engage with each other.”

Grant applications were evaluated based on the creativity of the program, target audience and whether the project could be replicated in other communities, according to the release.

The new department that created the initiative for the Young Israel program will use the grant to plan three to four events depending on cost of food, venue, activity allowance and professionals needed, such as speakers and educators.

“Another thing that was very important to us is to make sure to pay the educators that we have for the Torah learning component,” Rudolph said. “I think that’s something that sometimes people forget to take seriously – the time and the expertise that goes into preparing, and them being able to give their time and their knowledge.”

Rudolph said program planning will occur during the summer and classes will begin this fall and winter. A survey will be sent out in July to build participants and plan for speakers and events that interest respondents.

The program will also be open to women who are not members of the shul.

“I think any kind of Jewish engagement is a positive,” Rudolph said. “I think social engagement is important. I think social engagement in the context of the Jewish community has its own ways of being important.”


Marissa Nichol is the Irving I. Stone Editorial Intern at the Cleveland Jewish News.

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