Report Examines the Training of Chabad Rabbis
What are the requirements to become a Chabad rabbi?
What part of that training allows these young men to reach out to non-affiliated Jews and successfully strengthen their Jewish identities?
According to Adam Ferziger at the Rappaport Center for Assimilation Research, Chabad rabbis have a unique advantage over rabbinic candidates at other schools.
The actual requirements for ordination at Chabad are as follows:
“A candidate for Chabad ordination has to complete three years of full-time post-high school Torah study in a Chabad yeshiva. Assuming that he has demonstrated the proper intellectual and religious qualities, at the age of 20 or 21 he is permitted to study the Jewish legal codes that he will be tested on in order to receive ordination. In addition to the sections on the dietary laws, the four tests that he must pass include the laws of Sabbath and prayer.”
But that is not all. Chabad rabbis begin their training in Jewish outreach before they even enter the ordination program:
“[The] training of a Chabad rabbi/emissary begins years before he actually studies the material required for ordination. From the age of fourteen, male Chabad high school students throughout the world are given what is known as a “route.” Every Friday they finish school early, but instead of going home or relaxing, they are assigned to a local area – a few streets, a town square, a group of stores, a meeting place of Jews – where they are expected to help non-observant Jews perform mitzvos (commandments). Generally this means offering Sabbath candlesticks to women, enabling men to don Tephillin (ritual phylacteries) or offering the opportunity to Jews to perform the blessing on the four species on Sukkot. They return every week for long periods of time and develop a relationship with the local Jewish population. Moreover, they learn to rid themselves of adolescent shyness and to cultivate communication skills and to become more comfortable with the colloquial language of the public. By the time they receive ordination, they have been working as shelihim (emissaries) for as long as eight years. They are then, not only intellectually and religiously equipped, they have also devoted more time – albeit with little accompanying theoretics – to learning how to approach a Jewish public that is prone to assimilation than the average graduate of any other rabbinical program. Indeed, they also share experiences with their friends and their teachers and receive advice on how to deal with the various situations that they encounter. Clearly when they become emissaries they will move to new locales and face new challenges, but they will bring with them a wealth of hands-on experience.”
Ferziger, Adam. Training American Orthodox Rabbis to Play a Role in Confronting Assimilation: Programs, Methodologies and Directions. Research and Position Papers of the Rappaport Center. The Rappaport Center for Assimilation Research and Strengthening Jewish Vitality. 2003:http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=14244