Community Blog How to Prepare for a Rabbinical School Interview
“You should already be in the shallow end of the swimming pool.”
When you’re applying to rabbinical school, you should already be in the shallow end of the pool, ready to venture into the deep end — if you think of Jewish practice as a swimming pool — says Rabbi Daniel Klein, Associate Dean of Admissions for the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.
That means, before an interview, try thinking about…
“We want you to be ready to share your relationship to religious life,” says Rabbi Klein. “We want you to talk about how you live your life Jewishly and are ready to learn more.”
- Why do you want to be a rabbi?
- Why now? Why is this the appropriate next step for you?
- How do you want to grow in terms of your relationship to God, to prayer (or tefillah), to your Shabbat practice, and to all areas of Jewish life?
- Why are you interested in an unaffiliated rabbinical school like Hebrew College that is open to various forms of Jewish expression?
The philosophy of the rabbinical school.
At Hebrew College, how you make decisions about living Jewishly is more important than what your decisions are.
- We want to help you find your path, not tell you what your path should be.
- We want to hear what you love and what you struggle with in your Jewish life and practice.
Your academic capacity.
Rabbinical school is a rigorous graduate program. While past academic performance is an indicator of your ability to tackle the program, it may not reflect your academic capacity.
- Why are you attracted to an academically intensive program now?
- Are you excited about text study? (At Hebrew College deep text study is central to the program. If that sounds exciting, great. If it sounds like drudgery, maybe Hebrew College isn’t right for you.)
- What do you need to thrive in a demanding program?
- What will it be like to be a student again?
Your interpersonal skills.
At Hebrew College, students study in pairs in hevruta-style learning in our Beit Midrash. That means studying—and sometimes struggling with—texts with a partner who might think differently from you. In a pluralistic community, you should be ready to study with Jews from all backgrounds, movements, and practices. It’s exciting and challenging.
- Why are you interested in studying with students who think differently from you?
- Are you a good listener?
- Are you prepared to really see and care about others so you help your hevruta partner grow as much as they help you?
- Share some stories about yourself as a member of a community.
- What role do you want to play in community?
- Share a time someone has come to you for help.
Your verbal and written communication skills.
Come prepared but don’t be rehearsed.
Show your grit.
You’ll need resilience to be a rabbi. It’s a long academic program. It’s a challenging career – but also one that is full of deep rewards.
- How do you deal with adversity?
- Can you share an experience where you dealt with adversity and/or a crisis of faith.
- What do you need to be successful in an adverse situation?
- How have you helped others through a tough experience?