The Synagogue-Leadership Program of The Jewish Theological Seminary
The student-initiated-and-led Ma'amadot program of the Division of Religious Leadership of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides students with hands-on training in synagogue leadership. The principal aim of the initiative is to help students of The Rabbinical School and H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music to enhance their prayer experiences, with an eye toward preparing themselves for future ritual tasks as rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders. Training takes place in JTS's Women's League Seminary Synagogue.
Conceived by two Rabbinical School students, Adam Baldachin (RS '13) and Sarit Horwitz (RS '15), Ma'amadot is named for the institution begun during the times of the Prophets; a ma'amad (council of Israelite community leaders) would accompany and help each group of priests serving in the Temple.
Each week at JTS, a ma'amad of three to five students is responsible for crafting mindful prayer experiences for those who pray in WLSS, and this includes special observances such as this year's 9/11 memorial service. Participants are encouraged to explore creative ways of making prayer more accessible to all synagogue-goers, regardless of their experience with prayer or knowledge of synagogue rituals. The program empowers participants, both individually and as a group, to actively engage in the prayer needs of the Jewish community.
"Through the Ma'amadot program, I hope to challenge my fellow students to think out-of-the-box, while still remaining true to our Jewish values and understanding of prayer," says Mikie Goldstein (RS '14, who will oversee Ma'amadot this year). "I hope to deepen students' understanding of what prayer means for them and for our Conservative congregations. Insight into the meaning of prayer, along with initiative and innovation, all form part of the practical training that Ma'amadot offers our future rabbis, cantors, and lay leaders."
JTS has made WLSS a space for students of The Rabbinical School and H. L. Miller Cantorial School to learn and experiment with ideas that they may use in their congregations, schools, youth and student groups, and wherever else they may work or volunteer. Says Rabbinical School student Ari Isenberg (RS '13), "The fact that all cantorial and rabbinical students have to take the lead one week out of the year-whether it's at a meditative chanting circle or when using musical instruments, or a commemoration such as 9/11 or celebration like Yom Ha'atzma'ut-it is empowering for the community, and fosters creativity and innovation." JTS strives to continue the tradition of innovation, creativity, and engagement in Jewish prayer so that each prayer and synagogue experience becomes even more personally meaningful.
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