Question: I was hired to develop a curriculum for our local Chabad girls high school. I have heard different things and I was searching for clarity (with sources) on these three questions: What is the Rebbe’s opinion about teaching girls: 1) Gemara 2) Chassidus 3) Limudei Chol (secular subjects)?
Firstly, I would like to wish you much hatzlacha in this special shlichus. The education of girls is something that Chassidim have always put an emphasis on, especially in recent generations.
Before answering your questions, I would like to share with you some letters (of many) that the Rebbe wrote about the importance of girls receiving a torah-true education:
(1) You certainly realize that the responsibility for the education of girls is very great, as reflected by the verse: “The wise among woman builds her house”; see also Shmos Rabbah, ch. 28, which states that the perpetuation of the giving of the Torah is dependent on women. In addition, the existence of all the institutions of proper Torah education and their success in educating students is largely dependent on the existence of girls’ schools. (Igros, Volume 2 page 81; #203)
(2) The great value of the education of [Jewish] girls has already been explained in several places. The clearest explanation is, however, from life itself which shows the fundamental importance of this matter. In particular, this is true in the present age, one of destruction, where there is a need to build in new places and under entirely new and foreign conditions. [Under such circumstances,] maintaining a desirable structure and the tradition of our ancestors requires much effort from all the members of the household. The commands and directives from the head of the household alone are not sufficient. (Ibid, page 304; #333)
(3) “What else must my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe shlita, do for a spirited and lively voice to be heard in the women’s section of the chassidic brotherhood and, in particular, with regard to the education of girls?” (Igros, Volume 3 page 51; #443)
In regards to your specific questions:
Learning Gemara With Girls:
(1) In 5713 (1953), a Beis Yaakov teacher wrote to the Rebbe asking if it is true that it is now permissible to reach Gemara to girls?
[Historically, Yidden refrained from teaching Gemara to girls. This was based on the Gemara (sota 20a): “Rabbi Eliezer says: Anyone who teaches his daughter Torah is teaching her promiscuity [tiflut].”]
The Rebbe responded (Igros, Volume 7 page 247; #2107), by establishing that according to halacha, women have to learn halachos relevant to them. This is clear in the ruling of the Alter Rebbe (Hilchos Talmud Torah ch. 1): “Women must also learn the laws that they need to know, such as the laws of nida, salting and the prohibition of yichud etc.’” Thus, if they are learning Gemara which helps them understand the halachos relevant to them, it is fine.
(2) In 5719 (1959), someone wrote to the Rebbe about an offer they received to teach Gemara to a mixed (boys and girls) group of students and asked the Rebbe for his opinion.
The Rebbe divides the question into two parts: (a) Teaching Gemara to girls. (b) Teaching a mixed class of older boys and girls. In response to the first issue (learning Gemara), the Rebbe—after clarifying that he is writing to a place where there is no established custom, thus permitting the learning will not “open any further gates”—writes that the girls should learn from the parts of the Gemara which will be explaining the halachos that they are learning. (Igros, Volume 18 page 465; #6945)