Rabbinic Pastor Program Advance Preparation

Individuals who apply to this program come from varied professional and Jewish backgrounds. Some are Jewish renewal activists and others are in beginning phases of exploring renewal contexts. Some who have stronger Jewish backgrounds are already serving communities as lay spiritual leaders or working as chaplains in hospitals or other venues. We work to craft individualized programs that take into account the particular knowledge and abilities of each student.

Prior Education

While not a hard requirement (there are special individuals with unique life-trajectories that have not included completing a BA) a recommended requisite for entrance into the ALEPH Rabbinic Pastor Program is a liberal arts bachelor’s degree. Courses in Jewish Studies and comparative religion are also helpful.

Likewise, many applicants enter this program having taken courses and practica in counseling, counseling education, relationship and family therapy, group work, Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), Social Work etc. It is presumed that applicants also have some experience in the craft of therapeutic practice by virtue of having themselves been in therapy as part of an ongoing commitment to working on personal and relationship issues, and personal growth.

Psychological Evaluation

The work of a rabbinic pastor places many challenges and stresses before us which are amplified by the nature of our position as clergy, counsellors, teachers and spiritual mentors. Success in this work requires sensitivity and exceptional self-awareness, good emotional boundaries, clarity of discernment and the ability to work with many different kinds of people, including people with diverse personality impairments. It is essential that you have been in therapy yourself in order to work through unresolved issues of your own, and in order to be familiar with the therapeutic process. A psychological evaluation is required at some point in your application. The scheduling of this evaluation will be determined in consultation with your Program advisors.

Preparatory Reading

This booklist will give you a good survey introduction to Jewish history, spirituality and literature:

Barry Holtz, Finding Our Way: Jewish Texts and the Lives We Lead Today (N.Y., Schocken, 1993)

If you are new to Jewish religious literature, read Barry Holtz, Guide to Jewish Books: Where to Start Reading About Jewish History, Literature, Culture and Religion (N.Y., Schocken Books, 1992)
If you are unfamiliar with Jewish history, read Chaim Potok, Wanderings (Knopf, 1978), or a similar one-volume history of the Jewish people.

If you are unfamiliar with Jewish religious thought, read Jacob Neusner, The Way of Torah: An Introduction to Judaism (Belmont, CA, Wadsworth Publishing, 1988)
Jewish Spirituality, Vols. I and II, edited by Arthur Green (Crossroad, 1988)

If you have no background in Jewish mysticism, read:
Honey From the Rock: Visions of Jewish Mystical Renewal  Lawrence Kushner,(Jewish Lights, Woodstock, Vt., 1990)
Kabbalah: the Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Daniel Matt (HarperCollins, S.F., 1995)
Hasidism and Modern Man Martin Buber, (Humanities Press International, 1988)
Seek My Face Arthur Green, (Jewish Lights, 2004)
If you are unfamiliar with Jewish feminism, read:
Standing Again at Sinai Judith Plaskow, (HarperOne, 1991)

If you are new to Jewish Renewal, read:
These Holy Sparks : The Rebirth of the Jewish People  Arthur Waskow,(Harper and Row, N.Y., 1983)
Down to Earth Judaism: Food, Money, Sex, and The Rest of Life Arthur Waskow, (Wm. Morrow, 1997)

Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation Michael Lerner, (Grosset/Putnam, N.Y., 1994)

Become familiar with the work and thought of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Many exceptional videos of Reb Zalman teaching can be found on YouTube. His books are easily purchased though any local or online bookseller. The ALEPH course “Introduction to Jewish Renewal and Reb Zalman’s Thought” is open to prospective students and applicants, as well as current students.

Liturgical Skills

Jewish liturgy is the corpus of sacred poetry which expresses our people’s deepest longings for connection with the divine. Familiarity with the structure and language of Jewish prayer will enable the chaplain and pastor to use its rich symbolism and healing power in the service of the needs of your patients, congregants and your own spiritual development. As you progress in the RP Program you will master sufficient Siddur Hebrew skills to be able to utilize the rich compendium of Siddur prayer and sacred poetry to cultivate your own prayer practice, lead prayer, and pray with individuals and groups. The ALEPH course “Walk Through The Siddur” is open to prospective students and applicants, as well as current students. You can enroll in this course to strengthen your understanding of the structure and language of the siddur and Jewish liturgical prayer.

Another resource is Prayerbook Hebrew: The Easy Way Anderson, Motzkin, Rubenstein and Wiseman ( EKS, P.O. Box 11133, Oakland, CA 94611).


Over the course of your study, it is our expectation that you will become familiar with the deep structure of Torah as a spiritual narrative.

Purchase diverse translations of Torah,

The Torah: A Modern Commentary, Plaut and Bamberger (U.A.H.C.),
The Five Books of Moses Everett Fox, ( Schocken Books, N.Y.)
The Stone Edition of The Chumash, (Artscroll)
Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary
The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation, Oxford University Press

and use these as resources as you make your way through the Torah narratives. For Genesis, have a look at one or more of the translations by E. Speiser (Anchor Bible), Stephan Mitchell and or Robert Alter.

You should read the following secondary sources in connection with the Torah requirements:
Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts, pp. 31-81 Barry Holtz, (Simon and Schuster, N.Y., 1984)

As you progress in the RP Program you will master sufficient Biblical Hebrew skills to be able to open a Chumash to a section of simple narrative Hebrew text (like the story of Joseph, or the travels of Avraham) and read and translate reasonably comfortably. You can begin now with the ALEPH two-semester course in Biblical Hebrew: Biblical Hebrew 101 and Biblical Hebrew 102

If you are good at languages, and/or highly motivated, you can also study a basic text of Biblical Hebrew, such as The First Hebrew Primer: the Adults Beginner’s Path to Biblical Hebrew, Simon, Resnikoff and Motzkin (EKS Publishing Co., P.O. Box 11133, Oakland, CA 94611) or Biblical Hebrew: A Text and Workbook  Kittel, Hoffer and Wright (Yale University Press). These will take you through basic biblical grammar, syntax and vocabulary, and move you through a simplified Hebrew version of the Book of Ruth or other straight-forward narrative text.

A complete set of the Hebrew-English Dictionary / English-Hebrew Dictionary by R. Alcalay (Masada) will be essential as well.