Last week, the Yoetzet Halacha Initiative of the Five Towns hosted its second annual Wine and Wisdom event at Beth Sholom in Lawrence. Over 200 women came out to enjoy wine, eat sushi, try their luck at a raffle, and listen to an engaging panel discussion on women’s physical and mental health. Women from different parts of the community came out and showed support for the Yoetzet Halacha of the Five Towns, Lisa Septimus.
At the start of the evening, Alana Klein, one of the directors of the organization, addressed the crowd and explained that each woman’s attendance at the event makes it possible for the Yoetzet Halacha program in the Five Towns to continue to thrive. This past year alone, Ms. Septimus answered close to 1,000 phone calls, text messages and emails with questions from local women relating to Taharat HaMishpacha and intimacy. And yet, there is more work to be done to spread awareness of this wonderful community resource. Surprisingly, many people still do not know what a Yoetzet Halacha does.
“Yoatzot Halacha” are women trained by Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, located in Jerusalem with a branch in the United States funded by the Miriam Glaubach Center, in Teaneck, New Jersey. Women training to become Yoatzot devote two years (over 1,000 hours) to intensive study with rabbinic authorities in Taharat HaMishpacha (Jewish family ritual law). They receive training from experts in modern medicine and psychology, including gynecology, infertility, women’s health, family dynamics and sexuality.
Twenty 20 communities in the United States support a Yoetzet Halacha, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to Massachusetts to Houston to right here in the Five Towns. We are privileged to have Lisa Septimus serve as a community resource that allows women to directly, and comfortably, ask questions and therefore better adhere to the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha.
The purpose of the annual Wine and Wisdom event is to showcase the Five Town’s incredible Yoetzet Halacha, Lisa Septimus, as well as raise awareness about the existence of the Yoetzet program in our community. The evening featured a panel discussion by Ms. Septimus, as well as Elisheva Liss, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Dr. Elana Kastner, a beloved OBGYN with a local practice affiliated with NYU Langone Health. The discussion was moderated by Rachel Tuchman, a licensed mental health counselor, who has a private practice in Cedarhurst.
Ms. Liss spoke about the challenges young religious couples face because of their lack of sexual education and awareness. Dr. Kastner educated the crowd on perimenopause and menopause; and Ms. Septimus addressed numerous niddah issues that arise during perimenopause. Answerin anonymous questions posted by audience members, the panel also discussed what happens when a couple struggles with different religious levels between husband and wife, finding harchakot of niddah (precautions) difficult to observe, what to do when a woman feels too much pressure on mikvah night, and navigating the search for birth control when needed.
The three panelists covered heavy topics with sensitivity, insight, and ease, sprinkling the discussion with humor for good measure. A wonderful and insightful evening was had by all in attendance.
The Yoetzet Halacha Initiative of the Five Towns was created by Alissa Hersh, MD, Rachel Tuchman, LMHC, and Alana S. Klein, Esq., to sustain the role of the Yoetzet Halacha in the Five Towns so that our generation and future generations of Jewish women will have the means to observe the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha faithfully and in a dignified manner. Women who have questions pertaining to Taharat HaMishpacha may contact Yoetzet Halacha Lisa Septimus, at 5townsyoetzet.com or 516-900-2109.