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Community Blog Training Spiritual Leaders for the Pulpit and Beyond

By Hebrew College

Hebrew College is training spiritual leaders to meet the challenges of today’s pulpit and beyond.

We live in a changing Jewish world in which the demands on clergy and the needs for their strong leadership have never been greater. Patterns of Jewish identification and involvement are shifting and people are searching for new ways of connecting to one another and to Jewish life. At Hebrew College, this year’s Class of 5777 – made up of 14 rabbis and cantors – are stepping into this world well-prepared. They each have cultivated a unique approach to Jewish living and spiritual leadership to meet that changing need, and the myriad leadership roles they have accepted speak volumes about the impact they are prepared to have on the Jewish community.

Hebrew College’s rabbinical and cantorial students learn within a supportive pluralistic community, free from denominational strictures. Together with a deep rooting in a traditional text-based education and hands-on internships, they gain the knowledge and practical skills to become the authentic Jewish leaders they want to be – equipped with a broad toolkit to lead and respond across the dynamic Jewish landscape. And the Jewish community is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the newest graduates, as evidenced by the positions they have accepted. This year’s class of 11 new rabbis has a 100 percent placement rate, taking on leadership roles in affiliated and independent congregations, Hillels, day schools, communal institutions and chaplaincy settings in six different states across the country.

Similarly, Hebrew College’s three graduating cantors will be leading diverse Jewish communities across the world including Maine, Canada, and Singapore. “Our graduating cantorial students will be bringing diverse, creative and energetic practices, ideas and musical wisdom to their new positions in the Jewish world,” commented Lynn Torgove, Head of Vocal Arts and Adjunct Instructor at Hebrew College’s School of Jewish Music. “It will be a great honor to call them our newest Cantorial colleagues!”

First Rav-Hazzan Among Ordinees Stepping Into Leadership Roles

Hebrew College is also proud to ordain the first graduate of our new Rav-Hazzan (Rabbi-Cantor-Educator) program, Aliza Berger. After ordination, Aliza will become Rabbi/Cantor at Temple Emanuel in Newton, MA – a vibrant Conservative congregation where she has been an intern throughout her final year of study – developing programming for teens and young adults. According to Temple Emanuel’s Senior Rabbi, Wesley Gardenswartz, Aliza is already having a huge impact on the community. “Aliza is a gift from Hashem. She is forward-thinking…and wonderfully results-oriented. Aliza thinks, talks and acts in the language of progress that you can measure,” he says. “Aliza is the Michael Jordan of rabbis. She is a natural talent. She speaks brilliantly. She thinks clearly. She listens empathetically. She sings beautifully.”

Among the positions and communities our newest rabbis and cantors will serve are:

“It is a privilege and a blessing to work with such talented and dedicated students as they shape their distinctive visions for the rabbinate,” said Rabbinical School Dean Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld. “We are delighted that our graduates are finding placements throughout Greater Boston and around the country where they can serve diverse communities and individuals and bring their visions and values to life.”

Success Breeds Success: Talented Incoming Ordination Students The diverse opportunities a Hebrew College ordination affords is borne out by the record 22 incoming students joining the Rabbinical School and School of Jewish Music this fall – representing the most successful total recruitment season for the two programs since their founding.

The Rabbinical School looks forward to welcoming 17 outstanding future rabbis to campus, bringing the School’s total enrollment to 59 students. The School of Jewish Music will be welcoming five new students. They become the third cohort in the School’s cutting-edge Cantorial Ordination for Spiritual and Educational Leadership (COSEL) program, receiving a Master of Jewish Education degree in addition to cantorial ordination. The streamlined three-year COSEL program, established in 2015, has redefined cantorial education for the twenty-first century, accelerating the pace and intensity of the training that cantors receive to prepare them for positions across the spectrum of contemporary Jewish life.

The new rabbinical students hail from nine different states, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, as well as Australia and Canada. Among the incoming students are individuals who grew up in all the major movements of Judaism and the spaces in-between, and come to Hebrew College with strong educational backgrounds and rich professional experiences, including working in Jewish and secular education, urban planning, elder care, communal service and Hillel.

“It is inspiring to welcome such an extraordinary group of people into our Rabbinical School community,” said Rabbi Daniel Klein, the Rabbinical School’s Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Life. “It is an energizing reminder of the importance and resonance in the world of our expansive, creative, yet traditionally rooted approach to Judaism and spiritual leadership.”

The incoming students also recognize the unique opportunity they will have in choosing Hebrew College for their ordination studies. One new student, Amalia Mark, put it this way:

“At every point in my application experience and especially during my rabbinical school interview, I felt that the faculty offered a candid and meaningful reflection of their own Jewish experiences and journey. I was deeply drawn to this honesty as a reflection of my own experiences and beliefs.”

The five entering COSEL students come to Hebrew College from Boston, Maryland and Pennsylvania, with diverse backgrounds and portfolios, ranging from classical musicians to Jewish educators to software engineers. Three completed their undergraduate work in music conservatories. Collectively, they bring passion for Jewish communal life, dedication to Jewish sacred music, and creativity and innovation in their work as future clergy and educators. They join a vibrant and creative COSEL community that is preparing spiritual leaders for the leadership roles our changing Jewish communities demand.

Added Cantor Brian Mayer, Dean of Hebrew College’s School of Jewish Music, “The talent of this group of entering students is tremendous. They bring energy and creativity that we can already see as having a major impact on our school and the broader Jewish community, and we are gratified to welcome our largest class yet. The wind is in our sails.”

Ordination Programs by the Numbers

Total 2017 Ordinees: 14 Rabbinical: 11  |  Cantorial: 3

Total 2017 Ordination Placement Rate: 100%

Total 2017 Incoming Ordination Students: 22 Rabbinical: 17  |  Cantorial: 5

Total Ordination Students Enrolled as of Fall 2017: 69 Rabbinical: 59  |  Cantorial: 10

Rank of 2017 Incoming Combined Cohort by Size (among 2002-17 cohorts):  1

Learn more about the Rabbinical School:

Contact Dean Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld:

Learn more about the School of Jewish Music & COSEL Program: Contact Dean Cantor Dr. Brian Mayer:

About Hebrew College

Founded in 1921, Hebrew College promotes excellence in Jewish learning and leadership within a pluralistic environment of open inquiry, intellectual rigor, personal engagement and spiritual creativity. Its programs include a Rabbinical School, a School of Jewish Music, a School of Jewish Education, and graduate degrees and courses in Jewish studies; community education for adult learners; and a supplemental Hebrew high school and middle school. For more information, visit

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