Ricki Sitton believes that in order to know someone, you need to talk to them. So she founded Hevruta, a project to facilitate conversations between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, and to ensure that neither remains a stranger to the other.
As part of its innovative “Up Close and Far” program, female students from Tel Aviv University, the Kibbutzim College of Education, and Sapir College meet with ultra-Orthodox women for weekly discussions over the course of a semester. Sometimes, these meetings take place outside the classroom, such as the time they squeezed into a wig salon in the Orthodox neighborhood of Bnei Brak to learn about religious hair coverings. But most of the time, participants speak with their “phone-pal” from
a distance, just two girlfriends chatting about things as large as Jewish tradition and culture or as small as their upcoming weekend plans. And invariably, they come to view each other as friends. When you speak to someone, after all, there’s no way you can stay a stranger.