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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Rabbinic School   Mon May 06, 2013 1:36 am

So ok. Who here has ever considered going to rabbinic school? Just thinking about it? Already applied? Got in and you're actually a rabbinic student?

Whether you've applied or even intend to be a rabbi or not, what do you think about Jews-by-choice going to rabbinic school? Do you think there's a time period that needs to pass before JBCs should apply? Are JBCs at a disadvantage for not having grown up in Jewish families or attended Jewish day schools? Even more, are liberal JBCs at a disadvantage because they didn't grow up having access to the opportunity for yeshiva learning? I'm curious to see what everyone's answers might be.

I'll go first. I realized during my conversion journey that I wanted to be a rabbi. It seemed completely audacious to even think of such a thing since I was not even a Jew yet and had only a few months of Jewish knowledge under my belt. The thought never left me and nine months after my conversion, I finally shared my feelings with a local fourth-year rabbinic student who attends my synagogue. She told me to give it more time, and invited me to audit one of her classes. Another nine months later, I audited her Talmud class and when it was over the rabbi teaching the class told me I belonged in it.

A month later I sat down with that rabbi to talk seriously about applying to R school, and a couple of months after that I sat down with the head of the school who made it clear that he thought I belonged in R school, too. That was four months ago. Since then, both the Talmud teacher and the head of the program have reached out to me (directly and through friends) to nudge me along.

So four things, mostly conflicting:
  • I can't shake the fear that it just hasn't been long enough for me to be moving forward with this;
  • I can't shake the inner voice that keeps telling me that this is something I *must* do;
  • I wish I had a yeshiva background; and
  • My entire life has been in a kind of doldrums-y holding pattern for the past four months, and late last week I realized it was because I haven't followed through one way or another yet.

On Thursday I set everything aside, pulled out the application materials the head of the school gave me, filled them out, and spent the next two days writing my personal statement (it was like doing emotional surgery on yourself, just really hard to write all at once.) Although it was hard, while I was doing it, I felt a lot of peace and clarity that I hadn't felt for months. On Saturday night after sundown, after I big argument with my partner about whether the school (or really, the synagogue where it's housed) had a mail slot, he drove me over (the school is about 5 miles away) and I pushed the application through.

I have no idea how I'll afford to go if I get in. (Ordinarily there's no financial aid for first-year students.) Half of me thinks I'm in way over my head and just did a silly thing. The other half of me knows I'll make a great rabbi, and warns me that it will kick my ass if don't make damned sure I study my Hebrew every day for the next three months.

So, you know, have you been there too? Anyone?
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James

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Mon May 06, 2013 6:32 am

I think about it often, actually.

I don't think we're necessarily disadvantaged, but rather that we might have a bit more background work that needs to be done. Like you said, we weren't exposed to Hebrew or Judaism growing up, and most of us aren't going to have the general knowledge needed to form a foundation for rabbinical study.

But all that can be leaned, and, in my experience, Jews'by'choice tend to excel in the embracing Jewish learning department.

My biggest problem is location; I live in a small city in NC with my wife and four children. I can't afford to move to a city with a larger Jewish population, let alone to one large enough to support a rabbinical school.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Mon May 06, 2013 12:27 pm

James wrote:
I think about it often, actually.

I don't think we're necessarily disadvantaged, but rather that we might have a bit more background work that needs to be done. Like you said, we weren't exposed to Hebrew or Judaism growing up, and most of us aren't going to have the general knowledge needed to form a foundation for rabbinical study.

But all that can be leaned, and, in my experience, Jews'by'choice tend to excel in the embracing Jewish learning department.

My biggest problem is location; I live in a small city in NC with my wife and four children. I can't afford to move to a city with a larger Jewish population, let alone to one large enough to support a rabbinical school.

Thanks for responding, James. You know, it needn't be a disadvantage, if you're willing to consider alternative programs. I don't know if you're familiar with Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (she's well known as the blogger the Velveteen Rabbi.) She attended Aleph, the Rabbinic program of the Renewal movement which is substantially a distance program (and one I considered.)
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Thu May 09, 2013 9:04 pm

GRR!!!!!!! I just lost my entire long reply.

Personally, I have no business in Rabbinical School. I don't want the responsibility of being a Rabbi and I think my theological views are inappropriate for the Rabbinate. Now, Judaic Studies, I could get into that. I think we may soon have a graduate program that partners one of our local universities Judaic Studies program with HUC. For now it's just a graduate certificate but I imagine the goal is to expand if all goes well in the future.

I do have to wonder if aspiring Rabbinical students really understand the work of a Rabbi, especially if they aspire to lead a congregation. It appears a difficult job that really entails more people skills then actual Judaic knowledge. Not that the knowledge isn't required but the people parts are of paramount importance as they are the focus on the job most of the time. When I see how much my Rabbi has to handle, how often it seems the congregants would take every little piece of her if I could...I don't know how she can do it! It would be overwhelming for me. You certainly have to set strong personal boundaries, adhere to them and find a way to encourage others to adhere to them also.

I do think converts are at a disadvantage but so is anyone else who wasn't raised as an active participant in the community.
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Fri May 10, 2013 3:33 pm

Thanks for responding, Dena! I've thought about this too. I can't say that I want to be a pulpit rabbi. Or at least not one like some of the models I have personal familiarity with. If I led a congregation, it would be kind of a Punk Torah/New Shul kind of thing, vs. intellectual, dry, holdover Reform Judaism which my shul is still trying to climb out of. I totally hear that "boundaries" thing. I think that's why they say you have to "love Jews" as much as loving Judaism if you want to be a rabbi. Because we're hard work! ;-)
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 7:28 am

Mike, that is so wonderful! What a brave decision!

First of all, the disadvantages you've spoken about: well, as I see it, not growing up with Judaism can feel like you have some kind of "hole" in your life, or just time that has passed and that you had not filled with Judaism, but, on the other side, every single experience of growing within Judaism (whether from childhood or not) is unique and very valuable. So you are the one who can get the best of your experience, who can learn and learn from it every day and who can transform it to positive energy, skill and knowledge required for work with people, in this case - with congregation.

I work with people also - I work with students so I can somehow imagine a job that requires both coordination and empathy, both wisdom and sensitivity and both strength, knowledge and patience.

Well, being a rabbi is not so strange idea to me, but it's really too early for me to plan anything. ;)

Wow, Mike, let us know if you get in and I wish you all the best!
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 8:55 am

Thank you for the kind words, Sarit! I found out yesterday (already). I got in! All the months I had hesitated to submit my application, they had been waiting for it all along. So, hurray!
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Sarit

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 9:09 am

Hurray!!

Mazel tov and enjoy your journey!! Wave
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James

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 9:11 am

Mazel tov, Michael!


And, to go back a few posts, I don't think I'd want to be a pulpit rabbi either. I'm much more interested in the legal tradition and the teaching role of the rabbinate than the ministerial role.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 12:59 pm

What a good news day today, a forul full of simcha Very Happy
MAZZEL TOV!!!
WOOOOOT!!!
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searchinmyroots

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Tue May 14, 2013 8:37 pm

That's gret news Michael!

Mazel Tov!

You never know what is going on "behind the scenes".
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mikedoyleblogger

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PostSubject: Re: Rabbinic School   Thu May 16, 2013 1:41 pm

Thanks everyone! Yes, behind the scenes can be a great source of misery or a great source of wonder as I'm finding out.
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