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Rabbinic Marriage Counseling Course Goes Online

Marriage Counseling PictureCJF-RIETS Virtual Lecture Series Teaches Rabbis Effective Methods for Addressing Relationship Issues at Every Stage

Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and affiliate Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Rabbinical Theological Seminary (RIETS) has launched a comprehensive “Rabbinic Marriage Counseling” course that aims to develop communal rabbis’ skills and techniques in assisting couples through every stage of relationship—from dating and marriage to crisis, death and divorce.

The first of its kind, this yearlong online lecture series, now four months in, explores the “rabbi’s role” in various situations and how he can effectively collaborate with couples, their families and mental health professionals in formulating and implementing a counseling plan. The course, which boasts 40 participants from across North America and Israel, began on October 15 with an in-depth look at dating.

“While communal rabbis are interested in attending conferences to enhance and inform their rabbinic education, the availability of time and money for such enrichment are real obstacles. This course provides a cost- and time-effective way for rabbis to update their skills in a way that will allow them to serve their constituents better,” said Rabbi Levi Mostofsky, director of RIETS CJF Continuing Rabbinic Education and Support.

“We have been supporting our rabbis in numerous ways for years and there is consistent interest in nuanced instruction from trained professionals. With the launch of our program, rabbis have an open platform to discuss and learn about every aspect of the Jewish marital relationship in real-time from the top experts in the field.”

Prior to the first webinar, each participant received a thorough selection of reference materials, related articles and assignments on the course topics. Altogether, the group will meet “virtually” for 17 lectures and discussions and twice in person for more intensive all-day seminars at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in New York.

In between classes, participants interact with one another via the course’s dedicated online forum and schedule offline conversations with the instructors, leading mental health professionals and authorities in Jewish marital law.

“This course represents a true paradigm shift, both in the ways the topics will be presented and taught as well as the way in which the rabbis will be accessing the information. In addition, by delving into important, but often ignored, topics—such as abuse, blended families, adoption, homosexuality, illness and death—participants will be well-prepared to formulate new approaches to answer their congregants’ most challenging questions and help find real solutions for painful and distressing problems,” said Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar of the CJF.

“Our hope is that this course will cultivate a rabbinic culture that is grounded in confidence, receptiveness to new ideas and a true understanding of the need to become close partners with mental health professionals. It will take these kinds of leaders to keep our Jewish communities emotionally well and spiritually sound.”

“Rabbinic Marriage Counseling,” which was cultivated by CJF Director of Online Rabbinic Programming Rabbi Naphtali Lavenda and Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, a RIETS alumnus and the director of the NJ Center for Anxiety Relief, is the second virtual continuing rabbinic education course organized and run by the CJF in coordination with RIETS. Last year, CJF teamed up with the Israel-based Puah Institute for a yearlong online course on the issues surrounding infertility.