A midrasha (Hebrew: מדרשה‎, pl. midrashot/midrashas) is an institute of Torah study for women, usually in Israel, and roughly the equivalent of a yeshiva for men. A "seminary" (סמינר‎, sometimes seminaria)[1] is a similar institution, more traditional in orientation. Midrashot are Religious Zionist, while Seminaries are usually Haredi; although in English, "Seminary", or "Sem", is often used for either.

Founding Beit Yaakov Teachers' Seminary, Kraków, Poland
Detail of the above.
Chavruta-study, Midreshet Shilat in Israel
Lifshitz College of Education, Jerusalem (orig. Mizrachi Teachers Seminary)
Beth Jacob Jerusalem
"Machon" housing the Bar-Ilan University Midrasha
Beit Midrash of Migdal Oz
Dormitory accommodation - Midreshet Ein HaNatziv
Neve Yerushalayim
Yeshiva University Stern College for Women
Lander College for Women
Chabad's Ohel Chana, Melbourne
Yavneh Seminary, Telz, Lithuania.

The term Midrasha is sometimes used more widely, referring to pluralistic, as opposed to Orthodox, educational institutions. In Israel, it may also refer to field schools that organize seminars and nature field trips.[1]


The Haredi aligned seminaries - for example Beth Jacob Jerusalem, and the Gateshead Jewish Academy for Girls - are modeled on the Bais Yaakov movement's teacher-training seminary established by Sarah Schenirer in 1923. (Today, Beis Yaakov almost invariably refers to high school, while "Seminary" is used for a post-high school institution.) Outside of Europe, the "Beis Yaakov Seminary, Tel Aviv" [2] was founded in 1933, and Jerusalem's "Beis Yaakov Institute for Teachers" [3] in 1939; the first Seminary in the USA was established by Vichna Kaplan in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1941. See Bais Yaakov #History and, for further context, Telshe Yeshiva #Yavneh.

The Religious Zionist and Modern Orthodox midrashot began to be established in the late 1970s, parallel to the Hesder yeshivot;[4] these include the Religious Kibbutz Movement's Midreshet Ein HaNetziv, Midreshet Lindenbaum, and Migdal Oz, sister school of Yeshivat Har Etzion. Precedent, is the Mizrachi Teachers Training College, today's Lifshitz College of Education, which was established in Jerusalem in 1921; the Talpiot Bet Medrash for Teachers in 1937; and Machon Gold in 1958. Lindenbaum, in 1976, was the first established independent of a teacher's college.[4] The largest Midrasha is at Bar-Ilan University, with 800 students in its various programs.[5] A midrasha that offers degree studies is sometimes called a machon (מכון‎, institute). The word "midrasha" is based on the term beit midrash, "house of study"; the root דרש means "to seek [knowledge]",[6] and is then generalized to mean "expound". It is cognate with the Arabic "madrasah," which also refers to a place of learning.


Midrashot and seminaries vary in curriculum and hashkafah, or outlook. [7] All cover Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Jewish philosophy, Halacha (Jewish law), and Hasidus / Musar (character development);[1] topics in applied Jewish ethics, such as the "laws of speech", are often studied separately. Depending on the institution's stance, the weight and role assigned to Talmud particularly, and in fact to textual-skills generally, will differ re men's yeshivot, and between schools.[7]


At Midrashot, treatment of Tanakh and Jewish philosophy - referred to there as Machshavah - will typically be text-focused, built around chavruta-based study as at yeshivot.[7] This entails paired-study where assigned sources are prepared for shiur, a lecture delivered as a discursive-review. At some institutions, Talmud is studied directly, also as at men's yeshivot, if less intensively;[a] others treat Talmud somewhat as at seminaries, below. Regardless, Halachah will generally be studied with practice in view, as opposed to at a men's Yeshiva, where the derivation is from Talmudic sources through codification. At Matan, Nishmat and Lindenbaum the treatment is Talmud-based; see also Drisha Institute.[8]

Women usually attend Midrasha for one year, following or before Sherut Leumi (national civic service); a second year is sometimes offered. Programs often emphasize Machshavah, deepening their students' religious identity at this life-stage;[b] this may include specific study of the writings of Rav Kook, and/or Torat Eretz Yisrael in general.


Seminary programs usually span two years post high-school. Seminaries are typically more conservative in their approach than Midrashot: selections from the Talmud - usually the non-legalistic aggadah - may be studied, but only in the context of other classes, especially philosophy and Musar;[c] the only section of Talmud studied directly is Pirkei Avot, comprising ethical teachings and maxims. These institutions relatedly assign less weight to textual skills,[7] with content delivered primarily via lecture. As appropriate to the program in question, formal teacher training is provided[9][10] additional to these courses.

Parallel to their academic content, most Seminaries also focus on the role of women in Torah[7] (several Midrashot similarly),[11] covering topics such as[9] Tzniut (modesty), Shalom Bayit ("domestic harmony") and Chinuch (education of one's children), and preparing students for the role of akeres habayis, or "household mainstay".[12] These classes often emphasize "values", as opposed to sources.[7][d]

Hasidic-aligned institutions, for example Beth Rivkah, are positioned in line with the Seminaries; their curricula differ in that they emphasize the works of their respective Rebbe, and their exposure to text is often further limited. Note that some Chabad-affiliated institutions, on the other hand, offer classes in Talmud and text intensive Halacha.

Israel programsEdit

Many diaspora-based girls attend midrasha or "sem" in Israel, for a year or more following high school; several midrashot and seminaries offer special programs, for example Shana Ba'aretz at Nishmat, or the "Overseas Program" at Midreshet HaRova.

Additional to Torah study, as above, programs often include an element of yediat ha’aretz (“knowledge of the Land”) comprising touring of Israel, Shabbatons in various communities, seminars with journalists and politicians, and often[7] volunteer work in local schools and hospitals; often a trip to Poland is scheduled to memorealize the Holocaust.

Some institutions accommodate the newly observant with similar year-programs, designed to build foundational knowledge and skills; well known are Neve Yerushalayim, Mayanot, and Machon Roni; Machon Chana is US based.


Most Haredi and Hasidic seminaries offer certificates, and sometimes degrees, in Education. [9] [10] In Israel, the two year certificates are jointly through the Szold Institute, and are recognized by the Israel Ministry of Education as equivalent to the national matriculation.[13] Chabad's Beth Rivkah offers a B.A. and M.A. jointly with the Shaanan Religious College of Education; "Beth Chanah", its affiliated program in Tzfat and Jerusalem, offers a 2 year certificate. JCT's Lustig Campus in Ramat Gan hosts degree programs for Haredi and Hasidic women; see also The Haredi Campus - The Academic College Ono.

In the Religious Zionist community, women often continue their studies at one of the midrasha-affiliated teacher training colleges, which offer an intensive Torah-program in conjunction with the B.Ed. degree; (masters' level) specializations are often offered in Tanakh or Machshavah. The year in Midrasha is sometimes integrated with the college program. [4]Bar-Ilan University operates a midrasha, and students in all disciplines may then continue Torah study in parallel with their academic studies (with a requirement of at least seven courses in Judaism[14]). Machon Tal, [11] associated with JCT, the Jerusalem College of Technology, similarly offers degrees in engineering and management. Female faculty at Midrashot often hold Doctorates; usually from Bar-Ilan.

Most Seminaries and midrashot for English-speaking students are accredited by American colleges; see Yeshiva #College credit. Some offer second-year programs with religious-studies classes in the morning and general-studies classes in the afternoons, allowing students to pursue a religious education with a college degree simultaneously. In the US, the Modern Orthodox Stern College for Women (Yeshiva University) combines Torah and University studies, as at Bar-Ilan; the Haredi Lander College for Women similarly.

In recent years some midrashot offer specialized programs in Halakha, comprising Talmud-intensive source study, with certifying examinations on the relevant sections of codified law in the Shulchan Aruch. Nishmat trains women as Yoatzot Halacha, advisors in the laws of Family purity; [15] Lindenbaum, through a joint program, [16] prepares women as to'anot, advocates in religious courts for matters relating to divorce.[17] Three programs mirror the Rabbinate’s ordination requirement for men: Ein Hanetziv trains students as "Teachers of Halacha", [18] Lindenbaum in "Halachik leadership" [19] and Matan as "Halachik Respondents". [20] Yeshiva University offers women students a masters level program in advanced Talmud and Halacha.[21] For further discussion, see Women rabbis and Torah scholars #Orthodox Judaism.

Other institutionsEdit

As above, the term Midrasha is sometimes used for pluralistic, as opposed to orthodox, institutions. These are usually structured around continuing / adult education, and accept both men and women. Examples in Israel are the Ein Prat Midrasha[22] and the Midrasha [23]at the Oranim Academic College; elsewhere, the Melton School's Midrasha in Cape Town. [24] Oranim, in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute,[25] offers a pluralistic ordination to both men and women. [26]

Within the Orthodox community, continuing-education programs of this type are also offered, for example by Matan [27] and Emunah; [28] these are limited to women. Midreshet Afikim[29] is a similar program for high-school students. Many synagogues host a "Community Kollel", which has a corresponding function, and offers adult education to both men and women (usually separately).

In the United States, the term Midrasha is also used for programs where high school students can continue their Jewish education post bar / bat mitzvah. [30]

Midreshet Ben-Gurion - also known as Midreshet Sde Boker - is an educational center and boarding school in southern Israel. Eshkolot operates "midrashot" aimed at knowledge of the land of Israel. Beit Berl College's school of art is called "HaMidrasha".

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c Midrashot, science.co.il
  2. ^ He:סמינר בית יעקב תל אביב (שצ'רנסקי)
  3. ^ He:מכון בית יעקב למורות
  4. ^ a b c See the corresponding Hebrew article: He: מדרשה תורני לנשים
  5. ^ “The Midrasha at Bar-Ilan University”
  6. ^ Lev. 10:16
  7. ^ a b c d e f g A Modest Year in Israel: When Young Women go to “Seminary”. Lilith, 2014
  8. ^ drisha.co.il: "ישיבה לנשים המבקשות להעמיק ולגדול בתורה"
  9. ^ a b c For example, Seminary Bnos Chaim (Student Catalog)
  10. ^ a b For example, Bnos Zion of Bobov Seminary (Catalog)
  11. ^ a b מדרשת-טל, jct.ac.il
  12. ^ tiferesbaisyaakov.com
  13. ^ discussion, theyeshivaworld.com
  14. ^ Midrasha, biu.ac.il
  15. ^ תוכנית להכשרת יועצות הלכה, nishmat.co.il
  16. ^ הכשרת טוענות רבניות
  17. ^ See the Hebrew Wikipedia article he: יד לאישה
  18. ^ בית-מדרש-למורות-הלכה, midrasha.co.il
  19. ^ המכון-למנהיגות-הלכתית , lind.org.il
  20. ^ Hilkhata: a program for the advanced study of Halakha, matan.org.il
  21. ^ Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies
  22. ^ Ein Prat Midrasha, beitprat.org
  23. ^ Midrasha at Oranim
  24. ^ Midrasha Adult Education Institute, meltoncapetown.org
  25. ^ Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis, hartman.org.il
  26. ^ רבנות ישראלית, oranim.ac.il
  27. ^ Classes, matan.org.il
  28. ^ בתי-מדרש, emunah.org.il; with international branches: worldemunah.org
  29. ^ midreshetafikim.org
  30. ^ Examples: Berkeley-Oakland Midrasha (midrasha.org), Midrasha Hebrew High School; Contra Costa Midrasha