Those who know Tzohar Seminary, know it is a seminary that specializes in Chassidus and the Arts. What they may not know is that when a young woman out of high school spends a year at Tzohar, she grows into herself in a way that no other seminary or school experience can provide.
For many students, Tzohar brings Chassidus from a subject contained in a book to a source of guidance in how to build a relationship to Hashem and to Torah living. Rabbi Aaron Herman, Director of Chassidus Integration at Tzohar, has built a curriculum that is ”focused on providing students with access to deep ideas contained in Chassidus in a way that they find relevant and compelling. “As a result, the students desire to learn more Chassidus and share it with others,” he says.
When a student takes this Chassidus that she has connected to in a very real and personal way, and then creates something from it, through one of the many art forms she has studied, she is deepening her “knowing” of Chassidus. Through her creation she is acknowledging this on a neshama level and is owning it and teaching it to the world in a way that only she can. In fact, the process at Tzohar parallels our mission as Jews. We are meant to be lamplighters, to shine our light by using our unique strengths and gifts.
“After high school, students are usually not ready to share their unique individual voice,” says Amy Guterson, Founder and Artistic Director, “because they need time to hear their own voice, find their talents and uniqueness and to start to become who they were meant to be. To have the chance to grow in this way at Tzohar is a very special opportunity, one that students need to grab with two hands and make every second count.”
Noa Engle (Tzohar 2017) realizes what Tzohar gave her as a young Jewish woman in Chabad: “After my first year of seminary in Israel, I signed up for a second year of seminary at Tzohar. I don’t think I’ve ever grown more as a person than in that one year. It is a transformative experience that I’ve been seeking to recreate in my daily life ever since. Tzohar taught me how to live an examined life, both in my relationship to G-d and Judaism and also in my understanding of myself as an individual. It challenged my previous perspectives and paved a new paradigm of creativity, introspection, and growth mindedness.”
Tzohar also enables its graduates to continue pursuing their studies in Torah and the Arts in a Jewish setting, and for less time and money. “By providing official transcripts and course syllabi, our graduates can receive up to, or even more than, one year’s worth of credits at a Jewish school,” says Rabbi Dovid Hordiner, Director of Education.
Sara Liberow (Tzohar 2018), now attending the Honors program at Stern College for Women, received an entire year’s worth of credits for her coursework at Tzohar and explains that “Tzohar Seminary gave me a leg up coming into school with not only a year’s worth of Judaic classes but also accredited art courses that count towards my art minor.”
Esti Vogel (Tzohar 2017) says that the 30 Tzohar credits that the Sara Schenirer Institute accepted “is great because it compensates for a year of study that saves a lot of time.” Chaya Spencer (Tzohar 2017) reports that “This was the most amount of credits my university has taken from an unaccredited program. This saved me so much time, energy, and stress, making it that much more feasible to be able to get my degree in less time.”
Tzohar’s day is divided between Judaics, with a focus on Chassidus, and the Arts, which are taught in a hands-on approach. Teachers are the finest in Pittsburgh, with arts teachers practicing their crafts as well as teaching at universities. Tzohar students, learn and create daily, spend time in spiritual farbrengens and talks, as well as focus on self growth. They volunteer in teaching the arts, visit senior citizens and teach the Parsha Through the Arts program that Tzohar founded with Yeshiva Schools. A wonderful trip to Israel takes place mid-year, with the focus on Holy sites, landscapes and visiting artists and arts institutions. Tzohar students create two presentations, the first mid year called “Chassidus, Art and Identity”, that shares their individual growth, and an end of year large collaborative presentation, sharing Chassidus through art,writing, music, dance, theatre, and films.
Not only is it not a year wasted in the life of a young woman, the year spent at Tzohar is life changing and defining. Chaya Engle, mother of two Tzohar graduates, explains that “The time at Tzohar was incredibly valuable for my daughters as it empowered each of them to develop a greater sense of self and direction. They earned credits toward their future studies while having the luxury of spending the year immersed in Chassidishkeit, self-reflection, and self-expression in an exciting, supportive, and nurturing environment”.
Tzohar Seminary’s ninth year begins in September. There are currently five places available. Students need not be accomplished artists, just focused on learning and creating.