Interreligious Education & US Rabbinical Schools, by Or N. Rose

In this brief essay, I outline several key components that I believe are essential to interreligious education for future American rabbis. Before delving into this discussion, however, it is important to state that there are some significant challenges to implementing a meaningful interreligious educational agenda into the contemporary rabbinical school curriculum. In speaking with administrators and faculty from several different seminaries, they repeatedly raise the issue of time. The existing curricula in all of the schools I am familiar with—across the denominational and nondenominational spectrum—are already very full. Further, in many of the non-Orthodox schools, students necessarily spend a great deal of time developing basic language and classical text skills, since they often enter these programs with limited prior Jewish learning. Where can one fit in courses in interfaith dialogue or comparative theology when already there is not enough time for Tanakh, Talmud, Halakhah, and the like? In speaking with students, another dimension of the time dilemma emerges: many of them come to rabbinical school after spending long periods in non-Jewish (mostly secular) environments, and they now seek a deep immersion in Jewish religious life for personal and professional growth. As such, they do not necessarily see engagement in interfaith educational activities as being crucial at this point in their journeys.

 

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