Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), or "Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan", is the most important yeshiva component of Yeshiva University and a preeminent seminary for the training of Orthodox rabbis. It is named after Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, who died the year it was founded, 1896.


A structured four year program, the RIETS curriculum is primarily focused on instruction in advanced Talmudic and halachic methodology. Additionally, there are a variety of required courses intended to train students for careers as practicing rabbis. These additional courses, in fields such as homiletics and pastoral counseling, are ordered into three tracks, geared to those who will pursue careers as congregational rabbis, chaplains, and teachers. In reality, many RIETS students enter the program without ever intending to graduate, and of those who do receive semicha ("ordination") few actually serve as congregational rabbis.

Supplementing their yeshiva studies, many RIETS students are concurrently enrolled in a variety of other graduate degree granting programs, including those in law, education, academic Jewish studies, psychology, and the sciences.

The Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music is an affiliate of RIETS.


Historically, the head of Yeshiva University served in a dual capacity as both president of Yeshiva University as an academic institution and also as the rosh yeshiva ("dean") of RIETS. RIETS and Yeshiva University were a single entity for most of the first half of the twentieth century. However, their second president, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, legally separated the two institutions in order to obtain United States government funding and research grants for a variety of YU's secular departments. In Rabbi Belkin's view, the modern understanding of the separation of church and state in the United States would have otherwise forced YU to either forgo federal grants (a major source of funding for all universities) and stagnate, or alternatively to unacceptably alter the religious character of RIETS. The split was strongly opposed by RIETS's leading scholar Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who saw it as the antithesis of Torah Umadda (the "synthesis between Torah and science"), Yeshiva University's guiding philosophy. Rabbi Belkin prevailed and, following the split, he remained both the official rosh yeshiva of RIETS and president of Yeshiva University.

Earlier, it was Rabbi Bernard Revel who was the official rosh yeshiva and university president even though many other great Talmudic scholars taught at RIETS, notably Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, who served as co-head of RIETS. With the recent appointment of Richard Joel, a layman, as president of Yeshiva University, his predecessor Rabbi Norman Lamm has continued on as the official rosh yeshiva of RIETS, with Richard Joel being the "Chief Executive", basically responsible for fund-raising and administrative issues.Rabbi Zevulun Charlop currently serves as the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS.


Many great rabbis have taught at RIETS. Scions of the Brisker dynasty, Rabbis Moshe Soloveichik and Joseph B. Soloveitchik spent the majority of their active lives at RIETS, and Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik lectured there for significant portions of his career. In earlier generations, Rabbi Shimon Shkop taught at RIETS for a short period around 1930, as did the Meischeter Illui Rabbi Shlomo Polachek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Zaks (son in law of the Chofetz Chayim), the great baal mussar Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lessin, Rabbi Nisson Alpert, and Rav Dovid Lifschitz, to name just a few. Current roshei yeshiva include Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Mordechai Willig, Michael Rosensweig, and Mayer Twersky. The yeshiva also has two direct links to halakhic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein: his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe David Tendler, and his jurisprudentially ordained ("yadin yadin") disciple, Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich.

External links

* [http://www.riets.edu/ Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary]
* [http://www.yutorah.org/ YU Torah Online]

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