36 Under 36 2009: Atara Eis, 27
Friday, April 24, 2009

 Atara Eis advises women who are members of nine synagogues in Manhattan about the sensitive issues of taharat hamishpacha (Jewish family purity laws). She is one of only three women in the United States who do this; they’re called yoatzot halacha. A graduate of the Keren Ariel Program run by Nishmat and a mother of three, Eis lives in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., and commutes to Manhattan one weekend every month. While in New York, she delivers between two and four classes with the goal of increasing women’s comfort with, and knowledge of, these laws. After developing relationships with these women, they are more likely to call or email her with questions, she says.

Often, Eis says, women don’t even know they have questions. And many women are very strict with themselves, sometimes overly so. "That affects the peace in the home," she says.

Generational differences also come into play. For young brides, "it’s a brand new set of laws that are suddenly thrown on them," Eis says. And women in their 40s, many of whom are experiencing changes in their menstrual cycles, need specific advice. The biggest misconception, she says, is assuming that it’s not worth asking a question.

While a majority of the calls Eis receives are from modern Orthodox women, she has answered questions from Conservative women and those in the haredi world.

Having a woman assume the role of yoetzet makes sense, Eis says. "We’re women. We know what a woman is going through. And women feel more comfortable confiding in us." As a result, "we’re getting a lot more truth in terms of halachic decisions."

"My hope," she says, "is that through my work as a yoetzet, I am enhancing relationships — between husbands and wives, between women and the Jewish legal system, and ultimately, between couples and God."

Next up: Eis, who holds a master’s in Jewish education from Azrieli, wants to become a trained marriage therapist. Muppet power: In high school, she used to be compared to Jim Henson’s character, Don Music. She continues to try to channel his power for good. (Confused? Check out this video. 

Staff Writer

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