The Jewish Theological Seminary
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America
, known in the Jewish community simply as JTS, is one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism
. Along with the American Jewish University
in Los Angeles, Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano Marshall T. Meyerin
Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
in Jerusalem, it is one the movement's main rabbinical seminaries. It takes its name and basic ideology from the no longer extant Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau
The Jewish Theological Seminary comprises five schools: Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies, which is affiliated with Columbia University and offers joint/double bachelors degree programs with both Columbia and Barnard College, The Graduate School, The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, and The Rabbinical School. The latter four schools are graduate schools.
The Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau
Rabbi Zecharias Frankel
(1801-1875) at one time was in the traditional wing of the nascent Reform Judaism
movement. After the second Reform rabbinic conference (1845, Frankfurt, Germany
) he resigned after coming to believe that their positions were excessively radical. In 1854 he became the head of a new rabbinical school, the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau
. In his magnum opus Darkhei HaMishnah
(Ways of the Mishnah
) Rabbi Frankel amassed scholarly support which showed that Jewish law
was not static, but rather had always developed in response to changing conditions. He called his approach towards Judaism
'Positive-Historical', which meant that one should accept Jewish law and tradition as normative, yet one must be open to changing and developing the law in the same historical fashion that Judaism has always historically developed.
Positive-Historical Judaism in America
About this time in America, Rabbi Sabato Morais
championed the reaction to American Reform
. At one time Rabbi Morais had been a voice for moderation within the coalition of Reformers. He had opposed the more radical changes, but was open to moderate changes that would not offend traditional sensibilities. After the Reform movement published the Pittsburgh Platform, Rabbi Morais recognized the futility of his efforts and began the creation of a new rabbinical school in New York City
. He was soon joined by Rabbi Alexander Kohut
and Rabbi Bernard Drachman
, both of whom had received semicha
(rabbinic ordination) at Rabbi Frankel's Breslau seminary. They shaped the curriculum and philosophy of the new school after Rabbi Frankel's seminary. The first graduate to be ordained was Rabbi Morris Mandel who went to lead Adas Israel congregation (Washington, D.C.)
In 1902, Professor Solomon Schechter assumed presidency of JTS. In a series of papers he articulated an ideology for the nascent movement. In 1913 he presided over the creation of the United Synagogue of America. (The name was changed in 1991 to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.)
Prominent professors at the Seminary at the time included such luminaries as Saul Lieberman, Alexander Marx, Louis Ginzberg and Louis Finkelstein and many others.
Between 1940 and 1985, The Jewish Theological Seminary produced a radio and television show called The Eternal Light. The show aired on Sunday afternoons, featuring well-known Jewish personalities like Chaim Potok and Elie Wiesel. Broadcasts did not involve preaching or prayer, but drew on history, literature and social issues to explore Judaism and Jewish holidays in a manner that was accessible to persons of any faith.
Admission of GLBT students
Effective March 26, 2007, The Jewish Theological Seminary accepts openly gay students into their rabbinical and cantorial programs (the Seminary's other three schools upheld such non-discrimination policies prior to this date). An announcement in the press, first posted on the school's website
and typified by Haaretz.com
has been made about the admission of and ordination of homosexual students for the rabbinate and for cantorship.
A Conservative Jewish seminary in New York has agreed to admit gays and lesbians who want to become rabbis and cantors, but declined to take a stand on whether rabbis should officiate at same-sex unions.
The Jewish Theological Seminary announced its decision yesterday, more than three months after the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards authorized the ordination of gays and lesbians.
On Wednesday, March 26, 2008 JTS held a day long program titled Hazak Hazak V'Nithazek: Celebrating Strength Through Inclusion, marking the one year anniversary of Chancellor Eisen's decision to admit gay and lesbian students into the rabbinical and cantorial schools. A survey conducted prior to Chancellor Eisen's decision indicated that 58% of the rabbinical student body supported a change in admission policy. Some students who opposed the change in admission policy said they felt excluded from the day's program because it did not sufficiently recognize the pluralism in the student body.
- Daniel Boyarin, Hermann P. and Sophia Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Rhetoric, University of California at Berkeley.
- Matthew Eisenfeld, student killed in the Jerusalem bus 18 massacres
- Ben-Zion Gold
- David Gordis, President of Hebrew College
- Arthur Green, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis and Rector of the Rabbinical School at Hebrew College
- Joseph H. Hertz, British Chief Rabbi and Author; first graduate of JTS
- Arthur Hertzberg
- Irwin Kula, Director of president of CLAL, the Center for Learning and Leadership.
- Lee I. Levine, Scholar of Ancient Judaism
- Jacob Neusner, Chair of the Judaic Studies Department at Bard College.
- Norman Podhoretz, former Editor, Commentary magazine
- Chaim Potok, author, and rabbi
- Paula Reimers, Rabbi
- Samuel Schafler, past president of Hebrew College, superintendent of the Chicago Board of Jewish Education
- Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah
- Mordecai Waxman, prominent rabbi in the Conservative movement and senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Great Neck. Opened dialogue with Pope John Paul II in 1987