This female dynamo has a love for Torah
PHOTOGRAPH BY SUZANNE BELLING
On her first visit to South Africa, with many speaking engagements during the month of Elul prior to Rosh Hashanah, Dr Ziegler told the Jewish Report: “We should aspire to a higher level of learning and further our relationship with G-d and the community.”
Dr Ziegler is unique insofar as she teaches men too, as she did during public shiurim in Johannesburg to much acclaim.
Residing in Gush Etzion, Israel, Dr Ziegler grew up in Philadelphia, US. She studied Judaica and political science at the Stern Women’s College, which is the women’s branch of Yeshiva University. She has an MA and a Ph D, the latter from Bar Ilan University, having made aliyah in 1991.
In 1993, she met her husband, Rabbi Reuven Ziegler, pursuing her studies and her lecture tours of the United States and Europe in between giving birth to her five children – all boys, except the eldest (19), a girl, who is at present doing her National Service in Israel.
“It has been a very difficult time for us in Israel, a time of trouble, but it is also a time when the nation comes together,” she said. “Teaching Torah in the different Jewish communities, one feels the excitement.”
She is particularly impressed with South African Jewry – “they are enthusiastic and passionate”.
With Dr Ziegler’s background, it is small wonder she gravitated to the study of Torah. “My background is both religious and academic, with my father a scientist who combined academic rigour and love of Torah.”
Her three brothers are rabbis, her one sister teaches Bible in Chicago, while another sister lives in Israel, “So it is good to have a close family member nearby, but I do visit the States every year to lecture and see my family.”
Dr Ziegler is a lecturer in Israel at Matan, the Institute of Advanced Learning for Women. “We have many programmes, including those for women and the general public and jointly with Bar Ilan University. This year celebrates the 25th year of women’s Torah learning [at Matan].”
She also teaches in Migdal Oz, Midreshet Moriah and Herzog College.
Her husband is the head of Magid Publishers, Jerusalem. Dr Ziegler’s book – essays on The Book of Ruth, is to be launched next month.
Dr Ziegler’s visit to South Africa furthered the mission of The Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning, the aim of which is “to create a vibrant modern-Orthodox programme for Jewish scholarship, education and thought that inspires our community with a lifelong love of Jewish learning”.
The Academy is affiliated to Waverley, Sandton, Greenside, Mizrachi, Pine Street, Victory Park and Sydenham Shuls.
It utilises material produced by the London School of Jewish Studies, the president of which is Jonathan Lord Sacks, former chief rabbi of the Commonwealth. It has close to 1 000 students in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.