By: Joshua Blicker  | 

RIETS Institutes Two New Innovative Mental Health Training programs for Semicha Students

The RIETS administration recently announced two new programs that will provide semicha (rabbinic ordination) students with the professional mental health counseling skills necessary for a career in the rabbinate.

In conjunction with the Yeshiva University Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary has created a program that allows semicha students who plan on practicing rabbinics to take  courses toward a certificate of completion that focuses on mental health counselling.

Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Dean of RIETS, told the Commentator that this program aims to “combine RIETS semicha with real mental health training—psychology graduate school level training—not just good mental health training.” Rabbi Penner stated that these courses will greatly benefit semicha student who will go on to assume “important rabbinic roles, and will help positively change the rabbinate.” This optional program comes in addition to the two mandatory courses in pastoral counseling that all RIETS semicha students must take prior to their matriculation. Eligible semicha students must apply to the joint program and aim to pursue a career in the rabbinate.

The second program allows RIETS semicha students to receive counselling from mental health professionals, enabling them to achieve greater emotional intelligence and self-knowledge that they will use to better help the Jewish community at large. Rabbi Penner compared this initiative to “therapy that psychology students receive in graduate school to become more self-aware individuals and effective therapists.”

These two exciting initiatives will equip pulpit-bound RIETS graduates with the practical mental health counseling skills needed to effectively provide their congregants with spiritual and emotional guidance. Rabbi Neal Turk, the Director of RIETS Mental Health Counselling, stated that these two programs will “add another layer to the semicha program.” Yeshiva University President Richard Joel,  echoing the positive words of Rabbis Turk and Penner,  stated that the “Yeshiva produces wonderful scholars who engage in a lifetime relationship with us.” He also asserted that these programs will “help RIETS graduates better assist their communities and understand themselves.”

These programs demonstrate YU’s deep commitment to provide its students with the very best Torah and secular education possible and creating the next generation of leaders.