Who Becomes a JTS Rabbinical Student?

Women and men; born Jews and converted Jews; children of the Conservative Movement and those from other communities who discover an affinity for our approach; recent college graduates and second careerists; gays and straights; those who are Hasidish and those who are Litvish, all are welcome in The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary. The qualities described below will give you a sense of whether JTS is right for you.

Personal Middot Qualities

There is no better encapsulation than that in Micah 6:8:

עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם א-להיך

Do justice, love goodness, walk humbly with your God.

A rabbinical student must be concerned with and model right behavior and humility, as that is the Torah we seek to learn and teach.

Jewish Commitments

Training for the rabbinate at JTS entails commitments that constitute a particular Jewish lifestyle. To be sure, this is not a monochromatic vision, and The Rabbinical School recognizes that candidates approach JTS at different points in their religious and spiritual journeys. We hope and expect our students to be engaged with an ideal that includes the following, and to pursue it over the course of the program:

Lifelong Torah study
Committed, questioning, and loving engagement with God
Organization of one's life around mitzvot, including pillars of public and private behavior such as kashrut, Shabbat and festivals, and daily communal prayer; tallit and tefillin are expected practices in The Rabbinical School
Holiness in relationships, including halakhic and ethical parameters of sexual intimacy
Advocacy for a peaceful future for the State of Israel and its inhabitants, and responsibility for the welfare of one's fellow Jews in all places
Egalitarianism: while rabbinical students at JTS are not required to exclusively follow egalitarian practice, they are required to affirm equal opportunity for Jewish men and women in Torah study, participation in the mitzvot, and in Jewish leadership.

The relevant commitments are outlined more fully in our Religious Norms document (PDF).

At the time of application, candidates must demonstrate that they follow or are growing into a life of traditional observance. We recognize that religious growth is not necessarily a linear progression, and hope to provide a safe space for students as they move forward on this path.

Academic Criteria

To enroll in The Rabbinical School, candidates must:

have a strong academic record and have earned an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university
have strong communication skills in English and be competent to do academic study and writing in English
have attained basic Hebrew proficiency, typically indicated by at least two semesters of college Hebrew or its equivalent
demonstrate academic readiness with the GRE or alternative standardized test

A liberal arts background is typical for prospective rabbinical students, but is in no way required. We are proud of the diverse intellectual and academic backgrounds of our student body.

Time Commitment

The rabbinical program at JTS is designed as a five-year, full-time commitment on the academic calendar. Based upon prior study and degrees earned, some incoming students receive advanced academic standing that translates into a shorter program. Others' programs extend beyond five years if they need more time to attain Skill Level 2 in Bible, Talmud, and Hebrew language.

Part-Time Study:

Can one be enrolled in The Rabbinical School on a part time basis? Yes. Some students, especially after their first year, craft a part-time program so they may work or pursue other commitments as they pursue their rabbinical training. All such arrangements are made with the Rabbinical School dean, Rabbi Daniel Nevins.

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