Integrating Spirituality and Higher Education: New Master’s Program Focuses on Jewish Spirituality

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Innovative new master's program that focuses on spirituality in Judaism graduates its first class.

This week, Siegal College, an emerging leader in higher Jewish education, graduated the first class of an innovative master’s degree program focusing on spirituality. The program is the core of the college’s new Ruach: Center for Spirituality and Learning (http://www.siegalcollege.edu/spirituality), another expression of the national movement to infuse higher education with spirituality. According to Dr. David K. Scott, former Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and advisor for the “Spirituality in Higher Education Project” at UCLA, there is “tremendous interest in exploring more integrative approaches to learning . . . At its core this integration is connected with a more spiritual, connected experience.” Ruach is Hebrew for spirit. Siegal College’s non-denominational Ruach programs put the “connected experience” of spirituality front and center while eschewing the dogma associated with the denominational institutions. Rabbi Dr. Yakov Travis, founding director of Ruach, designed the master’s program to integrate the openness and rigor of academia with the warmth and emphasis on spiritual growth of the traditional yeshiva, or rabbinical school.

The Ruach faculty features both academic scholars and spiritual guides from all streams of Judaism. This non-denominational approach is designed to help students find their own path. On this unique fusion of seminary and academy, Travis comments, "This is about the students’ own spiritual journey. How do you study the history of Judaism, particularly the more spiritual bent of Judaism, without opening yourself up and working with the practices and modes of being that the texts talk about?” Embracing a holistic approach, the curriculum addresses not only the students' minds, but their hearts and souls.

The accredited two-year program is comprised of an intensive seminar as well as conventional academic courses at Siegal College, including classes in rabbinic theology and spiritual development. The graduating class gained in depth knowledge of Kabbalah and competency in reading and interpreting Hebrew and Aramaic source texts from the spiritual classics of the Judaic library. Special programs focus on more experiential aspects of Jewish spirituality. Students also completed apprenticeships at local schools where they taught what they are learning. Student Julie Rezmovic explains: “Ruach gave me access to the ideas and values of Judaism’s spiritual heritage and the ability to wrestle with how that relates with my own personal experience.” The graduates will be working for local and national Jewish organizations or continuing their studies. The two-year program begins again this fall and applications are still being accepted.

For more information, visit http://www.siegalcollege.edu/spirituality, call 216-464-4050 Ext. 112 or email spirituality@siegalcollege.edu.

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