What has five years of service to the community by the NILI Taharat Hamishpacha Hotline meant to the hundreds of women who have reached out for Halachic guidance and support? The Kallah teachers who staff the hotline won’t truly know since the questions that arrive by phone, email, web form, and text are anonymous. However, through their interactions with the women who call, the Kallah teachers do feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and appreciation. The hotline is having a quiet and profound impact on family life in Chicago.
Beginning in 2014 under the direction of Harav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, shlit”a, NILI: the Chicago Institute of Women’s Learning, an initiative of the Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Kollel launched the Shirley Rothner a”h Taharat Hamishpacha Resource. This effort included a hotline to provide Chicago women access to Halachic guidance from Chicago Rabbis with the comfort of speaking to a woman. Local, trained and experienced Kallah teachers began taking turns staffing the hotline, fielding questions in all areas of Mikvah and Taharat Hamishpacha and connecting Halachic queries with local Rabbis- either specific Rabbis based on the request of the questioner- or available Rabbanim with experience in this field of Halacha.
The hotline has catered to a variety of questions, providing a service that makes community women feel comfortable, combining the Psak of a local Rav with the warmth and care of a supportive Kallah teacher. The hotline is blessed with knowledgeable, experienced and sensitive Kallah teachers. These four incredible women are Dr. Nechama Brand, Mrs. Tami Drapkin, Mrs. Lynn Kraft, and Mrs. Atara Turoff, who have been with the hotline since its inception, and continue to do amazing work on behalf of the community each day. In addition to their family, professional and communal commitments, they each dedicate significant time to answering the questions that come through the hotline and do so with the utmost care and sensitivity. Beyond responding to questions, they are providing community women with further education in the area of Taharat Hamishpacha.
Over the past few months, the Kallah teachers have had opportunities to further both of these goals. At the end of November, NILI hosted an event featuring Rabbi Yona Reiss, and Dr. Carol Ellman and Dr. Mariah Plawer of Midwest Women’s Health on the topic of “Birth Control to Menopause: The Lifespan of Women’s Health in Medicine and Halacha.” This event proved to be an important, educational event in both areas of medicine and halacha, and introduced new topics and ideas to the many women in attendance. Recently, Mrs. Lynn Kraft was brought in by Midwest Center for Women’s Health to give a review of the halachot of Taharat Hamishpacha that are relevant to the staff as women’s health professionals.
In addition to educating the community, Dr. Brand, Mrs. Drapkin, Mrs. Kraft, and Mrs. Turoff pursue their own continuing specialized education in this area of Halacha and women’s health. This professional development enables them to be up to date on the latest resources that are available in order to best help the women of our community. Over the last few weeks, they have met with Dr. Naomi Marmon Grumet of The Eden Center, an Israel based organization focused on enabling all women to have a personally meaningful and welcoming experience in the mikveh in the context of emotional and physical health and well-being. Additionally, they met with Rabbi Yisroel Matzliach and Rabbi Josh Ford of Refuah 311, to learn about their important work and how the hotline can partner with Refuah 311 in order to ensure that women who call the hotline with questions that necessitate the help of medical or mental health professionals are connected to the help that they need. This dedication to their own education is a testament to the incredible resource and leadership that the Kallah teachers provide our community. To reach a Kallah teacher on call at the hotline, call or text 847-636-9723. If your call is not answered, the Kallah teacher on call will return your call within 12 hours. You can also reach the hotline via email at email@example.com, or submit a web form at nilitorah.org/hotline.