Tell us about Dr. Aviva Weisbord’s history with WITS and her connection to its founding?
Mr. Shlomo Spetner:
Dr. Weisbord was a true visionary. She saw the need for a post-high school program for girls in our community. Not simply general studies in a Torah environment but having an environment where Torah learning continues and is a part of a young woman’s life. She saw it as a necessity, not an option.
These young women are in a transitional period, going from adolescence to adulthood and it’s crucial for them to be in a strong, supportive environment. Young men traditionally have more of an opportunity to stay in a yeshiva environment where they have the guidance and protection of the yeshiva and their Rebbeim, but that kind of support system was missing for girls.
Dr. Weisbord personified the hadracha of her father, Rav Weinberg, zt”l, and we were the great beneficiaries of that – in terms of our institution and each of us individually. She was a master michanaches, a founding board member and served as president for over 23 years.
How was she involved throughout the years?
Dr. Weisbord was the first one we called when we needed guidance with the students.
In the beginning years, she also taught classes. As busy as she was, she knew how important our program is and was willing to give of her time. Later on, when time constraints didn’t allow her to teach regularly, she would still come to speak to the young woman at “Women in the Workplace” or at various Yemai Iyun.
She wasn’t just involved in the chinuch, but also in the administrative leadership and funding – she rolled up her sleeves, wrote grants and proposals, ran meetings, worked on WITS’ accreditation, and even wrote our institutional bylaws. She was involved in every major decision of this institution since its inception. She was a leader and a volunteer, and everything was done with such humility – never self-promoting, never taking credit. With her wisdom and humor, she fostered comradery amongst the whole team.
At every meeting now, we feel there is a gap where she should be.
Dr. Weisbord had many organizations that were dear to her heart. What was special to her about WITS?
It is true, Dr. Weisbord was involved with the entire Jewish community, in all aspects of life. WITS was her commitment to the chinuch and building of frum young women. WITS was lucky to have her as a primary figure.
How is WITS preserving her legacy?
Dr. Weisbord felt very strongly about the Kodesh Department, that girls shouldn’t learn General Studies without learning Kodesh. To her credit, we continue to add different tracks and degree programs, but we never lose focus of what we want to achieve in terms of the girls continuing their Torah learning.
What will the funds from the campaign be used for?
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to establish the “Rebbetzin Dr. Aviva Weisbord Memorial Fund.” Part of this fund will provide the resources for scholarships, student counseling, and student services.
Like any educational institution, unrestricted funds enable WITS to respond to the current educational needs and capitalize on future opportunities. We work hard to keep our degrees affordable, so tuition funds are not sufficient to fully provide for our students. Proceeds from the Annual Campaign will enable WITS to enhance its accreditation, develop new and expanded programs, and maintain and update our technology and infrastructure, including security. Giving young women the opportunity to support their future families is truly the highest level of tzedakah.
Can you share some of WITS recent successes?
Our over 2,000 alumnae have had their WITS education impact their homes, professional lives, and communities in Baltimore and beyond. Baltimore would not be the same without them! They have confidence in navigating the workplace and graduate school, and approach life with a strong hashkafah, while excelling in their fields.
Additionally, 96% of our graduates have been accepted into top-tier graduate school programs, including Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Columbia, Purdue, NYU, and University of Maryland. Employers are thrilled with our students. We have them coming back to us, wanting to hire more!
Our student enrollment has also increased over the last few years, from 164 students in 2019 to 190 students in 2021. These numbers include our students on campus, on the Israel Study Abroad Program, in our online certificate programs, as well as dual enrollment high school students.
What are some new programs WITS offers and how would you like to expand?
We recently launched two new degrees – a BA in Psychology and a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders, as well as a Certificate in Graphic Design. We are also launching two new joint programs with Stevenson University – Pre-med and Biomedical Engineering. Next year, Be’ezras HaShem, we plan to launch another new BA in Jewish Culture and Professional Studies, aimed at providing women in the community the opportunity to complete their degrees.