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600 participants at women-only Torah festival

It was described as “a major illustration of the passion women in the British Jewish community have for outstanding Torah learning"

    Valerie Mirvis (third left) leads the dancing at the Neshama festival. It featured international speakers and music
    Valerie Mirvis (third left) leads the dancing at the Neshama festival. It featured international speakers and music

    More than 600 Jewish women have taken part in an inaugural festival of Torah learning.

    The women-only Neshama festival, at a central London hotel on Saturday night, was set up by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

    Opened by Chief Rebbetzin Valerie Mirvis, the event featured international speakers as well as home-grown particpants in the Ma’ayan programme training women educators.

    Sessions were led by participants including dancer and singer Avigayil Fabian, Katie Green of Israel’s Ma’aleh Film School, the acclaimed artist Chava Erlanger, world renowned American-born Israeli educator Yael Leibowitz, and Lauren Levin, Britain’s first Yoetzet Halacha (female halachic adviser).

    Esther Wachsman travelled to London from Israel to speak about the murder of her son, Nachshon. Lea Taragin-Zeller, a sociologist and anthropologist, spoke about her research into gender, and a panel presentation discussed leadership.

    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Neshama surpassed all expectations. To have more than 600 women, with such a variety of ages and levels of religious observance, celebrating their Judaism together, was truly unforgettable.

    “Our challenge now is to keep the momentum going and I will be actively encouraging communities to stage follow up events in the coming months.”

    Rebbetzin Mirvis said the event’s success was “a major illustration of the passion women in the British Jewish community have for outstanding Torah learning. I am delighted that the bar has now been significantly raised”.

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