Retooling Rabbis

Posted on: February 12th, 2009 by Hayim Herring

For the next several weeks, I’ll be writing about a new topic: rabbis. In keeping with the Tools for Shuls motif, I’m thinking of calling the chapter based on this series of posts Retooling Rabbis. Please read my posts with full awareness that some of my best friends are rabbis, (and that I realized my adolescent dream of becoming one in 1984!)  The tone that I’m striving for in my posts is to be lovingly critical about the rabbinate, for the rabbinate (or ministry for that matter) is one of those vocations where heeding the words of the ancient Jewish sage, Hillel (born before the destruction of the second Temple in 70 C.E.,) is a very wise idea. He said, don’t judge people until you’ve been in their situation (Avot 2:5.) Having been in that situation in different iterations, I hope that I will put enough love in the critique—and enough critique in the love.

Here’s where I really need your input. Imagine that you are the dean of a rabbinical school. You have the opportunity to modify the rabbinical school curriculum. Assuming that the fundamentals of the curriculum are sound and that subjects like Jewish history, Hebrew language and Jewish law will continue to be the foundation of your curriculum. What other topics do you believe are critical for contemporary rabbis to learn today—and think outside of the box (or book!)?

If you are a rabbi, draw upon your current experience and stage: what additional subjects you wish you had been exposed to before you completed school? Where did you feel some of the larger gaps in your curriculum? If you are a member of the synagogue reading this blog, give us your view from the pew, committee or board room. From your vantage point, what do you perceive to be missing from rabbinic education?

This is a discussion which really does require multiple views so I hope that even if you don’t regularly comment, you’ll chime in.


Rabbi Hayim Herring

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