Things are changing at The Rabbinical School. September’s incoming class of first-year rabbinical students will follow a new course of study during their years at JTS.
Last fall, Chancellor Arnold Eisen told the JTS community, “We are very good at training clergy, but we need to change to make a better fit between the training we offer and the realities of what rabbis and cantors are called upon to do.” He announced that the first major task for the faculty under his leadership would be a curricular review of the rabbinical and cantorial schools. Just one year later, the new rabbinical course of study is being enacted and the curricular review of the cantorial school is underway.
“This curriculum will provide new tools for a successful rabbinate,” Chancellor Eisen says. “Our ultimate goal is for the rabbis we ordain to bring the light of Torah into the world, creating sacred centers of Jewish life, teaching the mitzvot, and realizing the Jewish ideals of truth, justice, and peace in society.”
The new curriculum was designed by a faculty committee co-chaired by Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School, and Dr. Barry Holtz, Theodore and Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education and the incoming dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, with substantial input by the faculty, administration, current students, alumni, and Advisory Board of The Rabbinical School.
“Training outstanding rabbis requires attention to the head, heart and hands,” says Rabbi Nevins. “This curriculum provides our students with resources of intellect, faith, and practical skills so that they can embark on successful careers and transform the Jewish world.”
Among other changes, the new program of study expands training in pastoral care and counseling. Rabbi Mychal Springer, associate dean of The Rabbinical School and holder of the Helen Fried Kirshblum Goldstein Chair in Professional and Pastoral Skills, says, “We remain committed to the highest academic standards of scholarship and recognize that students need many outlets for translating that scholarship to the work they will do. Rabbis in the field have spoken loudly and clearly of their need for more in-depth, expert pastoral training for rabbis entering a variety of fields.” Students will also receive instruction in practical leadership and organizational skills, better preparing them to manage nonprofits and work with the media.
“The new curriculum provides a more spiritual and integrated approach in the beginning, and a more tailored approach towards the end,” says Rabbi Nevins. “We look forward to its implementation with great excitement.”
A new course of study will be introduced at The Rabbinical School.
» Expanded training in pastoral counseling skills.
» Intensification and integration of professional skills, with new emphasis on leadership skills in the classroom, boardroom, media, and society.
» Tighter integration of the study of classical texts with practical halakhah to help meet the needs of congregants and students.
» Students’ year in Israel will happen one year sooner and be lengthened to include a six-week summer ulpan in spoken Hebrew combined with volunteer projects and touring; students’ exposure to the Masorti Movement, Conservative Yeshiva, and diverse communities outside of Jerusalem will be broadened.
» Each student will follow a concentration leading to a departmental master’s degree.
» New courses in comparative religion, Conservative Judaism, and the sociology of American Jewry.
» Students who focus on halakhah will be able to train as modern poskim (rabbinic experts).