A conversation with Rabbi Arthur Green

Originally a locked entry.

Last week I heard Rabbi Arthur Green, one of the founders of Hebrew College's rabbinic school, talk about what they're doing there. It's an interesting approach, one that resonates in many ways.

He said they study the past and also look toward the future. The program has a strong foundation in text study, but it's essential for their students (and others, I would wager) to look ahead at what this all means in their own lives. Comfort with our sources is essential, but it can't stop there. Not all modern problems will be solved by text, but some will be and a firm grounding is needed for the rest.

He said he expects students to learn enough to make informed decisions about their own practices -- a statement that could apply to all Jews, really. He wants their students to wrestle, not abdicate authority. While the details are very different, in broad strokes this should sound familiar to anyone who's heard me talk about Reform theology. Of course, the devil (as it were) is in the details, and this school is definitely not a Reform institution.

The school is also focused on building a strong community. Rabbis do what their schools model, he said, and the Jewish community needs leaders who can integrate with a community. Informality is in; "high church" is out. (That's my summary of what he said, not a direct quote.)

The faculty at Hebrew College is young, sometimes younger than many of the students, and he said that's intentional. They are striving for an intimate, interactive passing-on of tradition, not focusing on prestigious scholars who dispense wisdom from afar. (I wonder if he considers himself one of the latter; he does teach at the school, but he's a well-known scholar who has a lot of outside commitments. I wonder how much the students see of him. Mind, I think that's less important than some might; it's the whole faculty, not any one member, that will shape a program. But, of course, I'm saying this from the outside.)

He said that he expects students to inquire of tradition, experiment with practice, introspect, and change. If you don't come out of this program changed in some way, something has gone wrong. Hebrew College is, Rabbi Green said, aiming for "seeker-friendly Judaism".

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It struck me during my visit that this would be a great place to study -- though whether it's a great place to gain s'micha is an open question. If I were local, I would be trying to find a way to study there in some way.

But, yeah, one of the official entry requirements is three years of college-level Hebrew, and I don't have that.