Jewish Studies and Public Administration

Program Background
The Jewish Professional Leadership program is the umbrella for the two dual-degree programs of Gershon Kekst Graduate School of JTS and Columbia University, one with the Columbia School of Social Work (CUSSW), and one with Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Students in the Jewish Professional Leadership program participate in an integration seminar that allows them to explore the intersection of their two master's degrees, as well as other relevant issues in the Jewish community. Some examples of previous topics covered in the seminar are the role of the professional in the Jewish community, issues of diversity in the Jewish community, and community building.

The dual-degree program of Gershon Kekst Graduate School and the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) of Columbia University prepares students for leadership careers in the Jewish community.

Program Requirements

Students are required to take a minimum of 54 credits in total.

At Gershon Kekst Graduate School, students take 24 credits. In order to fulfill prerequisite requirements, a student may need to take additional Jewish Studies and Hebrew courses prior to graduation. In addition, 6 credits toward the degree are transferred from SIPA.

At Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs,  students take a minimum of 30 credits in Public Administration. Fifteen credits of JTS course work are transferred to SIPA to fulfill the SIPA concentration requirement.

Students are awarded two degrees: a master of arts in Jewish Studies (JTS) and a master of public administration (Columbia). Students spend their first year in the program attending JTS full-time while taking only one or two classes at SIPA. In the second year of the program, this schedule is reversed: students enroll full-time at SIPA while taking only one or two courses at JTS.

See a sample course schedule (PDF).

JTS Course Requirements

  • Graduate-Level First Year Seminar (one course, 3 credits)
  • American Jewish Social History (one course, 3 credits)
  • Modern Jewish History (one course, 3 credits)
  • Contemporary Jewish Issues (one course, 3 credits)
  • Jewish Ethics (one course, 3 credits)
  • Elective courses approved by the advisor (three courses, 9 credits)
  • Social Work Seminar (four semesters, noncredit)
  • Optional Israel Seminar (one winter session course, noncredit)

Additional Requirements
All students in Gershon Kekst Graduate School are required to demonstrate a basic level of Judaica competency in addition to the courses they take toward the master's degree. In their first year, all students must complete a one-semester course, Classics of the Jewish Tradition, or demonstrate proficiency in this area. Students who have not studied the Hebrew Bible or Talmud with a scholarly approach and who have not yet acquired proficiency in Hebrew at an intermediate level will be required to fulfill these requirements before graduation, according to Gershon Kekst Graduate School procedures. Students in the dual-degree program must also fulfill a liturgy requirement or demonstrate corresponding proficiency. 

View a detailed description of the requirements for the SIPA MPA.

Program Highlights

Jewish Professional Leadership Seminar
Every other week, students participate in a seminar that focuses on different aspects of their work in the Jewish community and synthesizes what they are learning at JTS and SIPA or CUSSW. Speakers and case presentations bring ideas, ethics, and social responsibility to life. Students participate in planning the topics and themes for the seminar.

Optional Israel Seminar
This seminar, which takes place in Israel, focuses on the complexity of social, religious, political, and economic issues in Israeli society, the changing relationship between Israel and world Jewry, and the challenges North American Jewish communal professionals face in interpreting and integrating Israel into their work. This seminar is often offered in partnership with other New York-area graduate programs and partner agencies.

Site Visits to Jewish Communal Agencies
With its location in New York City, the program takes advantage of the rich resources of the city's vibrant Jewish communal network of agencies. Site visits to national and international agencies give students the opportunity to meet with key professionals in the field, and explore the most current issues facing their organizations and the Jewish community at large. Student input into the selection of agencies and the themes to be explored is essential to the success of these visits.

Length of Study
The program can be completed in as little as two years and no summers, or any combination up to three years. The length of time depends on the student's previous background and requirements at JTS.

Prospective students interested in Jewish Professional Leadership apply to both to JTS and SIPA. The Jewish Professional Leadership program requires applicants to demonstrate a commitment to the Jewish community. Contact Admissions at (212) 678-8022 or to learn more. Visit the Gershon Kekst Graduate School admissions webpage and the SIPA website to learn more about admissions requirements.