Get online

I’ve discussed before my thinking about rabbinical education: too expensive, and sometimes too removed from the needs of a community and ordinary Jews.

In the “Orthodox” world, too, there appears to be some interesting recognition of this problem, and there are attempts to address it. has one such thing, a Mastery in Halakhah and Semicha program, which focuses on the halakhic issues that surround day-to-day challenges of Orthodox Jewish life from a halakhic perspective: kashrut, Shabbat, niddah, etc., even some discussion of the basics of financial laws in halakhah.

I’m not endorsing the courses (or, for that matter); I haven’t taken any of them, and have no plans to do so. (I’m busy enough as it is, and it’s not as though I’m an ideological fellow traveler.) But it’s an interesting program by all appearances, can end with some form of semicha (it’s called “Orach Chaim” semicha), and is (until the semicha year) co-educational.

So, in its way, I think this is an encouraging thing–assuming rigor (and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be, under the circumstances), it may be an interesting model for training rabbis going forward.

I recognize that in the liberal Jewish world, we’re a bit more credential-minded, in a way; we look for accredited college educations, academically rigorous graduate degrees, etc., along with ordination. But it may be time–particularly given the needs of Jewish communities still reeling from the effects of reduced membership and financial contribution after the 2008 financial crisis–to consider something different.

Because make no mistake: communities are already moving in that direction.