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First Cohort of RIETS/Ferkauf Mental Health Counseling Program Celebrates Completion 

A pioneering joint mental health counseling program offered to students in Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, in conjunction with the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, recently celebrated the graduation of its first cohort.

Standing, left to right: Rabbi Neal Turk, Rabbi Menachem Penner, Dr. Lawrence Siegel, Dr. Arlene Steinberg, Dr. Roz Sherman, Mrs. Laura Turk, Dr. Atara Berliner. Seated, graduates of the program, left to right: Yitz Richmond, Zachary Schwartz, Aviyam Levinson, David Strauss, Dan Cohen, Jacob Bernstein. Not pictured: Jeremy Bresler, Israel Apfel

Standing, left to right: Rabbi Neal Turk, Rabbi Menachem Penner, Dr. Lawrence Siegel, Dr. Arlene Steinberg, Dr. Roz Sherman, Mrs. Laura Turk, Dr. Atara Berliner. Seated, graduates of the program, left to right: Yitz Richmond, Zachary Schwartz, Aviyam Levinson, David Strauss, Dan Cohen, Jacob Bernstein. Not pictured: Jeremy Bresler, Israel Apfel

The 18-month program, which combines the mental health expertise and resources of the Ferkauf school with the experience and spiritual guidance of the RIETS faculty, provides in-depth training in mental health counseling that is an increasingly important component of modern rabbinic responsibilities. Students take six graduate-level courses designed especially to address the unique challenges faced by communal leaders, including two foundational pastoral psychology courses which are required within their first two years of semicha studies, and ultimately receive a certificate in mental health counseling as well as semicha. The coursework can also be applied to a master’s degree in mental health counseling with an emphasis in pastoral psychology at Ferkauf.

At a ceremony on the Wilf Campus at the end of June, eight semicha students received their certificates of completion as the deans of RIETS and Ferkauf and the faculty of the program applauded.

“The RIETS/Ferkauf program for a certificate in mental health counseling will be transformative for the Orthodox rabbinate,” said Rabbi Neal Turk, director of the mental health counseling program at RIETS. “The students in this program are gaining a broader and deeper understanding of psychological issues which will make them rabbis better equipped to counsel people who are going through all kinds of life crises. The counseling aspect of rabbinic work has become an essential component of what a rabbi does. The students have invested time and effort which will make them better rabbis and pastoral counselors.”

“It was a gratifying experience to celebrate the first group of RIETS semicha students who completed the 18-credit mental health counseling coursework provided by the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at YU,” said Dr. Lawrence Siegel, dean of Ferkauf. “The rabbis who complete this special training acquire the skills to permit them to be more effective in serving the communities with whom they work.”

“The RIETS-Ferkauf Program brings rabbinic pastoral training to a completely new level,” added Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS. “The participants have skills and understanding heretofore unseen in young rabbinic graduates.”

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