Pastoral Care Training Gets Boost

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College has received a three-year, $290,000 grant to greatly expand, enhance and integrate the school’s curriculum in chaplaincy, counseling and pastoral-care training.

The grant will enable the Rabbinical School to significantly enhance three core elements of its training program: clinical pastoral education, an intensive 12-week summer program that gives students hands-on experience in caregiving; Ikvotecha, a monthly program in which students explore and nurture their spiritual lives by working closely with rabbis and therapists; and course work in pastoral counseling, life-cycle counseling and mourning and loss.

“Today’s rabbis are called upon to respond to individuals at some of the most difficult and intimate moments in their lives,” Rabbinical School Dean Sharon Cohen Anisfeld said. “No matter the setting — a congregation, a college campus, a hospital, a summer camp, a day-school classroom — the rabbi must be prepared to respond with sensitivity and sophistication to a wide range of personal crises and spiritual questions.”

rabbi suzanne offitThe grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies was given in honor of Rabbi Suzanne Offit, Rab'09 (pictured), in recognition of her dedication and skill as a chaplain and pastoral caregiver.

“This grant is such a fitting tribute to Rabbi Offit, who brings a deep pastoral awareness to every aspect of her rabbinic work," Anisfeld said. "We are delighted that Bloomberg Philanthropies has chosen to honor her by supporting this important initiative.”

Anisfeld said the grant will enable every rabbinical student to participate in one unit of clinical pastoral education before graduating. The program places students as chaplains in hospitals, hospices and other health-care settings, where they gain firsthand experience counseling sick and dying patients.

In addition, every student enrolled in the Rabbinical School will now have the opportunity to participate in Ikvotecha, a program of guided conversation, meditation, written reflection and artistic expression. Through these different modes of exploration, Anisfeld explained, students have an opportunity to “reflect deeply on their own spiritual life, personal theology and religious practice.”

The academic courses in chaplaincy, counseling and pastoral care anchor the training curriculum. These classes will be enriched through the hiring of dedicated faculty and guest lecturers, Anisfeld said.

“Through CPE, spiritual direction and our required academic courses, we are creating a new and integrated approach to training rabbis for chaplaincy, counseling and pastoral care,” Anisfeld said. “Our graduates will bring a unique blend of traditional wisdom, clinical experience, personal spiritual reflection and current academic expertise to the work of pastoral counseling that has become so vital to the contemporary rabbinate.”

The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College is a pioneering and thriving pluralistic rabbinic education program. Through deep Jewish learning within a vibrant, pluralistic community of students and faculty, aspiring rabbis find their voice within Jewish tradition and prepare to serve an increasingly diverse and complex Jewish world with wisdom, sensitivity and skill.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is the umbrella organization that manages the charitable giving of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Medford, Mass., native. The charity supports the arts, education, government innovation, the environment and public health.

— JAN. 29, 2013