The Jerusalem College of Technology on Wednesday announced the launch of a semicha (rabbinic ordination) program aimed at producing graduates who will fill the spiritual leadership void for Israel’s Anglo communities, especially congregations that currently don’t have a rabbi.
A JCT press release explained that communities across Israel often view paid rabbinic staff as unnecessary, JCT’s new program aims to revive the post of rabbi as a community leadership role among English-speaking Orthodox Jews.
The program is headed by JCT’s Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, 54, a Religious Zionist rabbi, author, lecturer, and Posek who also serves as rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and the Ashkenazi Synagogue of Alon Shvut Darom. He is also a Rosh Kollel at Yeshivat Har Etzion.
The JCT Smicha Program is already generating interest from community leaders and educators from around the world who are passionate about breathing new life into Jewish leadership in Israel. The program caters to students who are not necessarily interested in working as full-time pulpit rabbis but instead are seeking to balance Jewish community leadership with their careers in high-tech and other fields.
“In semicha programs abroad, the model is such that you begin with your undergraduate degree and move on to rabbinic ordination, which is considered a graduate degree,” explained Rabbi Shlomo Anapolle, head of JCT’s International Program in English, adding, “Our program is tailored to an Israeli society that is much faster-paced and where the job market and general lifestyle, including yeshiva studies and army service, does not allow for two degrees before entering the workforce.”
JCT’s semicha track is designed to provide chavrusa (peer-to-peer) learning opportunities alongside sophisticated shiurim (classes) within the College’s Beit Midrash. Despite providing classes in English, the emphasis on original source texts allows for any student who is interested in accelerating their learning to the highest standard of Torah study to do so. Informed by an understanding of the daily responsibilities of a community rabbi, the track also includes mental health awareness training alongside its rigorous religious studies.
The Smicha Program aligns with JCT’s overall curricular model in which students are involved in focused Torah study in the mornings, followed by academics in the afternoons. Accordingly, students in JCT’s rabbinic ordination track can simultaneously study the academic disciplines that give them peace of mind about their future careers, thereby enabling them to pursue clergy positions in Anglo communities without concerns over their financial security.
“JCT hopes to create a community that is Torah-oriented and economically viable,” said Anapolle. “Our Smicha Program is providing an academically strong graduate who is also committed to community development. We want this program to be an investment in Jewish leadership in the State of Israel. This is a game-changing approach when it comes to Anglos integrating into Israeli society, in terms of Torah study and Jewish leadership.”