Largest Nach Yomi Class in History Celebrates In-Person Siyum With 500 Women from 28 Countries

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15 Feb 2024

14,000 Women Registered for Third Cycle of OU Womens Initiative’s Nach Yomi

When Orthodox Union Women’s Initiative Founding Director Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman initially envisioned an expanded version of the OU’s Nach Yomi program in 2020, she never conceived that it would become one of her department’s most popular programs. 

Nach Yomi participant Rebbetzin Marcy Fried, third from right, flew in to New Jersey to attend the Nach Yomi Siyum, together with six fellow participants from Dallas, Texas

OU Women’s Initiative aims to create and promote programming centered on Torah study, community leadership, and spiritual, personal, and professional development for women of all ages. When Rebbetzin Shmidman launched the department in 2017, Nach Yomi had already been running successfully since 2008 under the leadership of OU Torah Content Editor Rabbi Jack Abramowitz. Then taught exclusively by men, OU Women’s Initiative re-launched the program in January 2020 under the Torat Imecha umbrella, with the goal of creating a space for women educators and learners to share insights on Nach.

Torat Imecha and our commitment to daily learning took us to a different space,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman, who timed the two-year Nach Yomi cycle’s start to coincide with the seven-and-a-half year Daf Yomi cycle.

“When I pitched the program, I was hoping that 300 women would sign up. Crossing the finish line and completing the entire cycle of 19 books and 742 perakim didn’t even enter my mind.” 

That first cycle, 6,500 women registered. 

About 10,000 participants signed up to learn the second cycle, and 500 women from 28 countries and 38 U.S. states, including Alaska, recently celebrated a Siyum of Nach at two in-person events in Jerusalem, and Teaneck, New Jersey. 

Nach Yomi participant Jennifer Airley of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and OU Women’s Initiative Founding Director Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman at the Nach Yomi Siyum in Jerusalem

“The diversity in age, stage, background and hashkafa of our learners brings a richness to this largest Navi classroom in our history,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman. “Mothers and daughters, mothers and daughters-in-law, aunts, grandmothers, nieces, and friends are all learning together. Knowing that there are women from across the world connecting daily to our holy texts brings me magnanimous joy.”

The beauty of Nach Yomi is that it is accessible from anywhere and geared to learners of all levels. Each day at their convenience, Nach Yomi participants download an online shiur on the day’s perek, which is recorded by different female scholars. All shiurim are available via the Torat Imecha app on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music and Spotify.

“The program is so powerful because it gives us a window into words that are historic, but that also resonate so deeply today,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman.

She notes that while participants may join the cycle at any time, there are two ideal jump-on points: “One is at the very beginning,” she says. “The content spreads very cleanly over a two-year period, which is fascinating; we begin with six months of Neviim Rishonim, then six months of Neviim Achronim. The next inflection point is Tehillim, at the beginning of Ketuvim. For many women, Nach Yomi is their daily anchor.”  

Rebbetzin Marcy Fried of Dallas, Texas has been a Nach Yomi participant since its relaunch in 2020 and has just begun cycle three. 

“The program has been life-changing,” she says. “It has been my anchor through Covid, children’s weddings, family deaths, illnesses, grandchildren’s births, milestones and craziness in the world. It’s the daily ‘me’ space that grounds my connection to Hashem and Torah. When we learn Nach daily, we see the same patterns today. It helps us make sense of everyday events and provides direction on how Hashem wants us to move forward. Nach is not history, it’s alive – here and now.”

Tamar Sicklick of Woodmere, New York, recently completed her second Nach Yomi cycle along with her daughter Eliana, mother-in-law Fran, and sister-in-law Bonnie. Celebrating the Siyum as part of three generations was extremely meaningful to all of them.

“There’s something so unique and special about having a common bond through the learning of Torah that will always bind and connect us to one another,” says Tamar. “It’s a huge accomplishment for each of us individually, but collectively even more so. I hope that we continue to learn like this for many years to come.”

With about 60 female educators teaching Nach Yomi, Rebbetzin Shmidman views the program as an avenue to introduce more scholars to the community; something she says is an OU Women’s Initiative department objective.

Our educators are bright, accomplished women who model scholarship, comportment, and love for Hashem,” she says. They have moved the program forward in an exceptional way.”

Rebbetzin Fried appreciates the variety of educators and their different teaching styles and perspectives. Everyone can find a teacher that speaks to them.

“Because there are so many teachers with unique styles and approaches, we get a broad spectrum of insights. It’s what makes this ‘by women for women’ program unique — it touches every single one of us and transforms us in personal, meaningful ways.”

While Nach Yomi largely centers on independent study, there are Zoom Siyumim after each sefer, as well as virtual tours of Israeli sites connected to certain perakim. Several communities have also started local chapters and WhatsApp groups to support their learning. 

“Women ask each other questions, share content-related songs or poems, and get together on Shabbos to catch up and learn,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman. “We’re part of something bigger. I was on the subway and a woman said, ‘You’re Nach Yomi.’ We’re all talking the same language and learning our canon together. It’s extremely powerful.”

Two years ago, OU Women’s Initiative introduced Nach Shabbat, an annual program where Nach Yomi educators visit various communities as scholars in residence, with the goal of fostering interest in Nach and encouraging women to join in the daily learning.

Nach Yomi Instructor Michal Horowitz says Nach Yomi created a global virtual Beit Midrash. 

Chaburah comes from the word chibur, connectivity, and it’s connecting us through our most powerful, beautiful, enlightening and impactful tool — the Torah,” she says.

Rebbetzin Fried is grateful for the many relationships she’s cultivated through her participation in Nach Yomi. 

“The camaraderie and friendship with others who learn, and with the teachers, is indescribable,” she says. “During Covid, we had the zechus to ‘bring’ several Nach Yomi teachers to Dallas via Zoom. The Nach Shabbos scholar-in-residence programs allowed us to bring the teachers into our homes and our community, creating a lasting bond of friendship.”

In January and earlier this month, 500 women celebrated the completion of the second Nach Yomi cycle in person at Siyumim in Israel and North America. Both included seudot mitzvot, dancing, remarks by Rebbetzin Shmidman and shiurim by Michal Horowitz.

The first event, attended by 130 women, was held at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Campus in Jerusalem. Keynote speakers included Sivan Rahav Meir, OU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph, and OU Israel Director of Community Programming and L’Ayla Women’s Learning Initiative Zemira Ozarowski. Prior to the Siyum, OU Women’s Initiative led two days of Torah V’Chessed programming, attended by 100 women. Smaller communities worldwide held their own Siyumim as well.

“Last year we ran tiyulim based on our learning,” says Rebbetzin Shmidman. “In light of the war, we wanted to connect with the people of Israel this year, so we combined our learning with chessed and volunteerism. Activities included a challah bake and barbecue with chayalot at an army base, visiting displaced citizens from Shlomit, and an agricultural activity at a hydroponic lettuce farm close to Bet Shemesh.

350 women also celebrated a Siyum in North America at Teaneck’s Congregation Keter Torah. Prior to the Siyum, Nach Yomi instructors Stacey Goldman and Horowitz delivered shiurim to a packed audience. Keynote speakers included OU Women’s Initiative Commission Co-chair Nomi Rotblat, Nach Yomi participant and mother of a fallen soldier Jennifer Airley, and OU Managing Director of Communal Engagement Rabbi Yaakov Glasser.

“The Women’s Initiative Nach Yomi Siyum was an extraordinary tribute to the thousands of women whose personal, familial, and communal lives have been elevated and transformed through the inspired engagement of learning Nach,” he says. “Personally, the women of my own Kehila in Passaic, as well as my extended family, lived each day of the Nach Yomi cycle through the lens of the timeless messages of our Prophets…Our community has already experienced expansion in the number of women committed to learning this next cycle. The Siyum was an awe-inspiring moment of true unity and purpose in celebrating this community of women, and the incredible accomplishment of completing Nach.”

The third Nach Yomi cycle began on February 1, and 14,000 women have registered to date, something that continues to inspire Rebbetzin Shmidman.

“For so many people who are doing it again and again, this is part of their lives. They’re committing 15 minutes to Torah every day.”

When asked why anyone would be interested to relearn all 19 books again, she points to Jennifer Airley of Ramat Beit Shemesh. Airley found comfort in returning to her Nach Yomi learning following the tragic death of her son, Binyamin Meir, in Gaza on November 18. She continues to view the program as nourishment for her soul.

“The finishing of a cycle is just the beginning,” Airley says. “The first cycle gave me an overview of all the sefarim I never learned before. I’m excited to go through it again, because now I get to go deeper. We get to see these nevuos coming true in our times… you can hear Hashem talking to you. It’s so precious that we are zocheh not just to have Nach, but to be able learn it.”

Nomi Rotblat adds, “The commentators tell us that the phrase Chazak Chazak V’Nitchazek, which we recite when we finish a book or a course of study, refers to our looking to the future. We aren’t satisfied with past accomplishments, but V’Nitchazek, let us be strong as we begin again. The real simcha is about continuing in our learning. I know that we all look forward to this next Nach Yomi cycle, with its new presentations, voices, and teachings.”

Rebbetzin Shmidman hopes that the conclusion of the second cycle will inspire others to join the Nach Yomi program, even if the prospect of completing 19 books seems daunting.

“Not everybody crosses the finish line, and that’s okay,” she says. “It’s 742 perakim – one day more is one day more of learning.”

Jackie Sharman of Jerusalem has been part of the Nach Yomi program since the program’s relaunch in 2020 and has just begun cycle three.

“Learning Nach is about learning our shared biblical history,” she says. “That informs and teaches how we are today. To whoever is thinking about joining this program, I would say, just do it. It will enrich your life. It has certainly enriched mine.”

To register for the third Nach Yomi cycle, visit