How to Become a Rabbi Without Really Trying
How to Become a Rabbi
As a rabbi, you will act as a spiritual guide for a Jewish community and hold many responsibilities, from leading worship services at a synagogue to counseling your congregation members to working as a community leader.Rabbis will need to be able to interact effectively with a wide variety of people, have a deep sense of compassion, and a dedicated sense of faith to Judaism. Though this may seem like a tall order, becoming a rabbi can be a fulfilling and exciting journey that could lead to a satisfying life profession.
Getting the Necessary Qualifications
Confirm your Jewish heritage or convert to Judaism.One of the most essential steps to becoming a rabbi is to confirm that you were born Jewish through proof from your biological parents. You may already be involved in the synagogue and your Jewish faith when you consider becoming a rabbi.
- Individuals who become rabbis must already have lived a predominately Jewish lifestyle for at least three years, where you are involved in your Jewish community and have been close to your Jewish faith. This is especially important for Jews who have been secular or away from their faith for some time.
- If you are not Jewish by birth, you will need to convert to Judaism to become a Rabbi. Converting to Judaism is a major life step and should be done after much thought, as it is a serious and humbling experience. You will need to have lived a predominately Jewish lifestyle for at least one year, taken formal conversion training at a synagogue, and complete the process of Mikvah or conversion. Males must also undergo circumcision, if they are not already circumcised.
Study the different branches of Judaism.As a rabbi, you will need to select a branch of Judaism that you would like to train in and practice as a confirmed member of the congregation. There are five main branches of Judaism, each with their own approaches to traditional Jewish practice. They include:
- Orthodox Judaism: Orthodox Judaism focuses on the traditional teaching of Jewish law and accepts the doctrine of revelation. This means that they believe the Written Law in the Hebrew Bible and the Oral Law in the Talmud was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, and therefore, it is the everlasting and only true guide for Judaism. Orthodox Jews demonstrate unswerving loyalty to Jewish traditions and Jewish law.
- Conservative Judaism: Like Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Jews believe Jewish laws are sacred. But Conservative Jews believe these laws can be changed and adopted, if necessary, to suit the modern conditions of Jewish life. The Conservative movement tries to “conserve” and protect the Jewish faith but maintains that Jews are not only a religious group but also a people with a distinct culture, history, and language.
- Reform Judaism: Reform Judaism focuses on the importance of adapting religious life to the modern age. They view the Torah as divine inspiration but do not view it as a literal revelation that must be strictly followed. For Reform Jews, every generation has the right to accept laws and practices that are essential and adapt certain practices to fit their way of life. They believe that Jewish people are destined to teach the belief in God as well as justice, peace, and fellowship.
- Reconstructionist Judaism: This branch was founded by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan in the 20th century and views Judaism as evolving and part of a continuous history. Reconstructionists emphasize understanding, observing, and celebrating Jewish culture, tradition, and heritage.
- Secular-Humanist Judaism: This branch is based in Detroit and views Judaism as a living culture and a way of life. It offers an alternative to traditional or conventional Judaism and modern ways to practice Jewish commitment.
Apply for rabbinical school.Once you have selected your branch of Judaism, you should look into applying for rabbinical schools within that branch. For example, if you are an Orthodox Jew, you may go to an Orthodox rabbinical school. There has been a drop in enrollment in rabbinical schools in the U.S. so you will likely get into your chosen school or be able to work with the school to get your Hebrew and Jewish literacy up to par.
- You may need to be willing to relocate for your training as the only accredited rabbinical schools in the United States are located in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, and Cincinnati.
- You can also do an online training program with Aleph, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, in their five year distance program. However, doing an online program may make you less appealing to congregations once you graduate and look for a position as a rabbi.
Complete your rabbinical training.Each branch of Judaism has a different set of requirements. Your training may consist of an academic program plus internships and life experience - including spending one year in Israel.
- Many programs require a four to five year commitment, and you may need to spend ,000-,000 a year for your training, depending on your chosen branch of Judaism. You may need to take out financial aid or loans to pay for your rabbinical training, a common practice among aspiring rabbis. If you are an Orthodox Jew, you may not to take out financial aid to pay for your schooling as many Orthodox rabbinical training programs are given free tuition.
- The typical rabbi curriculum includes study of the Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, Jewish history, and Hebrew language. You will also need to take psychology courses, community outreach courses, public speaking courses, and teaching courses. At the end of your studies, you will become ordained as a rabbi.
Finding as Position as a Rabbi
Talk to the rabbi at your local synagogue.Once you have been ordained as a rabbi, you should reach out to the rabbi at your local synagogue. You may be able to gain some connections through touching base with your local rabbi and get more information on open positions. You may also be able to get advice from a more seasoned rabbi about how to take your training and put it into action in a community.
Apply for positions through a referral service.There are referral services for rabbis that are run by family services, called the Jewish Clergy Officiation Referral Service. You can apply to be included in this referral service and take on positions through this service.
- You may be vetted by the service to confirm you are an accredited rabbi with the proper training and you may need to show proof of your accreditation.
Join a Jewish rabbi organization.You can join a rabbi association based on your selected branch of Judaism. For example, you may join the Rabbinical Assembly if you are a Conservative rabbi, the Central Conference of American Rabbis if you are a Reform rabbi or the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association if you are a Reconstructionist rabbi. Joining the association will require you to follow certain rules as a member and you may need to be approved by the association’s Board of Rabbis.
Be a dedicated rabbi to your congregation.If you do land a position as a rabbi for a congregation, called “pulpit work”, you will need to fulfill the responsibilities of your position and satisfy the expectations of the congregation, or shul. As a rabbi, you will need to act as a community organizer and as a spiritual guide for the congregation, a long term position that can be challenging and rewarding.
- Keep in mind your salary as a rabbi is paid for by the congregation but some shuls may only be able to pay you part time. You may need to support yourself with other community work or teaching work to supplement your income.
- Many congregations are interested in younger rabbis who have energy and passion for the position, and as a way to appeal to younger Jews. This does not mean that older rabbis may not be hired by a shul, just that preference may be shown for younger rabbis.
Consider a career outside of the pulpit.Some individuals who become rabbis do not actually practice their training full time and may seek jobs outside of the pulpit, or outside of a congregation position.
- You may end up working in a Jewish organization, a Jewish community center, in a hospital or in a chaplain. Be open to positions outside of the congregation, as the demand for these roles may be higher and you may have a greater chance of landing a position in these areas.
QuestionWhy was Jesus called a rabbi when he wasn't married and didn't have a son?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI'm not sure about Jesus specifically, but a rabbi doesn't need to be married, nor does he need to have children.Thanks!
QuestionCan a woman be a rabbi? If so, how, and in what designation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, women can become rabbis. Both the Reform and Conservative movements have ordained women.Thanks!
QuestionCan women become rabbis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on the denomination. Some allow female to become rabbis, while others do not.Thanks!
QuestionIs marriage necessary to be a rabbi?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, one does not need to be married to be a rabbi. A communal rabbi will often be able to run a community in a better way if he is married, but it is not a requirement.Thanks!
QuestionCan a rabbi marry outside the faith?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome Reform rabbis do that after his or her fiancee converts to Judaism. I personally don't recommend intermarriage.Thanks!
QuestionHow many years do I have to go to school in order to become a rabbi?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIn the Reform and Conservative movements in the U.S., rabbinical school is 5 years. Orthodox smicha (rabbinical ordination) comes in two types: Yoreh Yoreh (mastery of day-to-day law) and Yadin Yadin (mastery of Jewish civil law), and the length of time depends on how quickly you learn the prescribed rabbinic material for each classification.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the minimum age for a rabbi?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTechnically, one can become a rabbi once they have reached their bar mitzvah, but most accepted rabbinic programs (i.e. RIETS) function as a graduate school and will not accept you below the age of 18.Thanks!
Video: How to Become a Rabbi
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