Curriculum Rationale

MAHSHEVET YISRAEL & PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE:
TRAINING AN EFFECTIVE RABBINATE FOR TODAY’S SEEKING JEWS
Curriculum Rationale of the
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

(For a detailed listing of the classes discussed in this document, see: Sample Curriculum by Year)

Academic Learning & Rabbinic Training

The path we walk at the Ziegler School in our study of biblical and rabbinic texts is both new and old, fresh and well worn. We read texts that centuries of Jews have read, and we read them in dialogue with the generations of scholars – Geonim, Rishonim and Ahronim – who have read them before us. We also read those texts through lenses that have been ground by contemporary scholars in the Universities and Rabbinical seminaries in this country, in Israel, and around the world. The directive of Kohelet guides us: It is best that you grasp the one without letting go of the other, for the one who reveres God will attend to both (Kohelet 7:18).

We understand the study of Jewish sacred writings as a spiritual practice. In this we stand in the long tradition ranging from the Talmud through the great centers of learning in Franco-Germany, Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, through the great yeshivot of Eastern Europe and into our own times. “After the Temple was destroyed, God was found in the four cubits of halakhic discussion (Berakhot 8a),” teach the Sages, who also assert “If you would learn to know the One at whose word the world came into being, learn aggadah (Sifrei Devarim, Piska 94).” The intellectual pursuit of subtle distinctions in halakhah, the close readings of Midrash and parshanut, or the rigors of philosophical theology is itself a spiritual exercise. The intellectual and the spiritual are one on this path.

In our engagement with Rabbinics we are humbled before the edifices that were built by the Tannaim, Amoraim, Geonim and Rishonim. We learn their words with the reverence with which we learn the Torah itself. At the same time our learning is also informed by our knowledge that all texts, sacred and secular, are influenced by and embedded in cultures. All authors are people, including those recording or responding to the will of God. Therefore these texts also yield to analyses within historical, literary, legal, feminist and other interpretive frames. We seek to “accept truth from anyone who speaks it,” with the conviction that God wants the service of the mind unfettered.

Jewish Commitment and Western Learning

We require and train rabbis who live within the cultural and political orbits of the Jews they will serve. But our commitment to the intellectual enterprise is far deeper than the merely utilitarian. Because we recognize that Judaism has a history, that it has been influenced – for the good – by the insights and advances of surrounding cultures, we know that our religious obligation is to serve as filters through which contemporary culture can influence and shape Jewish religious life. At the same time, we also know that Judaism’s core commitments can only contribute to tikkun ha-olam, the repair of the world, if we are sufficiently grounded in that world to translate Judaism’s particular forms and insights into a universal language. For these reasons, our curriculum goes far beyond a traditional rabbinical yeshiva, including courses in pastoral psychology, literature, history, philosophy, sociology, pedagogy, mysticism, professional skills, and extensive field experience.

These commitments find fullest expression within Conservative Judaism, with which the school is affiliated. As such, we also include courses in Conservative Jewish thought and history, in the halakhic findings and methods of Conservative decisors, and in Conservative Jewish observance and practice.

The Context

The Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of the American Jewish University was created to develop a new model of rabbinic education, suitable to meeting the challenges and opportunities facing the Conservative rabbinate and American Jewry. Toward that end, it is worth reflecting on the position of American Jewry – where it has come from and where it is heading – and on the profile of a Conservative rabbi equipped and capable of meeting those challenges.

Jews came to America, by and large, to seek economic prosperity and social security. Those Jews who did immigrate tended to be among the least educated, both in traditional Jewish sources and in Western academic training, and often were among the poorest of the new immigrants. As such, the earliest Jewish agenda was one of ethnic solidarity and social opportunity. Organizations such as the federations, congresses, committees, leagues and agencies were designed to fight for Jewish opportunity in the broader economy and culture. Synagogues and schools of higher Jewish learning were to articulate ways of integrating American culture and values with Jewish religious structures and commitments, and to offer havens for Jewish social and ethnic expression, among them, some measure of religious ritual and education. With the rise of Zionism, support for Zionism and (later) for the State of Israel also provided a key agenda item for these Jewish organizations – both the agency/federation cluster and the synagogue/seminaries constellation.

Ours is an age challenged by our own success. With the establishment of the State of Israel, and its vibrant history of over a half-century, and the prosperity and professionalization of American Jewry, much of the original impetus for the federations and agencies no longer seems quite so clear, nor so capable of summoning widespread Jewish passion (let alone forming the cornerstone of Jewish identity). The understanding of the synagogue as the place that Americanized Judaism has also shifted. The task, then, of energizing American Jewish life, has returned to its proper agenda – serving the Jewish people in the advancement of our covenant with God. Agencies, Federations, and synagogues are all united in common cause behind this emerging agenda.

And the needs of contemporary Jews – their spiritual seeking, their desire to take on rituals abandoned by their parents, their interest in a Judaism less formal and more text-grounded than the one they have inherited – have also changed. Those changes offer rabbis an opportunity to elevate the quality and profundity of American Jewish life. But to do so, we need a special breed of rabbis. Our rabbis must be simultaneously at home in the world of Western culture and thought, scientific findings and method, Jewish texts and observance. Like the Jews they will serve, they too must thirst for God, for covenant, and for mitzvot. Like the Jews they will serve, they must be rooted in contemporary culture and a healthy respect for individualism and idiosyncrasy. But unlike the Jews they will serve, they must insist on a new synthesis – authentic to the Judaism we have inherited, yet open to new insights and perspectives. Our rabbis cannot live in a world in which their Jewish faith is hermetically sealed off from the academy, from new perspectives and new information. Our rabbis must embody a faith that is confident and unafraid, one that trusts that an authentic encounter between Judaism and contemporary values and thought will be mutually enriching, mutually transformative, and will – at the same time – vindicate the core beliefs and practices of Judaism across the ages.

It is to produce precisely such rabbis that the Ziegler School was created.

Focusing on Greatness — The Curriculum as a Whole

The key to greatness in a Rabbinical School curriculum, as in any institutional focus, is to assess and to bolster the strengths and capacities of the institution, and then to pursue those intended outcomes with vigor. Given the values of the School, articulated in the University of Judaism’s 5 point Mission Statement1 and the learning outcomes of the Ziegler School as articulated in its 8 point learning outcome objective2, as well as the strengths of our superb Faculty, the Steering Committee has deliberately determined that the focus of the School’s academic program will be on two broad arenas: mahshevet Israel and professional development. These two rubrics respond to the demands placed on the contemporary Rabbinate — Jews are seeking meaning and guidance from their heritage, they look to Judaism for solace and inspiration, and they turn to their religion to provide ethical rigor, a sense of value, and a community of belonging. Rabbis must be capable of providing access to the tradition and to making that tradition both accessible and relevant to the lives of today’s Jews. By and large, Jews are not interested in their Jewish identity for reasons of antiquarian or historical concern, nor is their primary interest one of dispassionate scholarship. While both are valuable tools in the pursuit of clarity, depth and meaning, their utility remains in the background. Front and center is a desire for harmony, balance, and integration. Jews turn to Judaism to provide those riches. Focusing on Jewish thought will give the Ziegler rabbi the tools needed to meet that demand. At the same time, the riches of Jewish thought must be transmitted through the building and maintenance of synagogues, schools, and other institutions, and its rich message must inspire through well-crafted sermons, effective teaching and preaching, pastoral counseling, and the myriad professional demands that today’s rabbi must master. The new curriculum is consciously crafted to meet those dual necessities.

Additionally, the new curriculum is designed to provide a rational flow, both from one semester to the next, and among the courses offered each semester. The new curriculum challenges each student to find her or his passion within the broad range of Jewish studies and to pursue depth and excellence within that selected area. Finally, the new curriculum reduces the total number of credits required from each student from the number previously required, based on the conviction that excessive busy-ness precludes a deep and transformative encounter with the material offered during rabbinical school.

The First Three Years

Jewish thought forms the core of today’s rabbinic contribution. Being able to communicate the application of Jewish wisdom to people’s daily lives, providing consolation and perspective to life’s tribulations and sorrows, and balance and depth to life’s joys is at the core of a Rabbi’s charge. The Ziegler curriculum is predicated on providing the Rabbi with the tools to meet that challenge. We begin with the premise that the Judaism is primarily a textual tradition – the harvest of each generation’s insights and creativity are to be found in the great writings that comprise the Masorah — Tanakh, Rabbinics, Parshanut, Philosophy, Kabbalah, and Hassidut. These literary corpuses require extensive training in order for the aspiring rabbi to be able to unlock their treasures. Only with that mastery is the Rabbi then in a position to contribute his or her own creative synthesis and advance in a way that is both authentic and responsible. And only with that level of mastery and ownership can the rabbi assist others in crafting lives of Jewish meaning and depth. Only with that body of thought can the rabbi hope to surmount the considerable challenges to Jewish life in the present.

The curricular expression of this conviction is that the first 3 years of the curriculum are devoted primarily to skill building, knowledge acquisition, and an introduction to the broad rubrics of Jewish thought (giving the student sufficient background to be competent in these areas and sufficient exposure to be able to select that one area in which to develop some expertise in the final two years of the program). The focus during this initial period is on exposure to the broad arenas of classical Jewish literary expression, Jewish theology, Hebrew language, and extensive work in rabbinics (Mishnah, Tosefta, Talmud, and Rishonim).

During these early years, aspects of professional development are not neglected, but they are not given the prominence that they will receive in the final years of the program, another reflection of our conviction that a student must first master the Masorah before seeking to teach, preach, or synthesize. Knowing that our students will be working in the community, and seeking to provide them with opportunities to synthesize their academic, professional, and existential achievements, the students will enroll in our innovative Shiur Klali program3 each semester. The Shiur Klali also offers attention to issues of personal development and the individual’s journey as a Jew. Students also receive exposure to an introduction to Halakhah (focusing on Jewish religious practice in daily and holiday life), exposure to the liturgy of the weekday and Shabbat Siddur, pastoral counseling, and field placement4. These courses assure that the student’s growth is not restricted to academia, but includes professional opportunities to begin to function rabbinically, and allows sufficient time and guidance to integrate the insights and experiences of rabbinical school into their own shifting and growing Jewish selves.

The third year of the program is both a culmination and a transition. All Ziegler students are expected to spend a year in Israel, given the school’s conviction that a personal connection to the Land of Israel, Hebrew language, and the people of Israel is an essential component of Jewish identity, and a necessary virtue for any Jewish leader. The third year of our program is, therefore, conducted under the auspices of the Conservative Yeshiva. During that year, students continue to deepen their mastery of Bible, Talmud, Codes, Midrash, and Hebrew, in addition to exploring the land and culture of Israel through seminars and field trips.

Recognizing that our intention to become the world’s greatest rabbinical school for mahshevet Yisrael and professional development requires focus, persistence, and synthesis, we also know that this focus results in ceding other focuses to other institutions. Cultivating a coherent specialization results in allowing other aspects of the field to form a backdrop, rather than attempting to be all things to all people. In this new curriculum, our determination to focus on Jewish thought and professional skills means that we have had to rethink how we provide sufficient exposure to Jewish history to allow our students to see Jewish thought in an historical context without reducing classical thought to mere historicism. We achieve that balance by asking our students to attend an intensive semester-long course covering broadly the scope of Jewish history, introducing the flow and impact of Jewish history on Judaism and helping make explicit an historical consciousness5 , as well as by offering a course in the tensions and challenges of modernity and a thematic course tracing a particular theme diachronically, will assure that the students distill the information and historical sense they need to contextualize the thought they are mastering.

During their first two years in the program, students of Talmud are required not only to receive a passing grade in each Talmud class, but they also take a Gatekeeper exam to measure objectively their having mastered the necessary level of skill to advance to the next level of Talmud study. 6

The Final Two Years

The really revolutionary innovation of the new curriculum lies in the final years of the program. This is a sweeping revamping of the program, building on a 3 year basic knowledge course, culminating in a 2 year period of specialization in a specific theological field of classical Jewish studies and an intensive program of professional development in the active rabbinate.

Each student entering the 4th year will select an area of specialization in an area of Jewish thought. We will begin by offering the possibility of specialization in

  • Bible
  • Rabbinics (Talmud, Midrash, or Codes)
  • Mysticism (Kabbalah or Hassidut)
  • Theology/Philosophy

The specialization will consist in reading and discussion based seminars, an academic comprehensive exam, and a final project in the selected area of Jewish studies. Each area will be administered by a member of the Faculty, and will be judged by a va’ad convened by that Faculty member and two other members as determined by the Deans and the supervising Faculty. The final project will demonstrate understanding, recall, mastery, the use of primary texts, and synthetic creativity.

Each area of specialization will have its own distinctive focus, based both on the area of study itself, and on the interests and expertise of the faculty, but each area will be characterized by

  • Attention to broad knowledge of the material
  • Reading acuity
  • Attention to the theological and philosophical dimensions of the field
  • An ability to interpret and use the field to teach and counsel
  • Application of the field in contemporary Jewish liturgy, thought, and practice.

At the same time that the student is gaining serious depth in one particular area of Jewish studies, the School will also provide a comprehensive and extensive professional training to prepare the student for a successful career in the active rabbinate. This professionalization will occur through a series of courses, through supervised internships, and through seminars reflecting on those internships. The student will select one course from AJU's superb programs in Nonprofit Management to provide exposure to the more practical aspects of institution building and management. Courses in Pastoral Counseling, Life Cycle, Hospital Chaplaincy, a Synagogue Skills seminar, a course on teaching, a year-long master class, Conservative Judaism: Theology, Law, and Ethics, and a year long course on homiletics will all help prepare the Ziegler student for a career as a Rabbi. Additionally, the student will participate in a Senior Internship, under the supervision of a Conservative Rabbi. Reflection on the many tasks of a rabbi will flow from working with the Rabbi in a Jewish institution, and will be reinforced through the Senior Seminar each week. Finally, each Senior will be exposed to a course of Torah anthologies, providing access to Hasidic and recent commentaries to the Torah for homiletical purposes, and a capstone course on the use of texts for spiritual mentoring, both for the Rabbi throughout life and for the Rabbi’s community.

An Overview

The first semester of the first year is designed to introduce the student to the fundamentals of Jewish learning. Focused on Hebrew and beginning to read and contextualize the building blocks of Jewish civilization, the student is exposed to Bible and Rabbinics as the cornerstone textual responsibilities. The curriculum offers a systematic exposure to Jewish theological reflection and to critical analysis of religious ideas through the course on Jewish philosophy, which also introduces the student to the great thinkers of Judaism’s rich reflective tradition, and to an Introduction to Halakhah which enables the student to socialize into normative Jewish life and practice while also beginning to understand the sources of halakhic decision-making and the expectations of a halakhic life.

The spring semester of the first year builds on the prior semester, moving the study of rabbinics into the realm of Talmud itself. Students will have the opportunity, depending on their level of skill, to become exposed to the Sugya, and possibly to the commentary of Rashi and other Rishonim. They will continue with their Hebrew studies as well. The additional focus of second semester will be on Liturgy, looking at the Siddur and Mahzor as a theological resource and also examining the history and halakhah surrounding proper liturgical practice. Given the centrality of worship in the role of most contemporary rabbis, this early focus will enable the student both to function rabbinically and to understand and apply material learned in other courses. These courses initiate the process of mastering synagogue skills in daily, Shabbat, Festival and High Holy Day liturgy, as well as in Torah, Haftarah, and Megillah chanting. Additionally, the student will use this semester for the first of three field placements (one each in a Jewish agency, in Education, and in a Synagogue).

The second year expands the student’s knowledge base and skill set, advancing their Talmud studies by incorporating more attention to the commentaries that surround the Talmud text and expand upon it. Attention to this pillar of rabbinics is supplemented with exposure to Midrash, creating a critical and contextual knowledge of different Midrashim, and also developing an ability to read and utilize Midrashim independently. The Bible syllabus builds on its progression of Humash and then of Humash and Rashi to incorporate other scholarly and contemporary modes of reading and studying the Bible, including Biblical source criticism, literary approaches, and others. At the end of the semester, the student writes an exam in Bikkiyut in Torah, demonstrating sufficient familiarity with the names, places, key narratives, laws, and quotations of the Torah, as well as the content of the parashiyot. By Year 2, all students must be at least at Hebrew 4 level, and all must enroll in a total of 6 semesters of Hebrew during the program (including their year in Israel). Those entering in Hebrew 4 Literature level will only take 4 semesters of Hebrew. The second field placement occurs during this semester, and Shiur Klali continues through each semester of the program.

The Spring Semester of year two rounds out the offerings of the first two years, giving the student’s a solid introduction to the different fields of Jewish scholarship, solidifying their language and text skills, and preparing them to continue that growth during their year in Israel. The Bible curriculum concludes its survey of the Tanakh with consideration of the final two sections – the prophets and the writings. As with the fall semester, this material is examined in a Bikkiyut exam in which the student demonstrates knowledge of the key names, figures, and messages of these books. The student is introduced to the study of Jewish mysticism, its key terms and constructs, as well as the central texts of the field. Talmud advances with exposure to more Sugyot and commentaries, and the program is rounded out with exposure the tensions and promises of modernity. This course will focus on the tensions and issues that modernity brings to Jewish life and will examine the roots of those tensions historically (autonomy vs. corporate identity, citizenship, Emancipation and Enlightenment, secularism, Zionism and Diaspora identity, to name a few), consideration of the role of Rabbi as teacher, and the third and final field placement. At this point in the curriculum, the student must demonstrate mastery of weekday and Shabbat liturgy, Torah and Haftarah chanting.

The third year of the Ziegler program takes place in Israel (currently at the Conservative Yeshiva of the USCJ). The purpose of the year is fourfold:

  • To expose the students to the Land, cultures, and peoples of Israel
  • To continue to develop their text skills and Hebrew
  • To reflect on the role of Israel in contemporary Jewish identity in general, and in their own consciousness and identity as individuals

These goals are not separate and distinct, but intertwine through the academic and nonacademic aspects of the year.

The fourth year unveils the special concentration each student selects7. During this intensive 6 unit seminar, the student will read through a selection of articles and books providing grounding and orientation for the scholarly study of the field. The class will meet every other week, to provide ample time for the students to successfully complete the reading assignments that will be the bulwark of this advanced seminar. The Conservative Judaism course will integrate the three primary areas in which Conservative Judaism’s worldview and perspective offer a unique and important take on Jewish tradition and faith. Looking at the theological perspectives and insights of the leaders of the Movement, at the theories of law and their application, and at the pervasive impact of ethics, students will have a solid perspective with which to identify and through which they can face the issues confronting the Jewish world today. In order to develop mastery of rabbinics at a higher level, the year four course will offer a chance at synthesis, providing a way of applying their love and mastery of Talmud to teaching it to laypeople. Organized around the 10 – 15 Sugyot that every Conservative rabbi should know, the class sessions will allow each student to teach one of the selected Sugyot to the class as though teaching a group of laypeople. As envisioned, this class will have a Beit Midrash component prior to each class session, during which the members of the class will prepare the Sugya in hevrutot. Finally, the pastoral counseling, Shiur Klali and synagogue skills seminar will continue to direct the gaze of the student toward the concerns and passions of the active rabbinate. In particular, the Synagogue Skills seminar will allow the student to develop mastery over the traditional nusah for weekday, holy day, festival and special occasions.

The second semester of the 4th year will continue to reading seminar, this time allowing the professor the flexibility of deciding whether or not to offer a seminar on a particular text or subject within the field, or to continue more broad reading across the spectrum of the discipline. Building on the Pastoral Counseling series, the student will now work within a hospital setting, under the supervision of a Rabbi/Chaplain. A semester course with the Nonprofit Management program will permit the student a degree of choice in selecting some area of business skill to further hone, and will allow the student to integrate with MBA students who can be a helpful source of advice and guidance throughout the rabbi’s career8. Finally, the Life Cycle and Covenant class will help integrate the theological studies of the past four years with the need to handle life cycle ritual and counseling from a perspective of wisdom, compassion, and skill.

Senior year is designed as a year of culmination and transition. During this year the Ordinand turns to issues of job acquisition, moving into the world of Jewish professionals. It is fitting that much of the ordinands’ attention shifts away from the life of the school, and even from the concerns of full-time academics. At the same time, this year is the culmination of five or more years of serious full time study. As such, there are moments of completion, of integration, and of achievement that form an important part of the final year of the program.

During the first semester, the 6 credit seminar provides time for the Senior to select and complete a final project, subject to the approval of her or his supervising faculty. That project is to be rooted in text, demonstrating both mastery of the field and also ability to apply the rich textual heritage of that field to the spiritual, ethical, and historical concerns of today’s Jews.

The remainder of the student’s time and attention are now given to professional development. A course on teaching will allow the student to hone a much needed skill for the rabbinate, and the advanced homiletics allows the student, under the instruction of some of today’s finest rabbinic orators, to hone their own style and art of the sermon, the eulogy, and other occasions of rabbinic speech and teaching. The Internship offers 10 hours each week to work in a synagogue/school/hospital/agency setting, with the active supervision of a Conservative rabbi. In addition to that supervised internship, the Senior Seminar provides a place for the class to come together as a whole to think through issues arising from their internships, and to reflect on life in the congregation or agency. Because of the time demands of the internship and the final project, the total credit load is deliberately light.

The final semester of the program focuses on midwifing the students from their status as advanced students to that of beginning rabbis. Assistance with resume building, job search and acquisition, transitioning into a professional role, all these occupy the attention and energy of the students and their advisors.

The formal courses reflect the shift in concern. The light load (14 credits) allows the students to turn their attention to the job search week sponsored by the Rabbinical Assembly, and then provides for their many weekends on the road interviewing. The focus, for example, of the homiletics class shifts mid semester. Once they return from their Job Search week, the homiletics professor now meets with the seniors to help them prepare their talks for their interview weekends. Three capstone classes remain: Torah anthologies exposes the student to Hassidic and modern commentaries that offer rich homiletical material to give depth to their learning, their preaching, and to their teaching. Rabbinic Texts as Spiritual Mentors provides an opportunity for synthesis and integration, inviting the student to consider how the process of learning holy texts is personally transformative, and asking the students to share those texts which were particularly fruitful for their own growth and engagement. The history course will select some theme that reaches across the ages of Jewish history (Messianism, for example) to synthesize an historical perspective into the student’s more fully-formed religious worldview.

Conclusion

In the best of the traditions of Conservative Judaism, this curriculum reflects a commitment to tradition and change. What remains is a reverence for text as the sacred harvest of our people’s encounter with the divine. Mastery of those texts, in the original, remains the sine qua non for today’s rabbis. Equally strong is a passion for Torah and mitzvot, and for a life of sacred deeds shaped and mediated by halakhah. What is new is the explicit attention to the needs of our time: Jews who are largely uneducated in the sources of Judaism nonetheless express a yearning for depth, for spirit, for faith and for a full Jewish life. Translating the Torah heritage from book to life is the key task of today’s rabbi, and this curriculum is therefore designed to equip the rabbinical student for precisely that challenge. By focusing on mahshevet Yisrael, the profound, soul-wrestling contemplations of Israel’s great intellects across the millennia, we hope to unleash that potent blend of heart and mind that has already brought so much light into the world. Simultaneously, to be conversant with the riches of Jewish thought and practice is of no practical utility if the practitioner cannot convey that passion, insight, and beauty to those who would seek to acquire it. The rabbi must not only be learned, but also compelling. That is why the second leg of this curriculum is professional skill and competence.

It is our firm conviction that this approach offers the best hope of training a generation of visionary, literate, and compelling rabbis capable of mediating God’s love and justice through the Jewish people to the world at large.

Ken Yehi Ratzon

(For a detailed listing of the classes discussed in this document, see: Sample Curriculum by Year)

 


 

  1.  Learning and Scholarship, Ethics, Leadership, Culture, People.
  2.  The Ziegler Rabbi … masters the Masorah — synthetically and technically, distills the Tradition in ways useful to people’s lives, is motivated by God and shares that faith, pursues a socially-conscious rabbinate, elicits the theological underpinnings of sacred texts, teaches and observes mitzvot passionately, loves Jews as well as Judaism, and connects with lay people and is skilled in outreach.
  3. The year is divided into Quarters, and four tracks are offered during each quarter: Torah Lishma, Contemporary Issues (Shanah), Experiential (Nefesh), and Practicum (Olam). These sessions are taught by our own Deans and Faculty, as well as by outside scholars, professionals, artists, and innovators. Each Quarter, the student has an opportunity to select which course to take, and the Shiur Klali provides time to offer reflection and growth in important areas that do not fit into the curriculum elsewhere. It also allows students to learn with and from students from other years of the program and to benefit from the world-class talents in the Los Angeles Jewish community.
  4. Field placements are required in organizations, schools, and congregations. These are supervised placements, one semester each.
  5. During this course, the students will be provided a recommended reading list on the sweep of Jewish history.
  6. Our extensive focus on Talmud requires some explanation. We affirm that the core of Rabbinic Judaism is to be found in the content and methods of the Talmud. No contemporary expression of Jewish life can claim continuity with the past or to embody that past if it is not firmly rooted in Talmudic discourse, law, and reflection. That said, we believe that other aspects of Jewish civilization — philosophy, poetry, mysticism, etc. — are also significant pillars of an authentic Jewish religious life. The attention to Talmud is partially an expression of its centrality, but also an expression of its complexity. Students are simply able to pursue independent study in other areas more quickly. The dialectics and vocabulary of Talmud are sufficiently daunting to require more time during the Rabbinical School years. At the same time, Judaism is broader than Talmud, and the curriculum seeks to balance the need for sufficient time to learn Talmud with serious attention to those other realms of thought.
  7. See Appendix A for a more detailed proposal for this Senior Seminar cycle.
  8. The MBA course can be taken at any semester of the Rabbinical program, and can be selected from a wide range of possible courses offered by the Nonprofit Management program.