Frequently Asked Questions
There are three kinds of classes at Nishmat.
Shiurim and seminars: Most afternoon shiurim take place in the classroom. There are large classes with a lecture format and smaller classes that focus on discussion and debate.
- Frontal shiurim and seminars: Most afternoon shiurim take place in the classroom. Larger classes are more frontal, smaller classes focus on discussion and debate.
- Chaburot: Many students have personal questions about emunah, tefilla, and ethics. As one student put it, “I want to understand not only what I do, but why I do it. I want to grow religiously, and also stay myself.” Chaburot are informal groups of 5-10 students who meet with a Rabbi or another staff member to learn a text and discuss questions on a personal level.
In addition to attending classes and chaburot, Nishmat students take on individual bekiut learning projects in Tanach, machshava or Mishna. Under the supervision of a faculty mentor, each student keeps up a pace of independent learning.
Nishmat students come from a broad range of learning backgrounds. Some students come to us with advanced Talmud skills, others have barely opened the Gemara. In order that each student be challenged at the level appropriate for her, we have four levels of Talmud class, and three of halacha.
- Advanced Gemara focuses primarily on Rishonim and Acharonim, chakirot and halacha. Advanced shuirim are in Israeli Hebrew, and the pace and level of the shiur are demanding.
- Advanced halacha focuses on the development of the halacha from the Gemara through to the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries. The class addresses practical halachic questions, but focuses as well on metahalachic issues relevant to the halachic process.
- Intermediate Gemara focuses on acquiring textual skills in Gemara and primary Rishonim: Rashi, Tosfaot, the Rosh, and the Rif. Classes emphasize the conceptual, literary and philosophical implications of the texts. Intermediate shiurim are conducted in Hebrew.
- Intermediate halacha focuses on learning and understanding practical halacha l’maaseh of hilchot Shabbat. Students study the Mishna Brurah in depth and learn to follow the development of the halacha from its sources in the Gemara.
- Beginners’ Gemara teaches students essential foundational skills in Talmud study. Students learn how to read, translate and analyze primary texts, Rashi and Tosafot. Beginners’ Gemara is taught in English.
- Beginners’ halacha explores a series of halachic questions, from bein adam lamakom to bein adam l’chaveiro, from blessings and tefilla to the laws of lending and repaying debts. Each unit touches on different layers of the halachic process, culminating with the practical halacha.
Most classes at Nishmat are conducted in Israeli Hebrew. At the same time, in many slots during the week we provide English language options for students who are still not comfortable in Israeli Hebrew. The beginners’ Gemara class is conducted in English, as are several afternoon classes.
At the beginning of each semester, each student is given an empty schedule. Together with the head of the program, she determines the best schedule for her. In the afternoons, students can opt to learn independently in the bet midrash under the guidance of a mentor.
Most classes at Nishmat focus on primary texts; Gemara, Tanach and machshava. But personal and religious growth are by definition individual. Each student at Nishmat is assigned a mentor from among the faculty who works with her on navigating her personal path towards deeper avodat Hashem, tefilla and middot. Our classes on machshava offer an opportunity to wrestle with the foundational questions of faith and doubt.
Each Nishmat student has a two-hour slot each week dedicated to a chessed project on or off campus. Examples include running a bat mitzvah program for girls, helping elderly neighbors with preparation for Shabbat, and bikur cholim. Nishmat has a full-time chessed coordinator who trains and accompanies students through the year, making sure each one has the appropriate chessed project.
Chessed, however, is not confined to a two-hour slot! We nurture a caring, supportive environment in the bet midrash in which students look out for one another and step forward to volunteer for the community.
Every week, students study classic and contemporary Jewish texts on topics relating to social justice and activism in Israeli society. The bet midrash chevrati often features outside speakers – leaders in their fields – and rousing debates are encouraged.
Past experience has taught us that a curfew of 12:30 AM is helpful in Elul zman when students are establishing their learning norms. As soon as students are settled in their schedules, we reassess the need for a curfew. Our preference is always for a relationship of mutual trust and responsibility rather than a formal curfew.
Yes. Nishmat has apartment-style dormitories for its students. Each apartment has accommodation for five and includes a bathroom and dairy kitchen.
Each Nishmat Apartment contains:
Dairy pots, pans, and cutlery
Broom, “sponga” (Israeli “mop”), and cleaning bucket
Electric tea kettle
There is a coin-operated washing machine and drier in the communal laundry room (along with iron/ ironing board). Change for the machines can be made in the office during office hours. There is an elliptical machine and treadmill on campus.
Nishmat is located on a beautiful campus, surrounded by gardens, in the Pat neighborhood of Jerusalem.
We are within walking distance (or a short bus-ride) from the coffee shops of Emek Refaim, the Talpiot shopping area, and the Malha Mall. Several buses stop near the Nishmat campus, and travel to locations across the city, including the Central Bus Station.
Nishmat is a community beyond the Bet Midrash. Several young members of our teaching staff live on campus with their families, and both during the week and on Shabbatot, students drop by for meals or just to talk. Shana Ba’Aretz students have an “in” Shabbat every two or three weeks, and even on free Shabbatot, many students choose to stay with the families of faculty and Israeli friends.
The dorms are completely integrated, and Shana Ba’Aretz students room with Israelis.
Nishmat has an em bayit for the entire midrasha as well as a rakezet and madricha exclusively for our Shana Baaretz overseas students
Our students learn both halachic and hashkafic texts relating to tsniut, a concept that touches on the most basic questions of identity and self-expression. We expect that each student will find her own place within the range of halachic perspectives.
We expect our students to respect the midrasha’s norms of tsanua dress: sleeves that reach within a tefach of the elbow and skirts that cover the knee.
Nishmat provides a hot, meat, mid-day meal each day. Vegetarian entrees are available; please note this on your application form. Breakfast and dairy dinner are prepared by students in their apartments.
Yes, all Nishmat students participate equally in toranut. Every apartment is a mix of Shana BaAretz, Shiur Aleph (Israeli) and Maayan (Ethiopian Israeli) students, and approximately twice a year an apartment takes responsibility for setting up and cleaning up the lunch area, as well as tidying up the Bet Midrash. On Shabbatot, the set-up and tidying is divided equally among the students.
Please bring your own:
Linens – including sheets, pillows, blanket, and towels. We will be sending an option for ordering online.
Hangers (although some may be left by previous students)
Please note that toiletries and cleaning supplies are not provided.
When bringing electrical appliances (i.e. hairdryer), please remember that outlets in Israel are 220 watt.
For reasons of safety, we do not permit students to bring their own heating devices, under any circumstances. However, we do have central air and heating in all apartments.
Tiyulim and Shabatot
Nishmat organizes a Shabbat for students once every two to three weeks. Some of those Shabbatot are midrasha-wide, and take place either on campus or as part of a tiyul in different parts of the country. Others are unique to our overseas Shana Baaretz students. Each Shabbat addresses a different theme or question in Israeli society and religious life. Favorites include a Shabbat in Yerucham in which we stay within a “Garin Torani” or community of religious families who have settled in a development town in order to support the religious life of the town; a Shabbat in Tsfat in which we learn about Kabala and Hassidut
We take our students on a tiyul every two weeks on average. We have three three-day tiyul-Shabbatot during the year. One in the North, one in the desert, and one near Eilat.
Visiting Nishmat, applying, & acceptances
Certainly. Every year we have several students from community schools, and occasionally a student from a public school. The criteria are the same for acceptance – high motivation to learn, confidence in Hebrew, and religious maturity. Students who have not been through the Yeshiva system and still apply to Nishmat tend to be exceptionally motivated and eager to learn, and we are always happy to receive such applications.
It is hard to identify a single objective standard for the minimum level of Hebrew required. Most classes at Nishmat are in Hebrew (Israeli Hebrew!), most of your roommates will be Israelis. You will need to have good comprehension skills in order not to be too overwhelmed in the first months, and a confidence that with time you will be comfortable speaking in Hebrew.
To apply to the Shana Ba’Aretz Post High School Program:
Submit your application via the Women’s Israel Program Joint Online Application at www.applytosem.org. Please fill in your details completely. Deadline for applying is December 1, 2018.
A non-refundable application fee of USD $100 will be requested through the site.
Note: We can only process complete applications which include the application fee.
Group flight arrangements are handled by Ariel Tours. They can assist you with alternative travel arrangements as well, such as departing on a different date or originating from cities outside of the NY/NJ areas.
More information regarding the flight, prices, registration instructions, etc. will be sent in the registration packet that you will receive upon acceptance to Nishmat.
Nishmat uses Talk N’ Save as the cell phone provider for our overseas students. More information will be sent in the registration packet.
Nishmat is obligated to provide health insurance coverage for Shana Ba’Aretz students. Students should enroll in the American Israel Medi-Plan (AIM), a private medical program providing American style medical services, designed specifically for foreign students studying in Israel.
Enrollment forms will be sent to you with your letter of acceptance, and you will receive your health card when you arrive at Nishmat.
In order for us to supervise you, it is essential to be upfront about any health issues, i.e. mental issues, eating disorders. If you want to speak confidentially, please contact the head of the program separately. We cannot take responsibility, and cannot provide the necessary support, if we do not know your condition in advance.
Nishmat has third party insurance for all its activities. Property is only covered for damages that are Nishmat’s responsibility. There is no insurance on personal property outside of Nishmat’s campus. On campus, the students should be careful to lock their personal property in their apartments, and leave important documents and cash in the office safe.