The Hadassah Foundation has provided generous support to Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy for the creation and implementation of In Their Footsteps: Women’s Leadership in the Bible and Today, a new online high school course for girls. This new course will provide girls across North America with a first-ever opportunity for Bible study with an emphasis on female leaders, combined with hands-on leadership training.

“Girls will exit this course equipped with concrete leadership competencies that can be used to address Jewish communal challenges, including the ongoing communal conversation regarding gender issues in Jewish society” said Chana German, Director of Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy. “With the lessons of Biblical heroines as their inspiration, these young women will be trailblazers in their schools and communities.”

Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy, a project of The Lookstein Center for Jewish Education of Bar-Ilan University, is a nonprofit online school of Jewish Studies that works primarily with Jewish Day Schools in North America. The online school currently offers 23 courses in Jewish History, Bible, Rabbinics, and Jewish Ethics, and has worked with nearly 1,000 students in more than 60 schools. “We will harness our existing operations, market, and expertise in both Jewish Studies and online learning to design and implement this course,” explained German.

Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is funded by AVI CHAI, the Kohelet Foundation, and the William Davidson Foundation, with additional support from Targum Shlishi and Joshua Venture Group, of which Chana German is a current fellow.

Course content for In Their Footsteps will build on Girls in Trouble, Alicia Jo Rabins’ highly acclaimed musical project about women in Torah, and the accompanying Girls in Trouble Curriculum, created by Rabins with the support of a Covenant Foundation Signature Grant. Rabins, a musician, poet, author, Jewish educator, and fellow Joshua Venture Group fellow, will act as a Bible study consultant for the new curriculum. Each unit of In Their Footsteps will present Biblical and Midrashic text, visual art, and an original Girls in Trouble song focusing on one Biblical woman. The unit will hone in on a story where a leadership skill or behavior is present, and will be combined with leadership development content, activities, and workshops.

Every course will be facilitated by an expert in adolescent girls’ leadership development, and together, the students and teacher will create a safe space to study, discuss, and think about the tales of Biblical women leaders, the leadership lessons learned, and the implications to their own lives. The stories will be a launching pad to explore particular issues of gender inequality that are at play in the present, including within the Jewish community. The young women will increasingly demonstrate leadership competencies through personal reflection, collaborative activities, hands-on workshops, and a culminating social action project.

The Hadassah Foundation is an investor in social change for girls and women in the United States and in Israel.  Since 1999, it has awarded grants worth approximately $7.3 million to nearly 90 different not-for-profit organizations in Israel and in the United States.  In 2016, the Foundation awarded $550,000 in grants; six organizations in the United States—including Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy —received funds to foster leadership development among Jewish girls and young women.

About Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy

Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy is a new model in Jewish education that works in conjunction with existing Jewish schools to create an online education platform, connecting Jewish middle and high school students to substantive Jewish learning. Utilizing Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy as a piece of the puzzle transforms schools’ abilities to differentiate and individualize instruction, offer a greatly expanded Jewish studies catalog, and allocate resources responsibly.

Curriculum is designed to support both the community and Orthodox schools as well as the multiple academic levels of students. Participants span multiple locations across the country and work in synchronicity (or not), independently or collaboratively. Whatever a student’s course of study, Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy works closely with schools to ensure that their needs are being met and to support them through their instruction.