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Advancing the Effectiveness of Pastoral Counseling


pastoral counseling ferkauf riets (l-r): Rabbi Neal Turk, Rabbi Avi Weschler and Rabbi Menachem Penner at the Advanced Certificate in Pastoral Counseling Graduation Ceremony on June 26, 2022


This past February, Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) announced that its joint Advanced Certificate in Pastoral Counseling program for rabbis in-training had been officially registered with the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

On Sunday, June 26, 2022, in Glueck 23 on the Wilf Campus, seven students were the first cohort to graduate with the newly approved certificate: Jeremy Borgen, Elliot Fuchs, Noah Marlowe, Joseph Naor, Ezra Teichman, Andrew Weschler and Benjamin Birlkland. They also represent the sixth group receiving this specialized training, according to Rabbi Neil Turk, Mashgiach [religious advisor] of the semikha [rabbinic ordination] program and director of the joint program since its inception in 2016.

A joint venture of RIETS and Ferkauf, the counseling program prepares young men entering the rabbinate or pursuing careers in Jewish education to have a broader and deeper understanding of the psychological and emotional needs of their prospective congregants and students. The graduate-level courses are taught by Ferkauf-approved instructors. As Orthodox Jewish clinicians, these instructors have a first-hand understanding of the clinical and cultural issues the graduates will have to address in their various work environments. The 18-credit program takes 18 months to complete, and the credits earned through the certificate can be applied to an appropriate master’s or doctoral program.

“We have seen the benefits of this program from the previous five cycles of graduates,” said Rabbi Turk, “as they enter the rabbinate and Jewish education better equipped to recognize and assist with emotional and psychological issues in the community.”

The event featured a light brunch followed by remarks from guest speaker Rabbi Yosef Adler, Rosh Yeshiva of the Torah Academy of Bergen County and a graduate of both RIETS and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and from the students themselves as they received their certificates.

“We are immensely proud of our latest group of graduates from our Advanced Certificate in Pastoral Counseling program,” said Dr. Leslie Halpern, dean of Ferkauf. “This program equips them with the practical knowledge that can help them support people experiencing a wide range of life challenges and strengthens their ability to assist people and guide them to the best resources available.”

“This program produces rabbinic professionals at a level never seen before, and the community will certainly benefit for many years to come,” noted Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS.