Course of Study - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Course of Study

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The curriculum of the Rabbinical School has two phases.  The first phase, the Core Curriculum, is covered during the Year-In-Israel and the first two years stateside; upon completion of the Core Curriculum, students are awarded the MAHL degree.  The second phase, the post-MAHL course of study, consists of work done primarily in the fourth and fifth years of the Program.

The Core Curriculum sets national standards and learning outcomes for the Rabbinical School.  The faculty of each stateside campus creates courses and other learning experiences that allow each student to meet the standards and outcomes.  Consequently, the course of study varies slightly on each of the three stateside campuses. The same is true of the post-MAHL requirements; each stateside campus requires approximately the same number of credits for ordination, but each campus has a slightly different approach to the distribution of elective courses.


The Year-In-Israel program is mandatory for first-year rabbinical students.  Students who are accepted to the Rabbinical School who can demonstrate native or near-native fluency in Hebrew and have a strong background in Jewish Studies may be able to exempt from the Year-In-Israel through an examination.


  • An understanding of the Hebrew language, both as it is found in traditional Jewish sources and in modern usage.
  • The acquisition of basic text skills that will be used throughout the five-year program and in the rabbinate.
  • An encounter with Israel that leaves students informed, enthused, and energized about the significance and challenges of Jewish statehood and peoplehood.
  • The encouragement of self-awareness as future Jewish professionals.


  • Modern Hebrew             
  • Classical Grammar           
  • Introduction to Bible
  • Reading Rabbinic Texts
  • Introduction to Jewish Liturgy
  • History of Ancient Israel
  • Second Temple through Late Antiquity History
  • History of the Zionist Movement to 1948
  • Israel Seminar
  • Torah Cantillation
  • Elective: Arab-Israeli Conflict –or– Paradigms of Modern Jewish Existence –or– The Jew in the Contemporary World

Stateside Campuses


The curriculum of the Rabbinical School educates rabbis for the diverse challenges of the 21st-century rabbinate.  Students prepare to become rabbis and leaders in a variety of settings, including congregations, Hillel foundations, schools, communal organizations, and pastoral settings.

The curriculum of the Rabbinical School:

  • Promotes the acquisition of skills and competence in the study of Jewish texts, history, thought, language and literature.
  • Promotes professional development through course work and fieldwork.
  • Promotes the spiritual and religious growth of each student through worship experiences, discussion of core issues in Jewish thought and life, and mentoring.

Years Two and Three

The Core Curriculum consists of foundational courses that examine the language and literature of a variety of disciplines, different critical approaches to those disciplines, and the acquisition of professional skills through classroom learning.  These courses are generally taken during the second and third years of the rabbinic program.

Judaica Component: Students take courses in Bible, Hebrew language and literature, history, philosophy, and rabbinics.  These courses provide students with a strong grounding in Jewish texts and traditions.

Professional Development Component: These courses cover basic skills and issues that are core to the contemporary rabbinate, including Homiletics and Speech, Education, Pastoral Counseling, and training in worship and life cycle officiation.

Sample Course of Study

Second Year, Fall

Bible I (Pentateuch)        
Bible II (Literary Artistry of the Bible)           
Modern Hebrew Grammar and Literature 
Professional Orientation    
Skills for Teaching                               
Talmud I            
Ancient and Medieval Jewish History   

Second Year, Spring

Modern Hebrew Grammar and Literature
Pastoral Care and Counseling       
Bible III (Prophets)        
Liturgy I             
Talmud II            
Theories of Education Practice   
Modern Jewish History   

Third Year, Fall                     

Liturgy II            
Post-Talmudic Halakhic Literature        
Pastoral Care and Counseling    
Medieval Jewish Philosophy
Modern Hebrew Grammar and Literature (if needed)

Third Year, Spring    

Medieval Biblical Commentaries
Modern Jewish Literature                           
Modern Jewish Thought    
Speech and Communication      
Modern Hebrew Grammar and Literature (if needed)

Years Four and Five: Post-MAHL Course of Study

In the fourth and fifth years of Rabbinical School, most courses are electives; these offerings vary from campus to campus.  Each campus may have a few required courses and/or distribution requirements. 

Electives are offered in all areas of Judaica and in Professional Development.  Students on all of the stateside campuses have opportunities to take courses offered on other HUC-JIR campuses through our e-classrooms and distance learning programs.  Students may also pursue Independent Study with faculty members.

Sample Course of Study

Fourth Year, Fall

Bible Elective
Rabbinics Elective
History Elective
Leadership for the Reform Rabbinate
Open Elective
Open Elective

Fourth Year, Spring

Rabbinics Elective
Thought Elective
Literature Elective
Professional Development Elective
Open Elective
Open Elective

Fifth Year, Fall

Senior Seminar
Bible Elective
Professional Development Elective
Open Elective

Fifth Year, Spring

Senior Seminar
Open Elective
Open Elective

Frequently Offered Electives

Modern Torah Commentaries
Power and Poetry in the Psalms
Women in the Bible
The Books of Samuel
The Book of Job
The Book of Leviticus
Amichai and His Generation
Biblical Themes in Modern Hebrew Poetry
History of Reform Judaism
Intermarriage and the Changing American Jewish Community
Engendering Jewish Modernity
Holocaust Theology
Feminist Theology
Jewish Ethics
Prayer in Rabbinic Literature
Jewish Bioethics
Love and Marriage in the Talmud
Women in the Midrash
Halakhic Texts and Reform Jewish Decision Making
Shabbat Seminar
Prophetic Preaching
Life Cycle: Ritual, Liturgy, and Music
Reel Theology
Meaningful Worship
Modern Midrash
Ritual Studies
Life Cycle Counseling
Advanced Homiletics
Teaching the Bible to Adult Learners
Mindful Jewish Spiritual Practice

Capstone Project

The rabbinical thesis or capstone project enables a student to explore a topic of interest to him/her and to culminate his/her rabbinical education by creating an in-depth piece of work that can be the basis of ongoing study, teaching, and research in his/her professional work. It enables students to hone research and writing skills. The thesis also affords students an opportunity to work closely with faculty members on a project of their choosing.

The rabbinical thesis may be:

1)    A treatment of primary sources (in Hebrew or another language) that analyzes issues within the sources as well as the wider significance of those issues for their own or other time periods.
2)    A synthesis of secondary sources that reflects a debate on common issues between scholars of the same or different generation (i.e., two scholars’ views on the nature of the soul) or which reflects the significance of those sources in contemporary debate (i.e., gender issues).
3)    An analysis of a significant issue through the lens of Jewish texts and traditions.

The text immersion is an alternative to the thesis.  It enables the student to immerse him/herself in the study of a selected body of classical texts that can be the basis of ongoing study, teaching, and research in his/her professional work.  It enables students to hone research and writing skills, albeit on a smaller scale than the thesis, and to work closely with faculty members on a project of their choosing.

Students opting for a text immersion choose a text or texts in consultation with a faculty adviser.  Texts should be in Hebrew or related languages and may be from any period.  Assessment of a text immersion project usually involves a combination of oral examination and writing.