Professional and Pastoral Skills Training an Integral Aspect of Clergy Education at JTS

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950

May 8, 2006, New York, NY

One of the most challenging aspects of the rabbinate and cantorate is providing support to individuals and families dealing with serious illness or the death of a loved one.

Evelyn Hoffman Kasle of Franklin, Michigan, knows just how essential a gifted pastoral counselor can be. When her beloved daughter, Linda, died ten years ago, she found solace and support in Rabbi Bunnie Friedman. "When he came [to visit], he brought a certain light, a warmth, a friendship, plus a rabbinical presence," explained Mrs. Kasle. She said this was crucial to her, her daughter, and grandchildren.

Mrs. Kasle knows a great deal about grief not only professionally as a trained geriatric social worker, but because of her personal loss. "I think it is very important when people are in the hospital, or even if it is not a dire circumstance, that there be rabbis who can come by and be a support to those in need," she said. She added that men and women coming out of rabbinical school could not be expected, however, to simply "know" what to say or how to express their concern. "I think that a sense of community is at the core of Judaism. Rabbis and others remind us that we are not alone as we face life's many challenges. Helping these men and women prepare to be effective and compassionate counselors is critical."

The Department of Professional and Pastoral Skills at The Jewish Theological Seminary prepares students to meet their future rabbinic and cantorial responsibilities as they journey with people in crisis and focus on approaches to death, loss, and mourning. Through courses, seminars, internships, rotations, and workshops, each student is guided in the deepening of his/her personal religious commitment. They are also and trained to articulate a vision of Jewish life that will inspire the next generation of Conservative Jews to embrace traditional values and practices that give definition to the Jewish experience.

Pending final approval, a new curriculum will broaden pastoral education to include numerous contemporary life challenges such as marital conflict, substance abuse, adolescent upheavals, and domestic violence. This systematic curriculum, which will integrate course work with experiential learning over the span of a student's JTS years, will ultimately produce rabbis and cantors who can listen attentively, guide with traditional text, display interpersonal sensitivity and clinical confidence, and make effective referrals. Pastoral care classes not specifically designed for cantorial/rabbinical candidates are open to all JTS students.

Further information about the pastoral skills program at JTS is available by contacting Rabbi Mychal Springer, Helen Fried Goldstein Kirschblum Chair in Professional and Pastoral Skills and Associate Dean of The Rabbinical School, at (212) 678–8815 or email.

Editors/Reporters: For further information about the Pastoral Skills Program or The Rabbinical School of JTS, contact Sherry S. Kirschenbaum, Director of Media Relations, at (212) 678–8953 or email.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world–class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

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