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Open University grants credit for women’s Torah studies

CM 24/08/2021

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Following legal pressure, the Open University has agreed to give credit towards an academic degree for women who have studied at midrashot, institutes for advanced Jewish studies for women, as it does for men who study in yeshiva.
In 2019, Netanela Sari, who studied for two years at the Nishmat midrasha for advanced Torah study for Women and who was then studying for a BA in psychology at the Open University, asked that her studies at Nishmat be recognized for the purposes of obtaining course credit towards her degree.
Open University grants such accreditation for men who study in yeshivas for some degrees, including psychology, and the woman argued that her studies at Nishmat should be similarly recognized.

However,the committee for accrediting previous study courses at the Open University disagreed and rejected Sari’s request.
Sari appealed the decision in 2020 stating that accreditation for men’s yeshiva studies but not women’s midrasha studies was gender-based discrimination, but her appeal was rejected and she was again denied accreditation for her religious studies.
Earlier this month, the Itim religious services advisory group sent a letter to the Open University. It argued that its recognition of yeshiva studies, and rabbinic qualifications through the Chief Rabbinate, which women are banned from receiving, for degree course credits, constituted illegal discrimination on the basis of gender as laid out in the 1951 law for women’s equal rights. Similar recognition should therefore be extended for women’s Torah studies.
“We are confident that an institution that seeks to increase knowledge and education in the public, which is the base and stronghold for the enforcement of human rights, will not enable gender discrimination. It should immediately work to redress this injustice, both in the individual recognition of Ms. Sari’s Torah studies and in the broader recognition of women’s Torah studies towards an academic degree, ” wrote Itim attorney Meira Freidman to the Open University.
Itim noted that Nishmat, along with some 20 to 30 midrashot, is recognized by the Education Ministry.
Following its letter, an attorney for the Open University wrote back to the organization and stated that Sari’s request was now approved and that she had been granted credit for her studies at Nishmat.
 Open University of Israel (credit: Wikimedia Commons) Open University of Israel (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
“In light of the student’s request, the Open University reexamined her application, and it was decided to grant her six general credit points in the field of humanities in recognition of her two-year Torah studies, as is customary according to the academic criteria,” said the academic institution.
“We are committed to examining on an individual and professional basis any application for recognition of previous studies.”
Itim director Rabbi Seth Farber said he was gratified that the Open University had now recognized that women who study Torah should receive the same benefits as men.
“I see this as part of a greater mosaic,” said Farber.
“Our generation has witnessed a remarkable growth in women’s Torah study, something that has benefited the Jewish community at large. It is now time for the institutions of the Jewish people, including the Israeli government, to recognize the achievements of woman and provide the benefits that to date have only been available to men.”
Farber added that he hoped other universities which accredit men’s yeshiva studies “will take the initiative and accredit women’s Torah studies as well.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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