Chabad’s Bais Chana Institute Ranks Second of Top Ten NonProfits Empowering Women


Chabad’s Bais Chana Institute Ranks Second of Top Ten NonProfits Empowering Women

Photos: greatnonprofits.org

by Dvora Lakein

June 28, 2010

(lubavitch.com) Bais Chana Women’s Institute has been named one of the top nonprofits empowering women by GreatNonprofits and GuideStar. The distinguished educational institution has opened its doors to thousands of women of all ages; now, on the eve of its 40th year, new doors will be opened for Bais Chana. 

The rating is significant because potential donors check GuideStar and GreatNonprofits for information about not-for-profits’ ideological and financial positions. While GuideStar researches each nonprofit, GreatNonprofits bases its reports on consumer reviews. Positive assessments on either of these influential sites translate into more funds from philanthropists.

To determine which organizations most support and empower women, GreatNonprofits and Guidestar teamed up with women’s groups including the National Organization for Women, Dress for Success, and Women News Network. The public was invited to review and rate the various initiatives. Out of 368 participating organizations, 154 made the list of “Top-rated women’s empowerment nonprofits.” Bais Chana ranked second.

At a time when women are more likely to graduate college and more women than men are currently employed, Bais Chana, founded in 1971 by Rabbi Moshe and Mindy Feller, and Rabbi Manis Friedman, in St. Paul, MN, is as relevant as ever. That’s because, says Executive Director Mrs. Hinda Leah Sharfstein, “With all the supposed changes women have experienced, culturally, sociologically, and economically, they are still in the same place. It is fascinating to attend classes: there are always the same questions, only the context has changed.”

Sharfstein made her Bais Chana debut in 1980 as a student. A decade later she was directing the operation.

“I was empowered by Bais Chana in every way,” she says. “People think of this as an education thing, and it most certainly is, but when you teach someone what it means to be a Jewish woman, you are giving them the strongest foundation for all their future growth.”

Bais Chana offers retreats for women and couples in the winter and summer. Teens summer at the Jewish Un-Camp and college women spend winter break at Snorkel and Study. A spring break and Israel trip round out the offerings. All of Bais Chana’s programs are characterized by intense study in a casual setting. Rabbi Manis Friedman is dean and one of Bais Chana’s most popular lecturers.  

On greatnonprofits.org, there are 16 pages of bubbly reviews written by former attendees. “Bais Chana has shown me the absolute beauty that is uncovered in humanity when competition and pettiness are brushed away and are replaced with acceptance, empowerment, spirituality, and growth,” writes dl1. Along with her five-star rating, nada states that Bais Chana “empowers women to better understand the important role that all women play in Judaism.” Bh11543 “first came to Bais Chana almost thirty years ago and I can honestly say that my daily life has been altered (for the better) ever since.”

Bonnie Herman couldn’t agree more.

The recent Penn State graduate did not consider herself Jewish growing up. A string of providential happenings brought her to her campus Chabad. From there she was introduced to the Bais Chana experience, at a Snorkel and Study retreat, in 2008.

“My life was literally changed by the things I learned at Bais Chana,” says Herman as she prepares for a year of Jewish study in Safed, Israel. “It was just the truest thing you’ve heard in a long time. It someone sparks a revolution inside of you on a soul level.

“But it’s not like they just put something in the drinks and everything is hunky-dory,” insists Herman. “You can challenge, you can question. And they tell us just to take baby steps [in Torah observance]. They don’t want anyone going off the deep end.”

Sincere gratitude, found in the heart of each Bais Chana attendee and now posted online, makes all the effort worthwhile. Says Sharfstein, “there are no greater accolades than from the people you serve.”

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