Rabbinical School Divrei Torah Choosing a Rabbinical School: 8 Questions to Consider

By Rabbi Daniel Klein

Rabbi Daniel KleinSo you are thinking about becoming a rabbi and starting to explore your educational options. Now what?

There are many choices for rabbinical school. To figure out which is the right one for you, there are two fundamental questions you need to answer:

1. What are the approaches to rabbinic education at the schools you are interested in?

2. What are you looking for in your rabbinical school experience and education?

To help you explore and reflect on these questions, here are eight aspects of rabbinic education to apply them to:

1. CURRICULUM Becoming a rabbi means acquiring knowledge of Jewish tradition, history and practice. However, in addition to downloading, you also need to install. You need to develop a nourishing Jewish practice and merge your life with Torah so you can participate in the ongoing emergence of Jewish tradition. Finally, you need to develop the professional skills to survive and thrive in the rabbinate.

2. LEARNING ENVIRONMENT Rabbinical schools in the United States tend to be accredited institutions of higher learning, granting degrees in addition to ordaining people as rabbis. However, rabbinical school has to be more than graduate school for people to develop the knowledge, skills and habits of a rabbi. A school’s learning environment, which includes the curriculum but also how people are learning and interacting with each other, is a critical element of transforming a graduate school into a rabbinical school.

3. RELIGIOUS APPROACH

Each school has a religious approach to Judaism that impacts many elements of the program and experience. At the core of this issue is if can you find yourself and grow within a school’s version of Judaism.

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4. COMMUNITY Rabbinical schools are generally multi-year, on campus, intensive programs in which you are journeying to ordination with a group of fellow travelers. Moreover, practicing and growing as a Jew is by nature a very communal endeavor.

5. PLACEMENT While finding the right rabbinical school is very important, the purpose of the education is to serve as a rabbi out in the world. As rabbis increasingly work in various settings, including congregations, Hillels, schools, hospitals and communal institutions, the need for a robust and varied program of professional development and attentive, individualized placement support is critical.

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6. FINANCIAL AID AND INVESTMENT Rabbinical School is an investment that prepares you for a fulfilling career of service. As a multi-year on campus program, financing your rabbinic education is an important consideration and often involves a combination of financial aid, scholarships, loans and part time work. Can you, and possibly your family, afford to do it? Can you afford not to do it?

7. ALUMNI COMMUNITY AND SUPPORT Most likely, you are going to be a rabbi a lot longer than you are in rabbinical school. Finding colleagues and mentors who can help you professionally and support your ongoing spiritual needs is critical to sustaining yourself in this work. Alumnae networks are a primary place to turn for such support.

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8. THE WHOLE PICTURE Personal decisions, particularly ones as significant as becoming a rabbi, are always communal. As you consider this path and which school is right for you, the impact on family and friends is a very important, and possibly central, consideration.

In a changing Jewish world, The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College prepares spiritual leaders to be authentic inheritors and innovators of Jewish tradition. Come experience our vibrant pluralistic community and learn about our unique approach to preparing rabbis to be the spiritual guides and companions of tomorrow. We offer serious Jewish learning in a beit midrash setting filled with openness and excitement for reimagining Judaism for our times. See if Hebrew College is right for you.

Join us for Ta Sh’ma (Come & Hear), the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College and School of Jewish Music Open House and Day of Learning on November 14. Learn more and register now.


Rabbi Daniel Klein was ordained by Hebrew College in 2010. In addition to being the Associate Dean of Admissions & Student Life for the Hebrew College Rabbinical School, he serves as the Rabbi in Residence of The Boston Synagogue.

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