Lay People Welcome: Share Your Thoughts on 21st Century Rabbinical Education!

Posted on: March 17th, 2014 by Hayim Herring



As my co-editor, Ellie Roscher and I, are receiving essays for our latest research project and book, Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education, we’re already beginning to hear an unprecedented, multi-vocal conversation. Our goal is to understand from rabbis in the field and educators of rabbis how rabbinical education needs to grow and shift to be relevant in the 21st century. But – several weeks ago I realized that I only had two of the three sets voices needed for this book project. Your voice – those of you who have ongoing interactions with rabbis, or who had them in the past, need to be represented in this book. Why?


Generally, with the exception of much of the Orthodox world, the goal of rabbinical school is not to become a rabbi. Rather, it is to serve Jewish people as a camp or school educator, congregational rabbi, chaplain, Hillel director or in some other way. So, how could I not invite those of you who are not rabbis to add an essay to this volume?! After all, you are the intended beneficiaries of rabbinical education.


So I’m inviting you to contribute an essay as well. If you have or had a relationship with a rabbi, and you have constructive suggestions that can improve 21st-century rabbinical education, then you are a potential contributor to this volume. Here are some questions for you to consider in case you would like some help in getting started:
• What are the kinds of encounters you’ve had with rabbis that have had the most significant or even profound impact upon you?
• When have you experienced a need to turn to a rabbi?
• In your experience, where has rabbinical education shown itself to be best suited for what you and your community need? Where does it seem to have fallen short?
• Given the especially heavy emotional, spiritual and physical demands of rabbis, the light that shines within them can begin to dim. What kinds of supports or encouragement do rabbis need to keep their own spiritual flame glowing?
• What do you need from them to keep your spiritual flame glowing?
• Within your setting, how do you understand the rabbi’s role? To what extent do you think that your perception of the rabbi’s role and the rabbi’s perception are aligned?


For far too long, rabbinical seminaries, rabbinical organizations, and lay boards that work with rabbis in their multifaceted roles have conversations in isolation. As a result, these three, interdependent stakeholders in rabbinical education often become adversaries instead of allies, and good, well-intentioned people can wind up hurting one another.It’s time for a trialogue– a healthy discussion among lay people who interact with rabbis, educators of rabbis and rabbis–about the possibilities of 21st Century rabbinical education. Please help make that happen by submitting an essay for potential publication in Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education.


The guidelines are simple: Submit your essays and stories to Keeping the Faith in Rabbinical Education on or before May 26, 2014 to You can also send your questions to that address. Although there is no length requirement or restriction, we anticipate essays and stories will run between 5 and 20 pages and can range in tone from personal story to conceptual recommendations. This will be the third publication in the Keeping the Faith series. Please go to for more information on the full series.


And thank you for considering being a possible contributor to this first-of-a-kind volume.


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