Jewish Status and Learning with Hadar
Hadar welcomes people from all backgrounds to study in our online and in-person classes, events, and multi-day programs, and there is never a requirement to share anything about Jewish status as a prerequisite. We aim to be an institution of learning for all who want to connect with Torah.
Among the hundreds of programs we offer annually, we offer two Yeshivat Hadar programs, the Summer Beit Midrash and the Beit Midrash Fellowship, which are distinct from other learning opportunities at Hadar. These programs are designed for cohorts characterized by shared obligation in mitzvot and halakhic practice, including daily minyan.
Yesterday, we removed language on Jewish identity and status in the FAQ about these two programs, which was worded incorrectly. This language misrepresented our approach to this highly sensitive topic and the lack of clarity led to many people feeling excluded and hurt. We deeply apologize for the miscommunication and the pain that we caused.
Hadar’s admissions process has not changed in any way. The revised language below accurately reflects our longstanding approach: to express our excitement and eagerness for applicants to these two programs coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, to honor the complexity of people's journeys, and to be anchored in a halakhic tradition in which the families we are born to are part of what makes us who we are, even as we may make significant individual life choices.
We want to affirm our appreciation for all of the people who study with us coming from a broad range of backgrounds. Thank you for bringing the richness of your experiences to communities of Torah. We hope to continue to learn, pray, and be in community together.
R. Aviva Richman, Rosh Yeshiva
R. Ethan Tucker, Rosh Yeshiva
Our Approach to Jewish Identity and Status for the Yeshivat Hadar Summer Beit Midrash and Beit Midrash Fellowship
Jewish identity is highly personal and the sovereign domain of every individual. Jewish status is subject to different working definitions in different communities and schools of interpretation. At Hadar, we try to think about these issues with sensitivity and nuance.
The Summer Beit Midrash and Beit Midrash Fellowship are distinct from other learning opportunities at Hadar. They are designed for cohorts characterized by shared obligation in mitzvot and halakhic practice, including daily minyan. For these programs, Hadar has a working definition of Jewish status that is anchored in halakhah, while being sensitive to its thoughtful application in our contemporary world. As a starting point and emerging from current convention, halakhic Jewish status is expressed through matrilineal descent and/or affirmative embrace of the covenant through formal conversion to Judaism (involving immersion in the presence of a beit din of three, and circumcision where required). We also recognize the way that definitions of Jewish status are often used to exclude and to harm rather than to include and heal. We strive to help our fellows feel seen and valued, and we believe that the Torah we teach at Hadar on these matters helps to affirm the beauty of lived connection to Torah as constructive of Jewish status.
In written applications, all applicants are asked to reflect on the particularities and complexities of their own Jewish background, in preparation for a program that is intended to deepen one's sense of Jewish identity and practice. We honor and embrace the diversity of our students’ backgrounds, including families where the relationship between biology and parentage may be less straightforward and families of mixed religious heritage. Halakhic status in these cases can be more complicated, and varies significantly based on each person’s unique circumstances, sometimes requiring an affirming process in order for a person to mark the significance of their life choices and fully participate in a community of halakhic practice.
If you have any questions about Hadar's approach to Jewish status as it relates to you, please reach out to Rabbi Aviva Richman or Rabbi Ethan Tucker prior to submitting an application to begin a respectful conversation around your Jewish journey and halakhic pathways to honor your identity as a full part of a community of shemirat mitzvot.
We know that Jewish status can be deeply personal, sensitive, and sometimes painful in the contemporary Jewish landscape. Our goal is not to create barriers or close doors, nor is it possible to outline a comprehensive set of policies for every unique family story.
We hope that you’ll learn at Hadar - whether you apply for the Beit Midrash Fellowship, the Summer Beit Midrash, or participate in any other of our programs.
Update as of 4/28/22: R. Ethan Tucker's essays on Matrilineality and Patrilineality in Jewish Law and Community, Parts 1, 2, and 3 were published in 2015. These essays propose a long-term, communal vision for re-imagining these concepts over the course of generations. They were never intended, in theory or in practice, to play any role in undermining the Jewish status of those who have been treated as unambiguously Jewish by the halakhic discourse in the communities in which they were raised. The essays are currently being revised to more clearly reflect that original intention.