Message from the Rabbinical School Dean

Why become a rabbi? This question may be on your mind as you contemplate this path. It remains on my mind more than 20 years after my own ordination. For 13 years as a congregational rabbi in Michigan I threw myself into the lives of our people from birth to death, and at every twist and turn in between. These extraordinary Jews became my teachers as much as I was invited to become theirs. 

Since 2007 I have had the great privilege to work with hundreds of JTS students as they articulate their rabbinic vision and the joy of continuing to work with them as they go out into the world to implement these visions. Why become a rabbi? Here are some of my answers:

  • A rabbi is a person suffused with love—love of God, of Torah, and especially of people. This love can open doors of perception, of compassion, and of connection.
  • A rabbi is immersed in sacred study—of Torah in the fullest sense, from the classics to contemporary works—and is skilled at teaching these texts so that more people can grow wise and discerning.
  • A rabbi is engaged in mitzvot—devotional practices that allow him or her to help others find purpose and pleasure in life.
  • A rabbi is invited into the most powerful moments of people’s lives—their happiest celebrations and most challenging losses. The rabbi provides pastoral care, allowing our people to find meaning and strength in times of transition.
  • A rabbi is deeply rooted in Jewish identity and community, at home, in Israel, and around the world, advocating for the physical and spiritual security of the Jewish people.
  • A rabbi is a social justice leader, greeting others with kindness and curiosity and partnering with a variety of communities to create a more just and righteous society.

One rabbi may be radically different from another rabbi in background, identity, ideology, and aspiration. Yet at JTS we look to build common ground on these foundations.

I welcome your interest in starting the path toward becoming a rabbi at JTS, and I invite you to visit and get to know our people. At JTS you will find a diverse community of students and teachers of Torah; we look forward to meeting you and hearing your distinct voice join the beautiful symphony of our community. I encourage you to meet our associate dean, Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, and our remarkable team in the Division of Religious Leadership who together make JTS a supportive and stimulating community.

Rabbi Danny Nevins
Pearl Resnick Dean of the Rabbinical School