Application Guidelines

Application Guidelines

Entrance Requirements for the Professional Schools

A person considering an application to one of AJRCA’s professional schools will be deeply involved in Judaism and in Jewish practice. Study to become a Rabbi, Cantor, or Chaplain is a high-level, profound education leading to a career as a spiritual leader of the Jewish people.

A student who may not yet be qualified for the professional schools and wants to enrich his or her Jewish background and learn creative ways of serving the Jewish community may apply to the Master of Jewish Studies programs in one of its specializations. An accredited bachelor’s degree and a strong interest in Judaism are the primary requirements.

For the entrance requirements to the Master’s programs only, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Jewish Status
All applicants for a program leading to ordination and certification must be Jewish by birth as recognized by at least one major rabbinic body, or by a conversion process that is recognized by at least one major rabbinic body. The spouse, or partner, of an applicant to a program leading to ordination or certification must be Jewish. AJRCA admits students without regard to age, gender, disability, race, color, or national origin.

College Degree
Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

Before applying to AJRCA’s professional schools, it is helpful to have some leadership experience in the Jewish world. You may have assisted in leading services or have experience teaching in a congregation or havurah. You may have served on a committee or board of trustees of a synagogue or some other agency of the Jewish community – perhaps in a Hillel or other academic setting.

Preliminary Interview
A visit to the Academy with a preliminary interview is expected before filing a formal application to one of the professional schools. During the academic year, the visit includes sitting in on classes. The interview with the Director of Admissions and a Dean or faculty member creates a foundation of mutual experience, greater understanding, and clarity of expectations. If proceeding with an application seems appropriate, you will receive guidance and help in preparing the many items that are required in support of his or her application. Otherwise, you will be offered considered feedback concerning the issues that weigh against such an application, and guidance on steps that you might undertake to prepare for a review of your status in the future.

Range of Contemporary Judaism
The Academy does not define its students on the basis of current affiliation. We welcome applicants from all paths of Jewish life. We expect that applicants will have visited and prayed with different communities and be well informed about current issues in the Jewish world; any of the principal Jewish newspapers or journals are recommended as reading. The Jews our alumni serve, even in a denominational setting, will have family from the full spectrum of Judaism. The ability to see each of them as a unique soul will be very important for professional effectiveness.

Previous Life Experience
Students at the Academy range from those who have had a few years of experience or study relating to their desired profession, to individuals making mid-life career changes. Our students include teachers, professors, physicians, executives, attorneys, parents, therapists, journalists, filmmakers, artists, and many others.  We believe individuals with prior careers and life experience make uniquely capable rabbis, cantors, and chaplains, and we encourage most applicants to take time after undergraduate training for personal development.  Individuals whose life history includes a variety of spiritual paths will sometimes consider applying; our view is that such experiences can help deepen the work and will be respected.

Hebrew and Judaica Preparation
Proficiency in Hebrew, as well as familiarity with basic Jewish texts and practice, is essential to serious Jewish study. We encourage all those considering application to commence study of Hebrew as soon as possible. As part of the Admissions process, applicants will be required to take a Hebrew Placement Test. No test in Judaica is required for admission; however, each student’s proficiency in these areas will be assessed prior to the student’s second year of study.

Psychological Evaluation
Prior to meeting with the Admissions Committee (see “Admissions Interview” below), applicants will be asked to make an appointment for an interview with an AJRCA psychological consultant. This consultant will forward a confidential report to the Board of Admissions. This interview is designed to provide information on the suitability of a candidate to undertake the rigorous training demanded in preparation for a life of religious leadership. The report on this interview is confidential and will be available only to members of the Admissions Committee and members of the AJRCA Senior Administration. The applicant will be asked to sign a waiver of right of access to the psychological report.

Admissions Interview
Decisions concerning admission to the various schools at the Academy are made by an Admissions Committee. The Committee is convened for each individual applicant, and it comprises members of AJRCA’s Senior Administration, a member of the Faculty and the Director of Admissions. The interview will last for approximately an hour and will be wide ranging. Questions may relate to the Application Essays or any other topic of interest or concern to the Committee.

The interview for Cantorial applicants will also include an audition. Each candidate should prepare a list of five pieces, from which the Committee will probably select two or three for performance. The selections should acquaint the Committee with the full range of vocal and interpretive abilities; at least three of the pieces should be drawn from Jewish repertoire, and one of them should represent traditional cantorial style and one a more informal style.

Entrance Requirements for Master’s programs only
The programs in Ethics, Communal Life, Jewish Music, and Interfaith Relations have more modest requirements in terms of Hebrew studies and previous experience. A preliminary interview is not required in every case, though a campus visit is highly recommended. A personal admissions interview is required (see directly above). The candidate must be Jewish, but that requirement does not apply to the spouse or domestic partner. For further information on the requirements of the programs, see Community Leadership programs.

Notification of Acceptance
We generally advise an applicant of the decision within two weeks of the interview. An application may be unconditionally accepted, or accepted with stipulations or conditions. If an application is rejected, guidance may be given concerning the interval that should elapse before a further application would be considered. An acceptance to AJRCA is valid until the beginning of the semester following the anniversary of the interview date. Full details and explanation of all matters concerning application to AJRCA are contained within the Admissions Materials, and the Director of Admissions will be glad to offer general guidance and to respond to any questions.