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Head, hand and heart. . . all at the same time!

Elsie Stern, Ph.D.

In the years since its founding, RRC has been an incubator and training ground for some of the most influential and lasting trends in contemporary Judaism. In the beginning (way back in the 1960s...), the college was distinguished by its Kaplanian ideology. It was a place where students came to experience and build a contemporary form of Judaism that was grounded in the richness of the Jewish legacy, without being dependent on the ideas of a supernatural God or chosenness. Its commitment to intellectual rigor was embodied in the requirement that every student had to earn a Ph.D. at a secular university alongside their rabbinical training at RRC. It was also a place where pioneers and participants in the havurah movement and other forms of grassroots Jewish community came to re-envision the relationship of rabbis and the communities they served in new and more communitarian ways. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, RRC became a fruitful and vibrant training ground for people who would become leaders in the Jewish spirituality and Jewish renewal movements—drawing on and reconstructing Jewish practices for nourishing and cultivating the heart and soul. More recently, RRC has become known for its social justice track and has become a destination for people who are called to rabbinic vocations focused on justice work.

It is tempting to plot these accomplishments and emphases on a timeline or talk about them as different episodes of phases in the life of RRC. These forms of telling would suggest that the earlier emphases faded away as the newer ones arose. But luckily, that has not been the case! As our 2015 annual report describes, RRC’s new curriculum (launched in 2013-14 and fully implemented this past year) cultivates and strengthens “the head, the heart and the hand” of each of our students and understands the cultivation and integration of these elements to be key to rabbinic formation. In RRC’s rabbinic curriculum, students continue to engage in rigorous academic exploration of the Jewish legacy. At the same time, they engage in study, practice and reflection that open them up to the ongoing beauty, challenge, nourishment and power of Torah. Finally, they engage in practical learning that gives them supported opportunities to put their classroom learning into practice... in robust internships, in independent applied learning projects and in their participation as teachers and leaders in the RRC community.

By cultivating the head, heart and hand of each of our students, we are creating rabbis who will, in turn be able to reach and serve the people they serve in all their wholeness and invite them into engagement with forms of Judaism and Jewish community that nourish us all—head, heart and hand.