Ordination and Semicha
The ordination ceremony will probably be the first time you’ll meet (in person) all the other students from your Rabbinical School. As such, we believe it’s worthy of extra-special celebration – a whole weekend of celebration, in fact! As well as the ceremony itself, there’ll be meals, services, discussions, and plenty of time for getting to know each other. Family and friends are more than welcome to attend the ordination ceremony with you.
Ordination weekends take place twice a year – in July and in January. The date of your ordination weekend will depend on when you enrolled in the JSLI Rabbinical School.
There are additional fees for travel to the ordination weekend; please contact us for information about the ordination itself and any fees you’ll be expected to pay.
Videos from previous Ordination Weekends:
Upon successful completion of your studies from JSLI, you will be be granted Semicha during our Ordination Weekend. This Semicha certifies that the student has demonstrated familiarity with our codes and texts and is empowered to serve as rabbi and teacher.
It will be up to you as a rabbi to utilize and share the skills and knowledge you have accumulated in your studies and life experience, within your personal rabbinate and greater community.
It is important to note that JSLI is here for you post-ordination, as you journey along your path. You will be welcome to join in our weekly video conferences and discuss issues within your pulpits and communities. In addition, we plan to hold a yearly alumni gatherings. We also have a private Facebook page that is home to our entire JSLI community.
Traditionally, one obtains semicha (rabbinic ordination) after the completion of an arduous learning program in the codes of Jewish law and responsa.
The most general form of semicha is “Yoreh Yoreh” (“he shall teach”). Most Orthodox rabbis hold this qualification; they are sometimes called a Moreh Hora’ah (“a teacher of lessons”).
A more advanced form of Semicha is “Yadin Yadin” (“he shall judge”). This enables the recipient to adjudicate cases of monetary law, among other responsibilities. He is addressed as a Dayan (“Judge”).
In Orthodox Judaism
One does not need a bachelor’s degree to enter most Orthodox rabbinical seminaries. Modern Orthodox rabbinical students study some elements of modern theology or philosophy, as well as the classical rabbinic works on such subjects.
Orthodox rabbinical students work to gain knowledge in Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim (early and late medieval commentators) and Jewish law) They study sections of Shulkhan Arukh and its main commentaries that pertain to daily-life questions (such as on Kashruth and family purity).
Women are ineligible from becoming rabbis in Orthodoxy.
In Conservative and Masorti Judaism
Conservative Judaism holds that one may obtain rabbinic ordination after the completion of an intense learning program in the codes of Jewish law and responsa. It adds to these requirements by adding the study of: the Hebrew Bible, Mishnah and Talmud, the Midrash responsa literature, both traditional and modern Jewish works on theology and philosophy.
Conservative Judaism has less stringent study requirements for Talmud and responsa study as compared to Orthodoxy. Conservative Judaism adds the following subjects as requirements for rabbinic ordination: one must first earn a bachelor’s degree before entering rabbinical school. In addition, studies are mandated in pastoral care and psychology, the historical development of Judaism, and academic biblical criticism.
Women are allowed to become rabbis and cantors in the Conservative movement.
In Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism
Reconstructionist Judaism and Reform Judaism do not maintain the traditional requirements for study. In the five years of study it takes to become a Reform or Reconstructionist rabbi, they only learn the amount of Jewish law, Talmud, and responsa that Orthodox rabbis generally learn within their first year. Emphasis is placed not on Jewish law, but rather on sociology, cultural studies, and modern Jewish philosophy.
The Reform or Reconstructionist rabbinical seminaries hold that one must first earn a bachelor’s degree before entering the rabbinate. In addition studies are mandated in pastoral care and psychology, the historical development of Judaism; and academic biblical criticism.
Both men and women may be Rabbis or Cantors.
Acceptance of who is a Rabbi
Orthodox Judaism generally rejects the validity of non-Orthodox rabbis; some within Modern Orthodoxy are willing to accept that non-Orthodox rabbis have legitimacy (e.g. Norman Lamm), although to what extent is argued. Many branches of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism generally accept the legitimacy of each other’s rabbis, as well as accept the legitimacy of Orthodox rabbis. However, this is not always the case.
There are several possibilities for receiving rabbinic ordination in addition to seminaries maintained by the large Jewish denominations. These include seminaries maintained by smaller denominational movements, and nondenominational (also called trans-denominational or post-denominational) Jewish seminaries.
Chabad Lubavitch has ordained thousands of rabbis also known as “shluchim,” or “emissaries.” Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim – The international network of Chabad Yeshivas – is intended for college aged men (18–22). Its graduates obtained ordination at advanced rabbinical schools, and serve as rabbis of Chabad House and community institutions around the world. The Rabbinical College of America is one of the largest Chabad Lubavitch Chasidic Yeshivas in the world. The Yeshiva is located in Morristown, New Jersey and has trained thousands of rabbinic students.
The Union for Traditional Judaism, an offshoot of the right-wing of Conservative Judaism and the left-wing of Orthodoxy, has a seminary in New Jersey; the seminary is accepted by all non-Orthodox rabbis as a valid, traditional rabbinical seminary. Orthodox Jews are divided on the legitimacy of this seminary, as they usually view all non-Orthodox seminaries as heretical; this seminary, however, bridges Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, and some Orthodox synagogues have hired UTJ rabbis.
The Jewish Renewal movement has an ordination program, ALEPH, but no central campus. While most Orthodox rabbis do not recognize liberal s’michot in general, ALEPH s’michot have in the last decade earned recognition widely, even in some orthodox circles, but predominantly in liberal Jewish circles – because their curriculum is thorough, their faculty excellent, and their students well trained.
The International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism offers programs to train rabbis, leaders, musicians, and educators for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Each program provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to function effectively in our communities, while enabling them to work and learn on their own during their course of study.
The Academy for Jewish Religion, in New York City, has, since 1956, been a rabbinic (and cantorial) seminary not affiliated with any denomination or movement. Hebrew College, near Boston, includes a similarly unaffiliated rabbinic school, opened in the Fall of 2003.
The Rabbinical Seminary International (RSI) in NYC, offers a unique individualized program for the training of the modern rabbi. The program includes instruction in the practical aspects of rabbinical service as well as extensive education in the Bible, Jewish history, philosophy, theology, and varieties of Jewish spiritual experience. Students work privately with experienced rabbis and tutors providing as many opportunities as possible to practice their skills in actual situations.
The Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) is the only liberal seminary that offers a weekly online curriculum via a LMS (Learning Management System) in which students complete weekly study assignments on topics such as Kashrut, Shabbat, Brit Milah vs. Brit Shalom, etc. In addition, online each week they web-conference and join in prayer, present Divrei Torah, learn Halacha and Jewish life cycles and are prepared to meet the needs of the interfaith and unaffiliated – more than one half of the Jewish population of the United States. JSLI is organic, dynamic and ever-growing. In addition, its affiliated online synagogue, Sim Shalom is attended by JSLI students and an ever-growing international community.