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.