History and Mission of The Jewish Theological Seminary


The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) was founded in 1886 through the efforts of two distinguished rabbis, Dr. Sabato Morais and Dr. H. Pereira Mendes, along with a group of prominent lay leaders from Sephardic congregations in Philadelphia and New York. Its mission was to preserve the knowledge and practice of historical Judaism.

In 1887, JTS held its first class of ten students in the vestry of the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, New York City's oldest congregation. Since then, JTS has greatly expanded its mission, creating a beautiful campus and evolving into the prestigious center of Jewish learning it is today.

A Jewish university with a world-class faculty and a diverse student body, JTS grants undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees through its five schools and offers enriching programs for the Jewish community in the United States, Israel, and around the world. JTS schools and facilities include The Graduate School; The Rabbinical School; H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education; Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies; the Rebecca and Israel Ivry Prozdor, a model supplementary high school; a summer school; five research institutes, including the Melton Research Center for Jewish Education; lay leadership and professional institutes; community education programs; student residence halls; and the world-renowned, incomparable collections of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary.

In addition, JTS's affiliation with The Jewish Museum and consortia with prestigious academic neighbors support and enhance the scholarly ambiance of its community of learning. An engine for outreach, JTS is committed to the introduction of religious alternatives in Israel and eastern Europe through its Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies in Jerusalem; to training new Russian Jewish intelligentsia through Project Judaica, its Jewish studies program in Moscow; and to raising a generation of literate and observant Jews in North America through its intensive work with the Ramah camps and Schechter schools.

JTS is also committed to providing adults with Jewish knowledge and experience through a panoply of innovative programs, helping to create a responsible and informed Conservative Jewish voice on public issues, from religious pluralism in Israel to bioethics. Our multifaceted community is committed to making Judaism come alive for new generations, to bring the richness and vitality of traditional Jewish values into the twenty-first century.

Mission Statement:

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education that integrates rigorous academic scholarship and teaching with a commitment to strengthening Jewish tradition, Jewish lives, and Jewish communities.

JTS articulates a vision of Judaism that is learned and passionate, pluralist and authentic, traditional and egalitarian; one that is thoroughly grounded in Jewish texts, history, and practices, and fully engaged with the societies and cultures of the present. Our vision joins faith with inquiry; the covenant of our ancestors with the creative insights of today; intense involvement in the society and State of Israel with devotion to the flowering of Judaism throughout the world; service to the Jewish community, as well as to all of the communities of which Jews are a part: our society, our country, and our world.

JTS serves North American Jewry by educating intellectual and spiritual leaders for Conservative Judaism and the vital religious center, training rabbis, cantors, scholars, educators, communal professionals, and lay activists who are inspired by our vision of Torah and dedicated to assisting in its realization.