JTS Launches New Initiative to Support Religious Leaders Affected by COVID-19

March 4, 2021, New York, New York – The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) today announced the launch of a new program that will address the mental health needs of those who are on the frontlines providing pastoral care for others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether as chaplains, congregational rabbis, educators, or students, JTS will dramatically expand mental health support to leaders across the extended JTS community. JTS received a grant of $500,000 from an anonymous donor to help launch this program. 

The Center for Pastoral Education, JTS’s program that trains clergy and other religious leaders to provide professional care and counseling, will oversee the new initiative. The Center for Pastoral Education was established in 2009 with the goal of teaching the art of pastoral care to seminary students—Jewish and non-Jewish—and ordained clergy of all faiths.

 “Throughout this pandemic, so many have felt emotionally or spiritually overwhelmed, and our alumni have worked tirelessly and devotedly to meeting the needs of their communities.” said Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz. ”We are thrilled that, thanks to this grant, we will be able to offer support to the caregivers who have given so much during this critical time.”

“This generous gift will enable us to respond to the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rabbi Naomi Kalish, Harold and Carole Wolfe Director of the Center for Pastoral Education., “Through our accredited program, we offer innovative training, a wide spectrum of chaplaincy experiences, and a curriculum that integrates academic and clinical learning. We are uniquely positioned to provide support during this crisis in a meaningful and impactful way.” 

JTS’s alumni are innovative leaders who provide religious leadership in communities across North America and are actively involved in strengthening Jewish life throughout the world.  In their roles, many alumni have been serving as caregivers to support communal challenges and have faced extreme stress themselves. At the beginning of the project, we will survey over 1,600 of these alumni to assess their needs and gather their input. There will also be continual assessment and evaluation throughout the program to ensure that concerns are being addressed.

Additionally, a professional will be hired to provide direct mental health support, new trainings will be developed and offered to bolster mental health services, and students and alumni will participate in activities and classes that enable them to be better resourced for their own wellbeing.

Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and for years following, JTS will be at the forefront of transforming mental health support and opportunities for the community. This program will respond to the current crisis caused by the pandemic, as well as the larger concern of mental health resources and support.   


About The Jewish Theological Seminary | JTS is a preeminent institution of Jewish higher education, training thoughtful, innovative leaders—rabbis, cantors, educators, lay leaders, and scholars—who strengthen our communities with a vision of Judaism that is deeply grounded in the Jewish past and thoroughly engaged with contemporary society. JTS also provides high-caliber lifelong learning and professional development to our alumni, adult learners, and Jewish communities throughout North America. Through its Library, JTS preserves and makes accessible to students and scholars throughout the world the greatest collection of Judaica in the Western Hemisphere