The Rabbinical School of JTS

The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides an integrated program of academic learning, professional development, and spiritual growth ending in rabbinic ordination and the award of a master of arts degree. Courses in Judaic studies and professional and pastoral skills are complemented by a program of field education and a year of study in Israel.  

Prerequisites and Admissions Information

An undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university must be earned before the anticipated date of registration in The Rabbinical School. Previous academic achievement is an important criterion for admission, since scholarly ability is essential for the rabbinate. We recommend a strong liberal arts background for prospective students; the study of history, philosophy, religion, literature, and the social or natural sciences can be excellent preparation for rabbinical school. Applicants are required to take the GRE exam and have their scores submitted to JTS. 

Strong language and communication skills in both English and Hebrew are of critical importance for admission to The Rabbinical School. At least two years of high quality, university-level Hebrew are required to begin our program, as demonstrated in our Hebrew placement exam. Prior experience studying primary Jewish texts is likewise necessary to demonstrate readiness for our rigorous program. All applicants complete exercises to assess their skill level in Hebrew and in the interpretation of biblical and rabbinic texts. Such diagnostic tests inform admissions decisions and also indicate the level of initial placements in Hebrew language and text courses. Students entering at a lower skill level in Hebrew and Talmud may be required to participate in our outstanding summer Nishma program prior to their first year and our summer ulpan program prior to their Israel year. Highly advanced students may place out of Hebrew requirements, and JTS also allows up to nine transfer credits for graduate work completed in academic disciplines required by the Rabbinical School curriculum.  

Students in JTS’s List College who are interested in applying to The Rabbinical School are urged to speak with their dean and with the director of admissions of The Rabbinical School at the earliest possible opportunity so that they may be considered for the Accelerated Ordination Track at List College. 

Entering students who have completed an MA or PhD in a Judaic field from JTS or a peer institution may apply for a waiver from the Rabbinical School’s MA requirement, resulting in advanced standing. 

RELIGIOUS FORMATION

One of The Rabbinical School’s great sources of strength is the diversity of religious backgrounds and Jewish journeys among our students. We respect and honor the many places from which our students come. Simultaneously, we share some standards of practice that make us a cohesive community. Therefore, candidates for acceptance into The Rabbinical School must be Jewish as defined by the Conservative Movement. Applicants should refer to our Religious Norms for the Rabbinical and Cantorial Schools document, available from the director of admissions, for more information.

The Rabbinical School administration recognizes that some applicants may be in the course of deepening their Jewish commitments. Preliminary discussions with the director of admissions provide an opportunity for personal religious guidance.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES

Inquiries concerning admission can be directed to the Rabbinical School Office of Admissions at (212) 678-8817 or rsadmissions@jtsa.edu. Inquiries should be made by the fall of the year preceding the desired date of admission, but are, of course, welcome earlier. Depending on a prospective student’s readiness, later inquiries may be sufficient for near-term enrollment. A preliminary discussion with the director of admissions is required before applying to the program. A candidate may then be encouraged to submit a formal application. 

The priority deadline for submitted applications is January 16, though applications may be submitted after that date at the discretion of the director of admissions. Applications should include:

  • Application, together with a $65 application fee
  • Official transcripts of all postsecondary studies
  • Official scores on the GRE aptitude tests (those whose native language is not English may take the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL])
  • Academic writing sample (generally not exceeding 5,000 words)
  • Three recommendation forms and letters
  • Admissions essays, up to 20 pages, double spaced

These materials need not be submitted all at once. Materials can be submitted as they become available, but no later than January 16. 

The final stage of the application process occurs when the candidate, upon the approval of the Rabbinical School Faculty Committee, is invited to meet with the Committee on Admissions. These in-person interviews are generally scheduled between late January and March at JTS. As part of the application process, candidates are required to take Hebrew placement and text skills exams. 

The decision of the Admissions committee will be communicated as soon as possible. Accepted candidates should send in their registration forms by early May.

 

Good Standing

The ideals and practices of Conservative Judaism are an integral part of the lifestyle and program of The Rabbinical School. Standards of personal and professional conduct and interpersonal relations are a significant part of the tradition to which the school is committed. Accordingly, the dean of The Rabbinical School reserves the right to deny admission, registration, readmission, or ordination to any student who, in the judgment of the Rabbinical School Faculty Committee, is determined to be unsuitable to the profession of the rabbinate. 

 

Course of Study

The first stage of our curriculum is referred to as the Beit Midrash (house of study). Students receive a rigorous introduction to the study of biblical and rabbinic literature within a thematic structure that integrates textual learning, professional development, and personal practice. Our Israel program includes a core of courses in Jerusalem, as well as an experiential program featuring travel and study around the country. Our Israel program is based at JTS’s Schocken Library in central Jerusalem. 

The final three years of The Rabbinical School are referred to as Iyun. Students complete distribution requirements, choose an academic concentration leading to an MA degree, take a progression of courses in professional and pastoral skills, and work on their required courses of field education. Students apply for the MA degree programs offered by Gershon Kekst Graduate School or the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education during their second year. They may also apply for a certificate program in Pastoral Care and Counseling in conjunction with an MA in Jewish Studies from The Rabbinical School. 

During year four, each student is required to work in a rabbinic setting for approximately 15 hours per week. The work is done under a mentor and includes supervision and seminars at JTS. The mentor must be approved by the associate dean of The Rabbinical School. In recognition of the generous support of Pearl and Jack Resnick, the program is known as the Pearl and Jack Resnick Internship Program.

MINIMESTERS

Each January, The Rabbinical School offers a minimester program during the week prior to the start of the spring semester. Each year a new subject is explored. All rabbinical students are required to complete three minimesters during their course of studies at JTS. 

 

Transfer from Another Rabbinical School

Students in other rabbinical schools may make preliminary inquiries with JTS about transfer, but must inform their home institution prior to formal application. The application process for transfer students is the same as that for other applicants. Upon receiving an offer of admission, the candidate may then petition the Rabbinical School Faculty Committee for credit for the study completed elsewhere. 

The committee will generally approve such requests if (1) the academic requirements completed are substantially equivalent to the requirements to be waived at JTS; and (2) there has been due attention in the school previously attended to issues of religious growth and professional development.  

Students who have previously earned an MA, PhD, or DHL in one of the fields accepted by The Rabbinical School may request exemption from the MA requirement at JTS. This may shorten the course of studies in our program, but this is subject to approval of the dean. 

 

Masters of Arts Degree Options

Rabbinical students have several options for fulfilling the MA requirement during their course of studies toward ordination:

 

Special Programs

JOINT ORDINATION/DOCTORAL PROGRAM

Rabbinical students who wish to study for a PhD may apply in their fourth year to the Gershon Kekst Graduate School for admission (in their fifth year) to the Joint Ordination/Doctoral Program. 

Each school will follow its own admissions procedures. With the approval of the student’s doctoral advisor, some of the course requirements for the PhD can be met by courses in the student’s field of concentration in The Rabbinical School. All other requirements for the doctoral degree (course work, foreign languages, examinations, and dissertation) remain in effect.

Tuition will be paid at the Gershon Kekst Graduate School PhD rate. To be considered for Gershon Kekst Graduate School fellowships, students must take a minimum of 15 doctoral-program credits for the year. 

UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY & HEBREW UNION COLLEGE – JEWISH INSTITUTE OF RELIGION

In accordance with agreements between JTS and Union Theological Seminary (UTS) and between JTS and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), Rabbinical School students may take courses at UTS or HUC, subject to the approval of the Rabbinical School dean and the instructors. Tuition will be covered by the tuition paid at JTS. Rabbinical students interested in specific courses at UTC or HUC should consult with the dean prior to registration. Generally speaking, only elective courses will be approved. 

ZIEGLER SCHOOL OF RABBINIC STUDIES

JTS maintains an exchange semester program with the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. Students in good standing in either institution may request to spend an exchange semester at the other. Tuition and fees are paid to the home institution, which also advises the students on which courses may be counted for transfer credits toward graduation requirements. Because course offerings in the two schools are not identical, an exchange semester may slow progress toward graduation. Interested students should consult their academic advisor.  

 

Academic Standards

ATTENDANCE

Regular, punctual class attendance is required. Instructors shall have the right to stipulate attendance requirements within the first two weeks of the semester and to indicate the penalties that may result from failure to comply. 

GRADES

Grade point averages are computed on the following scale:

  • A+ 4.33
  • B+ 3.33
  • C+ 2.33
  • D+ 1.33
  • A 4.00
  • B 3.00
  • C 2.00
  • D 1.00
  • A- 3.67
  • B- 2.67
  • C- 1.67
  • D- 0.67

A student may opt to take not more than one Pass/D/Fail in a given year. This option may not be used for Hebrew language requirements. 

Letter grades indicate the following: A, excellent; B, good; C, fair; D, poor; F, failure; R, auditor. No credit will be given for grades of C- or lower. 

A letter grade is assigned for each course unless (1) it is indicated at registration that a course will be graded only on a Pass/D/Fail basis; or (2) a request for Pass/D/Fail grading is submitted in accordance with the procedure outlined below. 

Students electing to take courses on a Pass/D/Fail basis must indicate their preference at registration or on the appropriate form, which must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than two weeks after the first day of classes, the exact date to be indicated on the Academic Calendar. After this date, students may not alter the basis under which they have registered for their courses that semester.

  • The grade of P will be assigned for students who have earned a letter grade of C- or higher.
  • The grades of D and F will be so transcribed.

Once the grade of P has been recorded, the instructor’s letter grade will not be available to any individual, committee, or institution under any circumstances. The grade of AU will indicate that a student has registered for the course as an auditor and agreed to do all course work except a written paper and/or final examination. Such a course will neither yield academic credits nor meet departmental requirements. 

Once a grade has been received in the Office of the Registrar, it may be changed by the course instructor only upon written application by the instructor to the dean. The dean’s approval is required. 

AUDITING

The grade AU signifies that the student has attended classes and completed all course work except for the final exam and/or paper. Students must notify the Office of the Registrar, in writing, by the date stipulated in the Academic Calendar, of their intention to audit. Failure to do so will mean that the course is being taken for credit. No credit will be given for courses taken for the grade AU; such courses will not count toward fulfilling the requirements for the degree. Priority will be given to students taking a course for credit; there are a limited number of spaces for students auditing.  

INCOMPLETES

A student who, for compelling reasons, e.g., medical or family emergency, finds it necessary to postpone the submission of required course work may petition for the grade of Incomplete (INC). 

The student must obtain a Request for Incomplete form from the Office of the Registrar. This form must contain all information requested, including a description of the work to be completed and the due date, which cannot be later than the date specified in the Academic Calendar. The form must be signed by the student, instructor, and dean or advisor of students. The form should be returned to the Office of the Registrar. The last day to request an Incomplete and submit the form is indicated in the Academic Calendar. 

All outstanding course work must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than the date specified in the Academic Calendar. Generally, this date is six weeks from the end of the final examination period. 

The Office of the Registrar shall record that the work has been submitted and provide a written receipt to the student for the work received. A copy of the receipt from the Registrar should be brought to the Rabbinical School Office. The Registrar will transmit the completed work to the instructor. The student is advised to retain a copy of all work submitted to the Office of the Registrar. 

If a student fails to submit the outstanding work to the Office of the Registrar by the specified due date, the grade of INC will be converted to the alternate letter grade previously submitted by the instructor. This alternate grade reflects the instructor’s assessment of a student’s performance, taking into account the fact that work is missing. Students should be aware that the missing work may have been counted as an F (or 0) in the computation of the final grade for the course. 

In special circumstances, the dean has the authority to grant an extension for the submission of overdue work as long as it is agreeable to the instructor. This extension must be submitted in writing by the dean to the Office of the Registrar. 

Students may not request an INC for any course during the semester of their graduation. 

REGISTRATION AND WITHDRAWAL

A student is expected to have registered for all courses by the date listed in the Academic Calendar. 

With the permission of the dean or advisor, students may withdraw from a course by the date listed in the Academic Calendar. 

Students who discontinue attendance in a course but who fail to withdraw formally within the designated period will receive the letter grade earned, usually an F, having completed only a portion of the class. 

PROBATION POLICY

A student in one of the four JTS graduate schools who receives in any one semester two grades of B- or lower, or one grade of D (or lower), will be placed on academic probation the following semester. (Any Davidson School student who receives two grades of F in one semester will be withdrawn immediately from The Davidson School, though remain enrolled in The Rabbinical School.)

To be restored from probation to good standing, a student must register for course work for the next semester equivalent to the number of credits that led to the probation, and may neither receive a grade lower than B- nor take an Incomplete during the semester of probation. Failure to meet this standard will constitute grounds for dismissal. The student shall have the right to appeal his or her dismissal in accordance with the Student Disciplinary Procedures. 

No student will be permitted more than one semester of probation toward the degree, and grades that put him or her on a second probation will be grounds for dismissal from the school. 

ABSENCE FROM FINAL EXAM

A student who, because of illness or personal emergency, cannot be present for a scheduled final examination must inform the Office of the Registrar as soon as possible and indicate the reasons for the absence. The Office of the Registrar will inform the instructor and the dean of the student’s absence. If the student still cannot be present for the regularly scheduled makeup examination day, the student must arrange with the instructor for a makeup examination. The instructor will inform the Office of the Registrar of the arrangement and provide the office with the exam so that it can be given to the student. 

Students may not request Incompletes in advance for an in-class final examination. The student must take the makeup examination as soon as possible, but no later than the date indicated in the Academic Calendar governing the completion of outstanding work. 

LEAVE OF ABSENCE

Students who, for compelling reasons (e.g., medical or family emergencies), are unable to take courses or continue with appropriate academic progress in a particular semester may request a semester’s leave of absence from the dean and must register for a leave of absence each semester until they resume their studies.

Rabbinical students may apply for no more than two leaves of absence during their course of studies; additional restrictions may apply when simultaneously enrolled in an MA program. 

During the period of leave, a student may not take an examination, written or oral, be advised by the academic advisor, or submit any material for the completion of a degree. 

A fee applies for any semester a student is on leave.

TRANSFER CREDIT

Students in a graduate-level program of JTS may request transfer credit for graduate-level course work completed at another accredited institution, under the following conditions: (1) the grade being transferred must be “B” or higher; (2) the grade may not be more than 10 years old; (3) Hebrew courses are not subject to transfer credit; (4) the credit may not have been applied to another degree; (5) credit must have the dean’s and advisor’s approval.

ORDINATION

Assuming good standing, as defined above, ordination will be conferred upon a student’s completion of all academic and other requirements. Ordination will not be recommended if a grade of INC remains on the student’s record in a course required for completion of the Rabbinical School’s degree program. Ordination takes place in May of each year on the same day as JTS’s Commencement Exercises but in a separate ceremony. All students to be ordained in any one year are expected to be present at all ceremonies on commencement day. Students who complete academic requirements early in the year may receive a letter noting that fact, but they will be ordained only at the next Commencement Exercises.

 

Professional Placement for Graduates

Prior to ordination, the senior class of The Rabbinical School receive guidance in their search process from the faculty and administration and also meet with representatives of the Rabbinical Assembly to discuss procedures for placement of rabbis in congregations and Hillel foundations and in positions in Jewish education, camping, communal service, and hospital and military chaplaincies.