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 curriculum is consciously crafted to meet those dual necessities.
Additionally, the 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.