Rabbinical School in Jerusalem/Wikipedia photo by Roy Lindman

Ask A Jew: How does one become a rabbi?


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By Hyphen Parent

How does someone become a rabbi? Is it like going to seminary?

SPO_Ask-a-Jew-ad_042114To become a rabbi, one goes to seminary. There are different schools for different movements in Judaism. The American seminaries are in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and Cincinnati. There is an online option for distance learning. Schools typically require 4-7 years of study usually with a period in Israel. Some require an undergraduate degree before beginning the program.

Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements ordain both male and female rabbis. Orthodox Jewish rabbinic groups have upheld polices of exclusively ordaining men. Although Rabbi Lila Kagedan recently made news when she became the first female graduate of Yeshivat Maharat to take the title “Rabbi” and preside in an Orthodox synagogue. Orthodox seminaries do not ordain LGBT rabbis whereas the other branches do.

Rabbinical students study Torah, midrash, Talmud, Hebrew, liturgy, theology, literature, history, social policy, psychology, education methods, professional development and additional topics essential to the job.  Some require pulpit experience before ordination. Most require living and studying in Israel for various amounts of time.

Once ordained, rabbis can work as a synagogue leader, in day schools, on college campuses, in hospitals, as military chaplains, in Jewish organizations and at Jewish community centers.

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