JTS Receives Grant to Enhance Formation of Rabbinic Identity

Part of JTS Effort to Transform the Education of Conservative Rabbis

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

October 25, 2007, New York, NY

The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary has received a two-year grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. The grant will be used to reorient rabbinical instruction to better integrate academic study with the identity/religious formation of rabbis in training at JTS.

“Receiving this grant could not have come at a better time,” said Professor Arnold Eisen, Chancellor of JTS. “Our goal is to provide our students with nothing less than a transformative education and this year JTS will be undertaking a review of the curricula of the rabbinical and cantorial schools to create a better fit between the training offered to students and the vastly changed circumstances of the Jewish community. The Wabash grant will be a major piece of that effort.”

According to Rabbi Mychal Springer, administrator of the grant and an associate dean in The Rabbinical School, “Our vision of our graduates is that they should have profound academic competence, and that their deep knowledge of our tradition should be inextricably linked to a mature and sustaining contemporary faith life and an identity as a religious leader who has awareness of the ways in which modern scholarship and experience challenge traditional beliefs. To accomplish this goal, we must reorient our teaching so that the professional and religious development of our students is a central, interwoven part of the curriculum.”

The grant will enable eight faculty members over two years to commit to re-envisioning their teaching with a focus on the integration of critical scholarship, professional practice, and robust faith. This year’s participants will include Dr. Motti Arad, assistant professor, Talmud and Rabbinics; Dr. Robert Harris, associate professor of Bible and chairman of the Bible Department; Allon Pratt, a lecturer in Hebrew language; and Dr. Debra Reed Blank, an assistant professor of Jewish Liturgy.

These faculty members will be part of a working group that will think through the challenges of teaching from an integration-based perspective. This group will also monitor changes in instructional practice and teaching effectiveness and publish initial findings, including processes and outcomes. Working group members include Dr. David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics; Dr. Eliezer Diamond, associate professor of Talmud and Rabbinics; Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, adjunct assistant professor of Jewish Literature (fall); and Dr. Devora Steinmetz, assistant professor of Talmud and Rabbinics (spring). Dr. Kathleen Talvacchia of the Wabash Center, will serve as a consultant.

At key points in the process, the working group will expand to include Chancellor Eisen; Dr. Alan Cooper, JTS provost; Dr. Jane Kanarek, Hebrew College; and Dr. Barbara Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary.

Editors/Reporters: For further information please contact Sherry S. Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953.

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.