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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 18.6.1:
The Rabbinate: How does one become a Reform Rabbi?


While there are several small seminaries whose rabbis claim to be Reform, the following applies only to becoming a part of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

Study for the Reform Rabbinate is typically done at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) (, although one could also become a Conservative or Reconstructionist Rabbi and then petition to join the Reform Rabbinate. There are also foreign Reform Seminaries, such as Leo Baeck, whose ordinations are acceptable to the CCAR.

HUC-JIR was founded in 1875 in Cincinnati Ohio, and is the oldest rabbinical seminary in the United States ordaining rabbis to serve the Reform movement and the Jewish community. It was founded by Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, who also established UAHC (1873) and CCAR (1889). In 1922, Rabbi Stephen S Wise founded the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, which merged with HUC in 1950. The Los Angeles campus (located next to USC) was opened in 1954, and the Jerusalem ISRAEL branch was established in 1963. The Jerusalem branch serves as the center for study of Biblical Archaeology. Thus, there are now four campuses (see for specific addresses).

HUC-JIR's Rabbinic School has a five-year program of full-time graduate study leading to the degree of Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters (MAHL) and ordination. The sequence is as follows:

  1. Have an accredited bachelor's degree from a quality school, with a B to B+ average and high GRE scores. Apply to HUC-JIR; 34 to 45 students over all 3 US campuses are admitted annually. The admissions process also includes interviews and psychological evaluation. All candidates seeking admission to the College-Institute's Rabbinic School, School of Sacred Music and Rhea Hirsch School of Education, will be expected to have successfully completed a minimum of one academic year of college-level Hebrew or its equivalent.

  2. If accepted at HUC-JIR, the path to ordination is as follows:
    1. One year in Israel in which one attends the Jerusalem campus. Study includes Biblical Hebrew, Modern Hebrew, archeology, and immersion in Israeli culture. [This year is occasionally waived for those who can demonstrate fluency in the language and texts.]

    2. Four years at one of the USA campuses in NYC, LA, or Cincinnati. Note: LA does not ordain. Those attending the LA campus must transfer after two years either to NYC or Cincinnati. [Occasionally, the 4 years can be compressed to 3 years if the person can exempt enough courses.] This course of study includes Bible, Midrash, Talmud, Codes, Homiletics, History, Education, Liturgy, Philosophy, Human Relations, Hebrew, and Aramaic.

    3. Internship: Serve a congregation (usually small solo pulpits that can't afford full-time rabbis) for at least one year.

  3. Degree awarded: Master of Hebrew Letters (usually after the 4th year) and ordination after the 5th year.

For more information, you can write directly to HUC-JIR at one of the following addresses:

   National Office of Admission            Office of Admissions

   HUC-JIR                                 HUC-JIR, Brookdale Center

   3101 Clifton Avenue                     One West 4th Street

   Cincinnati OH 45220                     New York NY 10012

   USA                                     USA

   Office of Admissions                    Office of Admissions

   HUC-JIR                                 HUC-JIR

   3077 University Avenue                  13 King David Street

   Los Angeles CA 90007                    Jerusalem

   USA                                     ISRAEL

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>