The goal of the YCT curriculum is to train rabbis to be talmidei chakhamim, poskim and spiritual leaders serving the Jewish community in different capacities. YCT rabbis draw deeply from Torah to engage openly the challenges that the modern world presents to a life of religious meaning, faith and Jewish identification. The curriculum was designed as a tapestry of four interwoven strands. This design represents a ground-breaking vision of rabbinic education over the past decade. The three foundational strands are Talmud and Halakha, Pastoral Education, and Practical Rabbinics. YCT has recently introduced a fourth strand in Jewish theology that will weave theological texts throughout the student’s program. YCT’s goal is to enable rabbis to articulate a hashkafa grounded in a study of selected biblical, philosophical, and kabbalistic texts and to acquire a spiritual vocabulary and language grounded in traditions of Torah wisdom.
Talmud is studied intensively throughout all four years of the semikha program. The Talmud curriculum supports the training of rabbis who are fluent in Talmud and Rishonim. The core classes focus on lomdus (conceptual analysis) and integrate historical and source-critical methodologies. Students emerge with strong analytical skills, love of learning, reverence for Chazal, and deep knowledge necessary for a lifetime of Torah-committed leadership.
The Halakha curriculum is designed to enable rabbis to acquire the knowledge and skill required to serve communities as sensitive halakhic decisors, applying mature judgment in rendering nuanced halakhic rulings. Students study the laws of Shabbat, Kashrut, Niddah, Kiddushin, Gerut, and Aveilut. Students also study the laws of Orach Chayim—prayer, synagogue, holidays, and the laws relating to lifecycle events. Seasoned poskim guide students in the analysis of Talmudic sources through its commentaries, Shulchan Arukh, and responsa, both classical and modern.
YCT’s unique Pastoral Counseling program recognizes that rabbinic education must include an understanding of psychology and a mastery of pastoral skills so that rabbis can respond sensitively and competently to the issues brought to them. Students acquire tools to assess, counsel, and refer. They leave YCT better able to address the increasingly complex questions in our society, and with a basic comfort in the halakhic parameters of common psychological issues.
Pastoral counseling classes are required throughout all four years of yeshiva. The program rests on a three-part foundation: 1) didactic instruction in the classroom. This includes a series of three courses in pastoral counseling, human development, and marital issues, as well as a pastoral strand integrated with halakhic learning related to all life-cycle events 2) clinical experience, which includes professional internships, as well as a 400-hour requirement in Clinical Pastoral Education in an accredited therapeutic, hospital or hospice setting. 3) individual awareness, which is actualized by encouraging students to engage in their own self-understanding through personal psychotherapy.
In addition, YCT incorporates a unique forum for personal development in what we call “Process Groups.” There, students gain perspective on their own place in the dynamic of their cohort. A mental health professional meets with each cohort on a weekly basis to facilitate open and confidential discussions of topics that arise spontaneously. Students learn and build on critical skills such as reflective listening, mediating moments of crisis within the group, and coping with irresolvable conflicts.
The Professional Development program provides students with the professional skills to be effective, dynamic, and visionary leaders. Practical rabbinic training includes hands-on courses in homiletics, pedagogy, hilkhot Beit HaKnesset, leadership development, and officiating at life-cycle events.
Homiletics education teaches students how to deliver drashot and other genres of public speaking with a thoughtful, well-organized, and clear message and engages students in developing their speaking styles. Pedagogy classes cover basic pedagogy, Jewish and general educational philosophy, curriculum design, student assessment, and classroom management techniques. YCT trains rabbis, through the lifecycle courses, to bring the moments alive and imbue them with spirituality, so that participants connect meaningfully to these milestones in their lives.
All students fulfill requirements as professional interns in pulpit, school, campus or communal organizational settings. These internships include mentoring and seminars that require students to engage in reflective practice.
Special seminars are devoted to End of Life Medical Ethics, Beginning of Life Medical Ethics, Physical Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities. These week long seminars take place on a four year cycle.
YCT is piloting a curricular strand of the program in Hashkafa, or Jewish theology. The goal of this text-based course of study is to provide rabbis with grounding in theological modes of thought and to enable them to acquire a spiritual language to articulate a religious world-view. YCT believes that theological sophistication is a critical tool for rabbis to provide spiritual guidance and leadership.