update deskIsrael News

New program supports halachic needs of female IDF soldiers

The Maaminot BeMadim ("Believers in Uniform") program offers a center providing free guidance and counseling to Torah-observant young women.

An Israel Defense Forces' soldier serving as part of a new all-female tank crew as part of the Border Array Units. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.
An Israel Defense Forces' soldier serving as part of a new all-female tank crew as part of the Border Array Units. Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit.

Ohr Torah Stone (OTS) has launched a new initiative, called Maaminot BeMadim (Believers in Uniform), to provide Torah-observant female Jews with spiritual, halachic and practical support during their service in the Israel Defense Forces.

The program is a further realization of a vision first pioneered by OTS 25 years ago at its women’s seminary, Midreshet Lindenbaum, to enable religious women to enlist in the military without compromising their values. 

Whereas the first class of young women to join the army through the program numbered 15, this week more than 400 young women are beginning their year of learning in one of OTS’s pre-IDF seminaries, and 350 Midreshet Lindenbaum graduates are currently performing active military service.

Overall, about 3,200 religious young women are expected to enlist in the IDF in the coming year, out of about 7,500 graduates of Israel’s religious high schools. During their service, they are often faced with challenges that arise from the gaps between the Torah world they come from and the reality of the military.

In response, the Maaminot BeMadim (“Believers in Uniform”) program offers a center providing free guidance and counseling to religious women either already serving or about to be inducted on all spiritual, religious or practical matters.

“After 25 years of preparing and accompanying our students through their IDF service, Midreshet Lindenbaum have amassed a great deal of knowledge, experience and connections,” said Rabbanit Hila Naor, the new center’s director.

“Young women—graduates of our seminary and many others from the Religious Zionist and ultra-Orthodox sectors who enlisted alone—turn to us every day for halachic advice and practical assistance with courses or spiritual challenges. We established this center with the aim of utilizing the knowledge we’ve amassed in order to provide a real and effective answer to all of them,” she added.

Maaminot BeMadim, which works in close cooperation with the IDF’s Social Security Division and religious authorities, operates a 24/6 (except for Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest) WhatsApp hotline through which halachic authorities provide spiritual answers, advice and guidance.

The center will also include a research program dedicated to the study of relevant issues pertaining to female religious service and host ongoing conferences, workshops and seminars dedicated to the interface between women, the Torah and the military.

“Rarely does a day go by where I don’t get questions from our graduates and their families as they prepare for or serve in the army.  These can range from very specific halachic issues to broader guidance about what jobs a young woman should pursue that will allow her to protect her religious identity and practice without compromise,” explained Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, director of Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Israeli programs.

The program stresses that the goal of the initiative is in no way intended to replace the Military Rabbinate, which is responsible for the daily religious functioning of the IDF.

“Our service provides a complementary level of support for these young women and their families to address all types of social and halachic challenges that we know they will confront over the course of their service,” added Rabbi Teharlev.

Ohr Torah Stone’s President and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander said, “Since we established our program enabling religious women to pursue both Torah study and military service 25 years ago, OTS has continued to pioneer the effort to integrate them into meaningful service in the IDF while strengthening their spiritual and Torah worlds. As part of that vision, we have made it our goal to provide support and guidance to every young woman soldier who needs it. This center was established to enable the optimal combination between religious women’s contribution to the security of the state while maintaining their faith and religious way of life.”

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