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).