By: Jared Scharf  | 

RIETS Launches First-Ever Master’s Degree in Rabbinic Literature for Fall 2021

The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) is beginning its first-ever Masters in Hebrew Letters (MHL) program this upcoming 2021-22 academic year. The one-year program is open to men with an undergraduate degree and will offer an MHL with a focus in rabbinic literature.

The program includes two sedarim — sets of hours learning Torah — per day; students are able to join any Mazer Yeshiva Program (MYP) shiur for the morning and are offered various learning options for the afternoon and night, which are coordinated by RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Daniel Feldman. According to the website, these courses will be covering “major sugyot [topics] in Shas [Talmud].” Additionally, a mandatory Friday class will discuss the development of the Oral Torah. Grades will be given through final exams and projects. 

The program costs $3,750 per student. Aside from an undergraduate degree, requirements for admissions also include an entrance examination and a personal interview. The application for the program is online

“We expect a small cohort of students, as the details of the program emerged through the pandemic,” said RIETS Dean Rabbi Menachem Penner. “We hope that the program will expand significantly in the Fall of 2022.” Rabbi Penner did not specify the number of students, but Dr. Yuxiang Liu, director of Institutional Research & Assessment at Yeshiva University, noted that “some students in graduate programs usually register very late.”

The program was conceived this past winter from a series of meetings with RIETS’ senior leadership and Board of Trustees, as part of YU’s increasing efforts to encourage students to continue pursuing Torah learning after graduation, Rabbi Penner said. He explained that RIETS discovered it was authorized to offer an MHL and “thought that was a good shidduch [match].” Rabbi Yaakov Taubes, assistant director of RIETS programming, completed the necessary state approvals and paperwork through the New York State Education Department, and the program was officialized shortly after Pesach.

Previously, the Chaver Program, a one-year learning program for post-graduate male students, was the only option for men to learn in Yeshiva University without being enrolled in the semikha program.  

The MHL program is not for students in the semikha program and is only designed for students taking a year off after college graduation. The program was also designed for people studying for admission exams or working part-time. According to Rabbi Penner, a master’s degree is beneficial to students because it is easier to explain to potential employers or graduate schools why one is taking time off to learn Torah. 

“We are most excited about this new initiative to extend the time our talmidim learn at Yeshiva as well as maximize their experience at RIETS,” Rabbi Penner shared. “We also hope that these new degrees will bring new students to our beit midrash who have not yet had the privilege of a RIETS Torah education.”


Photo Caption: RIETS will be initiating its first-ever MHL program this upcoming 2021-22 academic year. 

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University