Today is October 19, 2019 / /

Curriculum & Culture - Chovevei Torah, Setting the standard in rabbinic leadership

Curriculum & Culture

Curriculum

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.

Torah

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.

Pastoral Counseling

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.

Professional Development

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.

Hashkafa-Jewish Theology

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.

 

Culture

Small & Personal School

Small classes promote intellectual growth and encourage strong friendships and supportive peer groups.   A low student-faculty ratio and the consistent presence of faculty in the beit midrash foster lively, stimulating interactions between students and their rabbanim. Teachers concern themselves with the whole student, taking an interest in each student’s intellectual, emotional and religious development.

Intellectual Openness & Respect

Deep commitment to ikrei emunah (faith), tradition, and halakha flourishes in an atmosphere where students are free to ask challenging questions. A non-authoritarian staff, a comprehensive and interdisciplinary library, a wide range of visiting lecturers, and thought-provoking classes all teach students that intellectual honesty and questioning are key components of religious growth.  Students are respectful of the multiplicity of voices in the yeshiva, of each other’s sensibilities and of our religious traditions and exemplars.

Spirituality & Religious Meaning

YCT cultivates an atmosphere of meaning-making and spirituality-seeking, which permeates permeates the beit midrash and professional classes. Students naturally seek mentors from among the rabbanim, professional faculty and the mashgiach ruchani, as they actualize a calling to become rabbis of sterling character, with a hashkafat olam rooted in Torah, in halakha, in religiosity, and in morality.

Responsibility to Others

Student self-governance, feedback, and collaboration are essential to create an intentioned and supportive community.  A student leadership group emerged as the best way to inspire and direct the life of YCT as a purposeful community and manage the student community and needs with increased autonomy.  Members of the group pursue different ideals, including chevrashaft, tzedakahchesed, and outreach.  The group comfortably approaches the administration with issues related to curriculum, policies, new initiatives, and yeshiva culture, constructively sharing a diversity of perspectives and arriving at solutions that balance student feedback with the administration’s pedagogic and strategic goals.  YCT’s best chevra events, guest speakers, and learning initiatives have been generated by student ideas.  Members of the student body volunteer to plan programs in the yeshiva around chagim or commemorative days, meeting together with the Director of Student Affairs to brainstorm ideas, design a plan, execute the program, and reflect on the process. Outside of the academic context, students represent the yeshiva and serve as ambassadors in their hometowns and local communities.

Responsibility to Others

As Orthodox Jews engaged in the modern world, we have the responsibility to contribute to-not simply benefit from-our world. YCT as an institution and its students as individuals are actively committed to the principle of tikkun olam, helping others and working to improve the larger world.  The student body joins together to rejoice with a fellow student at times of simcha, and to give emotional and practical support during times of difficulty.  The ethos of caring extends outside of the yeshiva as well. Students regularly participate in soup kitchens and clothing drives, organize rallies in support of Israel, volunteer in homeless shelters, raise money for ma’ot chittim and victims of terror, participate with other seminaries in AJWS missions to El Salvador, help bring simchat yom tov to small Jewish communities, lead programs for underprivileged Jewish youth, and care for the sick.