Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School (YCT) is a Modern Orthodox yeshiva founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss in 1999, and located in Manhattan, New York. It promotes a philosophy termed Open Orthodoxy, [Weiss, Avraham, [ "Open Orthodoxy!"] (pdf) "Judaism" Fall 1997 p. 409] that expresses commitment to and observance of Halakha (Jewish law) while maintaining an openness to modern culture, the broader Jewish community, and sensitive approaches to addressing contemporary issues.

YCT's rabbinic education program combines a classic curriculum in Tanakh, Talmud, and the codes of Jewish law with a program in pastoral counseling, leadership retreats, and education in fund-raising and other realities of contemporary religious leadership." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007]

YCT ordained its first graduating class of rabbis in June 2004 and has continued to do so every June since, with its most recent class graduating on 12 June 2007. [ [ "Fourth Semikhah Ceremony"] ] Its current Rosh HaYeshiva (head of school) is Rabbi Dov Linzer, a Talmudist and student of Jewish law.

In addition to its rabbinical studies program, the yeshiva offers a public Jewish educational program, in association with the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, at its Riverdale campus in the Bronx, New York. YCT also runs a variety of events open to the entire Jewish community, including its annual "yemei iyun" ("study days") on Bible and Jewish Thought and a public lecture series. In April 2006, YCT applied for accreditation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the major American association of Modern Orthodox rabbis, which would have made YCT graduates eligible for RCA membership. [ [ "Orthodox Rabbis Eye Liberal Seminary"] "The Forward" April 7, 2006] . However, it subsequently withdrew its application when it became apparent it would not be accepted." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007]

As of the January 2007, YCT had an enrollment of 43 full-time students. Fact|date=March 2008


The origins of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah go back to 1996, when Rabbis Avi Weiss and Saul Berman founded a program known as "MeORoT" (Modern Orthodox Rabbinic Training) which provided supplemental lectures on issues in Modern Orthodoxy to rabbinical students then enrolled in Yeshiva University. The fellowship at that time was co-sponsored by Yeshiva University, Edah and Weiss's synagogue, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. In the following year, 1997, Weiss added the Torat Miriam Fellowship to the MeORoT program, inviting women involved in Jewish Studies on the graduate level to participate in these lectures. Fact|date=January 2008

In September 1999, Rabbi Weiss and Rabbi Dov Linzer launched Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as an undergraduate learning program primarily for students in Columbia University and Barnard College. The YCT University Program had Rabbi Linzer serving as its Rosh HaYeshiva and was housed at Congregation Ramath Orah, a Modern Orthodox congregation on 110th Street in Manhattan. The faculty consisted of three recent graduates of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) affiliated with Yeshiva University: Rabbi Dov Weiss, who also directed the program, Rabbi Barry Wimpfheimer, and Rabbi Ari Perl. Fact|date=January 2008

That same year, two RIETS students who were MeORoT alumni withdrew from RIETS and began learning Halakha (Jewish Law) with Rabbi Linzer at the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah University Program. Fact|date=January 2008

In January 2000, the leadership of the YCT university program, which consisted of Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi Saul Berman, Rabbi Dov Linzer and Rabbi Dov Weiss decided to create a rabbinical school which would officially open in September 2000. In September 2000, the rabbinical school welcomed its first class of 7 students. As of June 2006, YCT has ordained 27 rabbis. Fact|date=January 2008

In January 2004, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah moved from its location in Ramath Orah to the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School on 60th Street and West End Avenue. YCT moved to its present location at the Kraft Center/Columbia Barnard Hillel on 115th Street in July 2005. Fact|date=January 2008

Controversies over YCT came to a head when in 2006 YCT applied for membership in the Rabbinical Council of America, the rabbinical body affiliated with the Orthodox Union, the largest North American Modern and Centrist Orthodox body. YCT subsequently withdrew their application when it became apparent that the application would be denied." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007]

Faculty and administration

According to the YCT website, YCT’s faculty is headed by Rabbi Dov Linzer, the Rosh HaYeshiva. Other faculty members include Rabbi Yaakov Love, Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, and Dr. Michelle Friedman. [ [ Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Website, faculty] ] On 21 October 2007, Rabbi Linzer was installed as the new dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, taking over from Rabbi Weiss. [ [" Rabbi Dov Linzer Installed as New Dean of YCT"] ]

Curriculum and pastoral counseling program

Like classical Orthodox Rabbinic ordination programs, YCT’s curriculum has a strong focus on Talmud and Halakha.." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007] . According to Specify|date=January 2008, it has particular emphasis on the areas of Sabbath observance, dietary laws, laws of family life, and mourning. Fact|date=January 2008 YCT’s curriculum is also supplemented by a strong focus in Bible and Jewish thought. YCT states that the classical approaches to subject matters are complemented with academic and innovative methodologies. Their stated goal is to create knowledgeable, broadminded and critical-thinking Torah scholars, halakhic decisors and spiritual leaders. Fact|date=January 2008

One of the more innovative areas of YCT’s curriculum is an unprecedented emphasis on pastoral care and professional development. Whereas it is common in other rabbinical schools to offer a semester or a year of pastoral counseling courses, YCT’s program spans the entire four year curriculum. The pastoral counseling program is taught by leading psychiatric professionals, and includes formal classroom instruction, role-playing, clinical experience and mentored field work. The program places particular emphasis is placed on topics that rabbis regularly encounter: religious doubt and personal change; rites of passage; adolescence; substance abuse; marital and family problems; sexual function and dysfunction; homosexuality; domestic violence; loss, tragedy and bereavement; and response to catastrophe." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007]

The first-year courses are organized around basic principles of counseling. The second-year courses follow the life cycle, giving an overview of normal development as well as addressing potential difficulties. In their third and fourth years, students take seminars in chaplaincy, marital and family therapy, and psychology and religion. Fieldwork with direct clinical supervision is an essential part of the curriculum. In their third and fourth years, students rotate through an intensive chaplaincy program and meet regularly with senior clinicians to discuss pastoral issues that arise during their internships. Fact|date=January 2008

One of the other hallmarks of the YCT pastoral counseling program is the introduction of the process group. A common feature of graduate psychology programs, a process group consists of the students from a given class year who meet weekly with a mental health professional throughout the full four years of the program. In this completely confidential setting, students are free to explore issues of faith, authority, training, personal situation, etc." [ Opening Up Orthodox Judaism] " The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007]

tudent body and recruitment

As of the January 2007, YCT had an enrollment of 43 full-time students. Fact|date=January 2008

YCT has attracted students from the following universities and yeshivot: Brandeis University, Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Yale, Yeshiva University, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshivat Shaalvim, Yeshivat Kol Torah, Yeshivat Ohr Somayach and Yeshivat HaKotel. Fact|date=January 2008

Seven YCT students were Wexner Graduate Fellows. Fact|date=January 2008

YCT invests a lot of resources into its recruitment efforts visiting many college campuses, Israeli yeshivot, and sponsoring and annual weekend retreat for prospective students. YCT’s recruitment also includes an intensive advertising and PR campaign.

Yeshiva University's student newspaper, "The Commentator", reported that many young men who previously would have considered YU's rabbinical school are now attending YCT. "The Commentator" reported that this was a result of an "aggressive marketing campaign" [ [ "Students Choose Between RIETS and Chovevei Torah", "The Commentator", December 31, 2002] ]

Alumni placement

As of June 2006, YCT had placed 27 Rabbis in rabbinic positions throughout the United States, Canada and Israel. YCT’s alumni are serving in 16 synagogues, 4 college campus Hillels, and 7 day schools. Fact|date=January 2008

Absorption of EDAH functions

In July 2006, YCT officials announced that they would absorb some of the personnel and functions of the Modern Orthodox advocacy organization EDAH, which had announced its closure and became defunct. [ [ "Modern Orthodox Think Tank to Fold] , "The Jewish Week", June 30, 2006] YCT also announced its assumption of EDAH's journal, website, and audio-visual library. YCT will absorb EDAH's current director, Rabbi Saul Berman, its journal, website, and audio-visual library. [ R. Saul Berman, [,_Role,_and_Closing_of_Edah.html "The Emergence, Role, and Closing of Edah."] "The Jewish Week", July 12, 2006.] Rabbi Berman joined YCT in the Fall of 2006 as head of a new Rabbinic Enhancement Initiative and is listed in this role on [ YCT's web site]

Role of women in Judaism

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, like all Orthodox rabbinical schools, accepts only male candidates for ordination. However, YCT, unlike a number of rabbis and institutions within Orthodox Judaism, has expressed an openness to the possibility of expanded roles for women in ritual life. Founder Avi Weiss explained: "Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, as an Orthodox institution, requires that its students daven only in synagogues with mechitzot," wrote Weiss in an e-mail to the Forward. "The phenomenon of women receiving aliyot in a mechitza minyan is currently being debated on both a halachic and communal level within the Modern Orthodox community. YCT Rabbinical School does not currently take a position on this issue." [ [ "Gender Taboos Fall at New Orthodox Prayer Services", Forward, September 20, 2002] ]

As a result of this lack of prohibition, some YCT student and graduates have been involved in these types of services. [ [ BBC, Modern Orthodoxy"] ] . In addition, many YCT students are instrumental in partnership minyanim like Washington Heights' MigdalOr.


Haredi criticism

Haredi sources such as the Yated Neeman newspaper in the United States have criticized YCT for theological positions they believe are too "liberal". The policies that these sources have identified as "overly liberal" include a willingness to question the literal validity of certain Biblical stories [ [ Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: Is it Orthodox? An Expose on a Threat to Halachic Judaism". "The Yeshiva World."] ]

Interfaith dialogue and pluralism

YCT has also attracted an element of criticism from various internet blogs. The majority of these critiques focus on YCT's involvement in interfaith and interdenominational activities. Controversy over the issue of pluralism has in fact been hotly debated in the Orthodox community for decades before YCT's existence.

One such criticism has occurred on the on-line blog [ Cross-Currents] which wrote the following:

:Based on Rabbis Weiss' guidance, faculty and students at YCT have engaged in theological dialogue with non-Orthodox and non-Jewish movements. As reported in their Spring 2006 newsletter and in a Harvard University research report (May 31, 2005): [ [ The Pluralism Project (Harvard)] ] , students have been engaging in dialogues with students from other theology schools:

:Rabbi Weiss feels that the current Modern Orthodox community lacks enough of an appreciation for intellectual curiosity or a relationship with ideas and institutions outside its sphere, and seeks to remedy this in their curriculum. One aspect of openness, Rabbi Weiss writes, is that "many of our students regularly participate in interdenominational and interfaith events. Our students learn that religious growth comes not through dogmatism but through questioning and struggle."

:The administration does not directly organize interfaith dialogue, and unlike other participant institutions, a YCT staff member does not attend the interseminary dialogues in which students currently engage.

In addition, in April 2006 YCT invited a group of Catholic cardinals, which had visited Yeshiva University the previous year, to the school. The online Orthodox blog [ Cross-Currents] argued that YCT had crossed an important line recently re-emphasized by Modern Orthodox scholar Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik when, during the events, it hosted a Talmud study session with the cardinals, which included a convert from Judaism to Catholicism:

:Everything about Chovevei Torah’s hosting of a group of cardinals to its beit midrash was appalling, wrong, and dangerous. Everything other than receiving them with warmth and dignity, and recognizing some of the important changes that many Christian groups have made in their dealings with Jews...Rabbi Weiss “seemed eager to say that he was not violating the taboo against holding theological discussions with non-Jews.”...Just what part of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l’s “Confrontation” does Rabbi Weiss think no longer applies? [Yitzchak Adlerstein, [ "The Cardinals, Chovevei Torah, and Crossing Lines"] , Cross Currents, April 5, 2006 ]

See also

*Avi Weiss
*Modern Orthodox Judaism
*Open Orthodoxy
*Ysoscher Katz
*Moshe Kletenik


Books and journals

*Helfgot, Nathaniel, ed., "The Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Tanakh Companion to the Book of Samuel", Ben Yehuda Press, October 2006 ISBN 0-9769862-4-8
*Milin Havivin/Beloved Words - The Torah Journal of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

External links

* [ Yeshivat Chovevei Torah official site]
* [ YCT Hebrew Institute of Riverdale Campus] Includes public educational program and schedule.

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