The Rabbinical School

The Rabbinical School of The Jewish Theological Seminary provides an integrated program of academic learning, professional development, and spiritual growth ending in rabbinic ordination and the award of a master of arts degree. Courses in Judaic studies and professional and pastoral skills are complemented by a program of field education and a year of study in Israel. View a full description of our curriculum.

Admissions Information

An undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university must be earned before the anticipated date of registration in The Rabbinical School. Previous academic achievement is an important criterion for admission, since scholarly ability is essential for the rabbinate. We recommend a strong liberal arts background for prospective students; the study of history, philosophy, religion, literature, and the social or natural sciences can be excellent preparation for rabbinical school. Applicants are required to take the GRE exam and have their scores submitted to JTS.

Strong language and communication skills in both English and Hebrew are of critical importance for admission to The Rabbinical School. At least two semesters of college-level Hebrew are required to begin our program, as demonstrated in our Hebrew placement exam. Prior experience studying primary Jewish texts is likewise important to demonstrate readiness for our rigorous program. All entering students complete exercises to assess their skill level in Hebrew and in the interpretation of biblical and rabbinic texts. Students with strong language and textual skills begin their studies at JTS at "Skill Level 2" and proceed to Israel in their second year. Others take two years in New York before continuing to the Israel year. Initial skill level generally determines whether a student will complete our curriculum in five or six years.

Students in JTS's List College who are interested in applying to The Rabbinical School are urged to speak with their dean and with the director of Admissions of The Rabbinical School at the earliest possible opportunity. The List College dean will direct these students to those courses that would best prepare them for entry into The Rabbinical School. Applications from List College students will be considered on the same basis as applications from students from other colleges. Entering students who have completed the advanced Hebrew levels and taken graduate-level courses in Judaica may receive advanced standing within the program.

Religious Formation

One of The Rabbinical School's great sources of strength is the diversity of religious backgrounds and Jewish journeys among our students. We respect and honor the many places from which our students come. Simultaneously, we share some standards of practice that make us a cohesive community. Therefore, candidates for acceptance into The Rabbinical School must be Jewish as defined by the Conservative Movement.

The Rabbinical School administration recognizes that some applicants may be in the course of deepening their Jewish commitments. Preliminary discussions with the director of Admissions should also provide the opportunity for personal religious guidance.

Candidates should be shomrei mitzvot (religiously observant); a candidate's practice should include, but not be limited to, traditional observance of Shabbat and festivals, regular daily prayer with tallit and tefillin, kashrut (dietary laws), Talmud Torah, and acts of gemilut hasadim. We understand that religious development takes time, and are committed to supporting our students as they grow into a life of Torah and mitzvot.

Women and men have equal religious rights and obligations in The Rabbinical School.

We recognize the validity of pluralism in religious expression within the boundaries delineated by the Conservative Movement. However, we maintain norms of belief and practice that give coherence to our community. The dean serves as the religious teacher (mara d'atra) of The Rabbinical School by setting the communal standards of practice and giving support and encouragement to students as they strive to meet them. During the five years of study, the deans, faculty, and internship mentors continue to guide and foster students' religious growth and development.

Application Procedures

Inquiries concerning admission can be directed to the Rabbinical School Office at (212) 678-8817 or rsadmissions@jtsa.edu. Inquiries should be made no later than the fall of the year preceding the desired date of admission, but are, of course, welcome earlier. A preliminary discussion with the director of Admissions is required before applying to the program. A candidate may then be encouraged to submit a formal application.

Download the online application. The priority deadline for submitted applications is January 15, though applications may be submitted after that date at the discretion of the director of Admissions. Applications should include:

  • Application together with a $65 application fee
  • Official transcripts of all postsecondary studies
  • Official scores on the GRE aptitude tests (those whose native language is not English may take the Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL])
  • Academic writing sample (generally not exceeding 5,000 words)
  • Three recommendation forms and letters
  • Admissions essays, 16 pages maximum, double-spaced

These materials need not be submitted all at once. Materials can be submitted as they become available, but no later than January 15.

The final stage of the application process occurs when the candidate, upon the approval of the faculty committee, is invited to meet with the committee on Admissions. These final interviews are generally scheduled between December and March at JTS. Interviews are also conducted in Jerusalem in early winter (applicants who apply in Israel must complete their applications by December 15). As part of the interview process, applicants are required to take a Hebrew placement examination, and prior to enrollment must take Bible and Talmud placement examinations as well.

The decision of the Admissions committee will be communicated as soon as possible. Accepted candidates are to send in their registration forms by April 15.

Prerequisites for Rabbinical Study

The formal program of The Rabbinical School requires five or six years of full-time study. Entering students are assessed for their proficiency in Modern Hebrew, in the vocabulary and grammar of Biblical Hebrew and its rabbinic commentaries, and in the ability to study the Babylonian Talmud with its traditional commentaries. Upon completion of placement exams in these three areas, students are registered in either Skill Level 1 or Skill Level 2 courses for the fall. Generally speaking, Skill Level 1 students remain in New York for a second year, completing Skill Level 2, before heading to Israel, while students entering at Skill Level 2 proceed to Israel for their second year. Some students may be instructed to complete additional training in Hebrew language or text study during the summers in order to achieve the level of mastery required for studies in Israel and in the Iyun program.

Good Standing

The ideals and practices of Conservative Judaism are an integral part of the lifestyle and program of The Rabbinical School. Standards of personal and professional conduct and interpersonal relations are a significant part of the tradition to which the school is committed. Accordingly, the dean of The Rabbinical School reserves the right to deny admission, registration, readmission, or ordination to any student who, in the judgment of The Rabbinical School faculty committee, is determined to be unsuitable to the profession of the rabbinate.

Course of Study

The first stage of our curriculum is referred to as the Beit Midrash ("house of study"). Students receive a rigorous introduction to the study of biblical and rabbinic literature within a thematic structure that integrates textual learning, professional development, and personal practice. As described above, all students must complete the Skill Level 2 courses in Hebrew, Bible, and Talmud before continuing to the final stage of the Beit Midrash in Israel. Our Israel program includes a core of courses at our sister school in Jerusalem, The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary, as well as electives and experiential learning offered at JTS's Schocken Library in central Jerusalem.

The final three years of The Rabbinical School are referred to as Iyun. Students complete distribution requirements, choose an academic concentration leading to an MA degree, take a progression of courses in professional and pastoral skills, and work on their required courses of field education. Students apply for the MA degree programs offered by The Graduate School or the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education during their second year. They may also apply for a certificate program in Pastoral Care in conjunction with an MA from The Rabbinical School in Jewish Studies.

During year 4, each student is required to work in a rabbinic setting for approximately 15 hours per week. The work is done under a mentor, who is approved by The Rabbinical School's director of Field Education. In recognition of the generous support of Pearl and Jack Resnick, the program is known as the Pearl and Jack Resnick Internship Program. This internship requirement includes supervision and seminars at JTS.

Minimesters

Each January there is a minimester program offered during the week prior to the start of the spring semester. Each year a new subject is explored. All rabbinical students are required to complete three minimesters during their course of studies at JTS.

Transfer From Another Rabbinical School

Students in other rabbinical schools may make preliminary inquiries with JTS about transfer, but must inform their home institution prior to formal application. The application process for transfer students is the same as that for other applicants. Upon receiving an offer of admission, the candidate may then petition the Rabbinical School Faculty Committee for credit for the study completed elsewhere.

The committee will generally approve such requests if (1) the academic requirements completed are substantially equivalent to the requirements to be waived at JTS and (2) there has been due attention in the school previously attended to issues of religious growth and professional development. 

Students who have previously earned an MA, PhD, or DHL in one of the fields accepted by The Rabbinical School may request exemption from the MA requirement at JTS. This may shorten the course of studies in our program, but this is subject to approval of the dean.

Fellowships for Rabbinical Students

View a list of prizes and awards. For other information, consult The Rabbinical School.

Financial Aid

JTS provides financial aid on a need basis. For details of eligibility, visit the Registrar. Students must be citizens of either the United States or Canada to qualify for aid, although certain categories of noncitizens of the United States may be eligible.

To continue to receive Title IV student financial assistance student loans, students must complete at least one-fifth of the required curriculum each year in order to meet the requirement of maintaining satisfactory progress.

Some fellowships are available to other international students on a highly competitive basis through the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, 15 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010, (212) 679-4074.

Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling

The Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling represents an integrated pastoral care curriculum that includes academic learning, professional skills, and religious and personal identity formation. Students who are interested in preparing themselves for the world of professional chaplaincy will be in an excellent position to become leaders in the field. Students who wish to become clergy or religious professionals in agencies or schools will have the in-depth pastoral training to serve the needs of their congregants, clients, and students on a high level and with expertise in the rich pastoral resources of Judaism.

The new Certificate in Pastoral Care and Counseling can be earned by anyone enrolled in any MA program at JTS.

View a more detailed description of the program and its requirements.

Academic Standards

Attendance

Regular class attendance is required. Instructors shall have the right to stipulate attendance requirements within the first two weeks of the semester and to indicate the penalties that may result from failure to comply with these requirements.

Grades

Letter grades indicate the following: A, excellent; B, good; C, fair; D, poor; F, failure; R, auditor. No credit will be given for grades of D+ or lower.

A letter grade is assigned for each course unless (1) it is indicated at registration that a course will be graded only on a Pass-D-Fail basis, or (2) a request for Pass-D-Fail grading is submitted in accordance with the procedure outlined below.

Iyun students may register for Pass-D-Fail grades for elective courses with a maximum of one per semester.

Students electing to take courses on a Pass-D-Fail basis must indicate their preference at registration or on the appropriate form, which must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than two weeks after the first day of classes, the exact date to be indicated on the academic calendar. After this date, students may not alter the basis under which they have registered for their courses that semester.

Instructors will not be informed which students have elected to take their courses on a Pass-D-Fail basis. At the end of the semester, the instructor will submit letter grades for each student; the Office of the Registrar will transcribe letter grades for students who requested a Pass-D-Fail option as follows:

  • The grade of P will be assigned for students who have earned a letter grade of C- or higher
  • The grades of D and F will be so transcribed

Once the grade of P has been recorded, the instructor's letter grade will not be available to any individual, committee, or institution under any circumstances.

The grade of R will indicate that a student has registered for the course as an auditor and agreed to do all course work except a written paper and/or final examination. Such a course will neither yield academic credits nor meet departmental requirements in The Rabbinical School.

Once a grade has been received in the Office of the Registrar, it may be changed by the course instructor only upon written application by the instructor to the dean. The dean's approval is required.

Academic Probation

Any one of the following situations results in being placed on academic probation:

  • A student receives one F
  • A student receives two grades of D in one semester
  • A student receives one D in each of two consecutive semesters
  • A student compiles a semester grade point average of less than 2.7

The period of probation extends through the student's next semester of full-time status, though the student can become subject to dismissal by receiving a grade lower than C- during a probationary semester, even if enrolled only part-time. Courses may not be taken on a Pass-D-Fail basis during a probationary semester.

Students who receive the grade of incomplete (INC) should be aware that they may be placed on probation in the following semester depending on the resolution of the INC.

A student on academic probation shall be restored to good standing if the following requirements are met:

  • No grade lower than C- is earned during the probationary semester
  • No grade of INC is granted during the probationary semester
  • A grade point average of 3.0 is compiled for all courses in the probationary semester
  • A full academic load (of at least five courses at JTS) is taken during the probationary semester

Semester grade point averages for purposes of academic probation shall be calculated according to the following numerical equivalents:

A+ 4.33   A 4.00   A- 3.67
B+ 3.33   B 3.00   B- 2.67
C+ 2.33   C 2.00   C- 1.67
D+ 1.33   D 1.00   D- 0.67
F 0

As stated above, courses may not be taken on a Pass-D-Fail basis during the probationary semester. If, however, probation occurs retroactively, and courses have already been taken on a Pass-D-Fail basis, the dean shall determine whether the student should be restored to good standing on the basis of work done in the probationary semester. In the case of probationary semesters coinciding with the required year of study in Israel, the same rules shall generally apply, but in cases in which grading policies result in any ambiguity, the dean's discretion shall be applied in the determination of whether good standing has been achieved.

A student who receives a grade of D or F in a probationary semester shall be subject to dismissal from the school. If a grade of INC granted during the probationary semester becomes either D or F, the student is subject to immediate dismissal.

Under normal circumstances, no student can be on academic probation for more than two (including nonconsecutive) semesters during his/her career in The Rabbinical School. A student who is to go on academic probation for the third time faces dismissal. In addition, a student who goes on academic probation a second time loses eligibility for financial aid in the probationary semester.

The permanent transcript of a student will list each semester of academic probation.
Disciplinary procedures, including appeal procedures, are detailed in the Student Disciplinary Procedures Guide available in the Office of the Registrar.

Incompletes

A student who, for compelling reasons, finds it necessary to postpone the submission of required course work may petition for the grade of incomplete (INC). The student must obtain a Request for Incomplete form from the Office of the Registrar or the website. This form must contain all information requested, including a description of the work to be completed and the due date as noted in the Academic Calendar. The form must be signed by the student, instructor, and dean or the student's academic advisor. The form should be returned to the Office of the Registrar. The last day to request an incomplete and submit the form is indicated in the academic calendar.

All remaining course work must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar no later than the date specified in the academic calendar. Generally, this date is six weeks from the end of the final examination period.

The Registrar shall record that the work has been submitted, and provide a written receipt to the student for the work received. A copy of the receipt from the Registrar should be brought to the Rabbinical School Office. The Registrar will transmit the completed work to the instructor. The student is advised to retain a copy of all work submitted to the Office of the Registrar.

The grade of INC shall remain on the student's transcript until a grade has been submitted by the instructor.

If a student fails to submit the outstanding work to the Office of the Registrar by the specified due date, the grade of INC will be converted to the alternate letter grade previously submitted by the instructor. This alternate grade reflects the instructor's assessment of a student's performance, taking into account the fact that work is missing. Students should be aware that the missing work may have been counted as an F (or 0) in the computation of the final grade for the course.

In special circumstances, the dean has the authority to grant an extension for the submission of overdue work as long as it is agreeable to the instructor. This extension must be sent in writing by the dean to the Office of the Registrar.

Students may carry no more than one INC on their transcript at any one time. Students carrying more than one INC may not be permitted to register for subsequent semesters. Students may not request an INC for any course during the semester of their ordination.

Absence From Final Examinations

A student who, because of illness or personal emergency, cannot be present for a scheduled final examination must inform the Office of the Registrar as soon as possible and indicate the reasons for the absence. The Office of the Registrar will inform the instructor and the dean of the student's absence. The student must arrange with the instructor for a makeup examination if the student still cannot be present for the regularly scheduled makeup examination day. The instructor will inform the Office of the Registrar of the arrangement and provide the office with the exam so that it can be given to the student.

Students may not request incompletes in advance for an in-class final examination. The student must take the makeup examination as soon as possible, but no later than the date indicated in the academic calendar governing the completion of outstanding work.

Withdrawal

With the permission of the dean or advisor to students, students may withdraw from a course by the date listed in the academic calendar. Students who discontinue attendance in a course but who fail to withdraw formally within the designated period will receive the letter grade earned, usually an F, having completed only a portion of the class.

Leave of Absence

Students who wish to discontinue their studies temporarily may request a leave of absence. The dean may approve such requests for a period of two semesters with a possible extension for a maximum of two additional semesters. Students must register for a leave of absence each semester for which it applies—and pay the appropriate fee—until studies are resumed.

Special Programs

Joint Ordination/Doctoral Program

Rabbinical students who wish to study for a PhD may apply in their fourth year to The Graduate School for admission (in their fifth year) to the Joint Ordination/Doctoral Program.

Each school will follow its own admissions procedures. With the approval of the student's doctoral advisor, some of the course requirements for the PhD can be met by courses in the student's field of concentration in The Rabbinical School. All other requirements for the doctoral degree (course work, foreign languages, examinations, and dissertation) remain in effect.

Tuition will be paid at The Graduate School PhD rate. To be considered for Graduate
School fellowships, students must take a minimum of 15 doctoral-program credits for the year.

Union Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion

In accordance with agreements between JTS and Union Theological Seminary (UTS) and between JTS and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC), Rabbinical School students may take courses at UTS or HUC, subject to the approval of the Rabbinical School dean and the instructors. Tuition will be covered by the tuition paid at JTS. Rabbinical students interested in specific courses at UTC or HUC should consult with the dean prior to registration. Generally speaking, only elective courses will be approved.

Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

JTS also maintains an exchange semester program with the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. Students in good standing in either institution may request to spend an exchange semester at the other. Tuition and fees are paid to the home institution, which also advises the students on which courses may be counted for transfer credits toward graduation requirements. Because course offerings in the two schools are not identical, an exchange semester may slow progression toward graduation. Interested students should consult their academic advisor. 

Ordination

Assuming good standing, as defined earlier, ordination will be conferred upon completion of all academic and other requirements.

Ordination will not be recommended if a grade of INC remains on the student's record in a course required for completion of the Rabbinical School's degree program. Ordination takes place in May of each year at JTS's Commencement Exercises. All students to be ordained in any one year are expected to be present at all ceremonies on commencement day. Students who complete academic requirements early in the year may receive a letter noting that fact, but they will be ordained only at the next Commencement Exercises.

Graduate Placement

Prior to ordination, the senior class of The Rabbinical School receive guidance in their search process from the faculty and administration, and also meet with representatives of the Rabbinical Assembly to discuss procedures for placement of rabbis in congregations and Hillel foundations, and in positions in Jewish education, camping, communal service, and hospital and military chaplaincies.