History of the Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling

The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling is the first center dedicated to pastoral education at a North American Jewish seminary, thanks to the foresight and support of the Blaustein Foundation. During its first year, a dedicated group of academics, pastoral care practitioners, fieldwork directors, and congregational leaders worked together as the Blaustein Think Tank to build a new educational model of instruction from the ground up.

Dr. Gary Ahlskog and Vivienne Joyce, faculty members from the joint D.Min. Program of HUC-JIR/ NY and the Post-Graduate Center for Mental Health, helped develop the class-based curriculum for the pilot year, 2001-2002. In addition, working in collaboration with the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services and the URJ, our first students had supervised counseling placements during the academic year and received modest stipends for completing the placements a few hours a week. By 2007, many of these placements had expanded into 10-hour a week paid internships.

Over the decades, an ever-growing percentage of students has chosen to do more than the minimum number of hours of supervised counseling training and have participated in formal Clinical Pastoral Education. Beginning in 2001-2002, the Blaustein Center invited alumni who served at congregations and organizations that employed students for the academic year to the College-Institute to learn about the mentoring relationship and working with adult learners. Providing educational opportunities for field mentors has remained a high priority of the center. From its first program year, The Blaustein Center has hosted special lunchtime programs for the entire HUC-JIR/NY community that focus on specific aspects of the pastoral role. All of these seeds took root. Over the years, Rabbi Nancy H. Wiener, the Center’s Founding Director, has helped make real the Center’s commitment to help future clergy appreciate the connection between their text courses, professional development courses, and the real-life encounters they have by fostering and nurturing a reflective practice that highlights the interpersonal, pastoral and theological aspects of being Reform clergy in the 21st century.

As our program has expanded in recent years, we have collaborated with other institutions to offer programs designed to enhance the skills of our alumni and to reach out to the broader community.

Rabbi Wiener represents The Center on national and international conferences, committees, and boards dedicated to promoting health and well-being in the Jewish community and beyond. It also partners with a range of institutions and agencies to accomplish its goals.

The perspectives, experiences, and programs of the Blaustein Center have become a model that HUC-JIR’s campuses in LA and Jerusalem have utilized and which other Jewish seminaries have turned to as they have developed their own pastoral care, supervision, and mentoring programs.