Y.U. rabbis vs. everyone else

In trying to ascertain the number of rabbis who will be getting ordained by U.S. rabbinical schools this year, I was having trouble with one holdout: Yeshiva University.

The trouble in nailing down that number is that students complete Y.U.’s ordination program, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Rabbinical Seminary, on a rolling basis. Ordination is granted once a student has fulfilled all the necessary requirements and passes the appropriate exams, which take place all the time and focus on Jewish law.

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Some students are full-time, some are part-time. The program is free, and much of it is independent learning done in the beit midrash study hall. Some students get ordination because they need the degree to advance their rabbinical career, others do it simply because they want to study Torah in a rigorous environment, and formal ordination as a rabbi is the cherry on top.

Every four years, RIETS holds a Chag HaSemikhah to celebrate those who received their ordination over the previous four years. The next one is on Sunday, when 230 recently ordained rabbis will be feted. That celebration will also honor the Chag HaSemikhah class of 50 years ago: 100 rabbis, half of whom now live in Israel, according to Y.U. officials. (Among them is Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, on the West Bank.)

So, just how many rabbis is Y.U. ordaining this year? According to the Y.U. officials, the number of new rabbis between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 will be 75.

To put that number in some perspective, that’s more than all the other U.S. rabbinical schools affiliated with other denominations combined.

Here’s the tally:

Yeshiva University: 75
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (Reform): 35
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies (Conservative): 17
Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative): 14
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College: 6
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (Orthodox): 2

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Uriel Heilman is JTA’s managing editor, responsible for coordinating JTA’s editorial team. He re-joined JTA in 2007 after a stint doing independent reporting in Israel and the Arab world. Before that, he served as New York bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post. An award-winning journalist, he has worked as a reporter for a variety of publications in the United States and in Israel.