Avigayil Halpern, 25, Amplifying Jewish Women’s Scholarship


@avigayiln / Approaching newsletter

The Jewish Week’s annual 36 Under 36 honors young leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are making a difference in the life of Jewish New York. For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

What do you do?

I’m a rabbinical student at the Hadar Institute. My primary work at the moment is my newsletter on the weekly Torah portion through a feminist and queer lens. Inspired by the Kranjec Test, I draw from Torah by women each week in writing my own dvar Torah. After only a few months, I’m nearing 500 subscribers. I have also been involved in activism around gender justice in the Jewish community, most recently co-writing the rabbinical student letter asking our community to avoid learning from and with abusers like Steven M. Cohen.

How did the pandemic affect your work?

I had already been thinking extensively about how egalitarian Jewish communities can value the home-based kinds of observance that are often devalued as “feminine” work — for example, cooking and cleaning to create a sense of Shabbat at home and not just observing Shabbat through public gathering and prayer. When the pandemic hit, I dove into thinking and writing about this, and I invested in providing resources for those who had not had previous experience of Shabbat beyond the synagogue. I wrote pieces about how to do this, and I also taught two free online workshops geared toward developing Shabbat practices that focused on joy and delight at home.

In one sentence, what was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?

Organizing a reading of Eicha outside of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcemen office downtown in the summer of 2018 as a protest action against family separations through Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I can’t ride a bike.

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