New Mentoring Program Prepares Rabbis Wives for the Challenges and Demands of their New Role

07 Dec 2017

New Mentoring Program Prepares Rabbis Wives for the Challenges and Demands of their New Role

The Rebbetzin-to-Rebbetzin Program, a Joint OU-YU Initiative, Pairs Experienced and First-Year Rebbetzins for Support and Training to Meet Congregations’ Needs

New York, NY, DEC XX 2017 – Sarah Yeamans, Rebbetzin of B’nai Israel Ohev Zedek in Philadelphia, PA, recalls starting her first year as the wife of a rabbi with some trepidation and uncertainty. “I was unsure exactly of what my role should be in the shul and community, and not exactly sure of what I even wanted my role to be.”

Even through rebbetzins, or rabbi’s wives, are not hired as a synagogue employee, they are expected to serve the congregation in innumerable ways. They may be called upon to host meals, run programs, counsel congregants, host overnight guests, teach Bat Mitzvah students, advise brides, plan events, and so much more. In fact, it’s a full-time job with plenty of overtime – all to be done while caring for her family – and there’s no training program.

But that is changing, thanks to a new joint initiative of Yeshiva University and the Orthodox Union.  Through the Rebbetzin-to-Rebbetzin program, rabbis’ wives who are new to the role receive support, guidance, and inspiration from mentors who are experienced in the many demands and pressures of life as a rebbetzin.

The program launched in March, 2016 with 10 carefully matched mentor – mentee teams. The teams met monthly for one year to addresses challenges and concerns through which a rebbetzin is expected to navigate. The program, officially called Rebbetzin Elaine Wolf a”h Rebbetzin to Rebbetzin Mentoring, is named after the grandmother of Rebbitzen Dr. Adina Shmidman, Director of Women’s Initiatives at the Orthodox Union, who conceived of the program 2 years ago.

Spearheaded by Shmidman, the program was developed with Rebbetzin Meria Davis of the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University and Dr. Rachel Levine, a clinical psychologist and Rebbetzin of the Jewish Center in Manhattan, NY.

Topics included balancing synagogue and family life, developing friendships and boundaries, maintaining an appropriate lifestyle in the community, teaching women’s topics, helping congregants through struggles, and more.

Feedback has been highly positive. According to Shmidman, who also serves as Rebbetzin of the Lower Merion Synagogue of Bala Cynwyd, PA, “Participants reported growth in self-confidence as they learned to deal with myriad expectations. They developed skills for coping with stress and handling holiday pressures. Above all, they valued the nurturing sense of camaraderie. Only women who have lived the rebbetzin experience can truly understand how overwhelming it can be.”

Rebbetzin Yeamans of Philadelphia, member of the first “graduating class,” concurs. “I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to someone who could relate to my new position. My mentor has shared personal stories with me that have given me insight about how to deal with challenges that have arisen. It seemed all the more important to have resources and support as a new rebbetzin – a unique position which has so much potential to influence and make a difference in the lives of others.”

“Rebbetzin-to-Rebbetzin” is one of the first programs to come out of OU’s recently-created Department of Women’s Initiatives. Many other activities are in the strategic planning phase, says Dr. Schmidman, encompassing the areas of Torah, Leadership, Programming, and Standards.

About the Orthodox Union

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 1,000 congregations in its synagogue network. The OU is best known for its kosher supervision, which today is a multinational operation that certifies over 1 million products manufactured in 73 countries. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to teenagers and young professionals through NCSY and Taglit-Birthright/Israel Free Spirit, and Yachad, the National Council for Jewish Disabilities, among many other divisions and programs.

Note to Media:  Interviews and additional information about the Rebbetzin-to-Rebbetzin program and the new Women’s Initiatives program are available.  For arrangements contact: