Jewish Theological Seminary to Train Rabbis in Psychiatry

The Jewish Theological Seminary of America announced here today the launching of a Department of Psychiatry “to acquaint future rabbis with certain problems of the individual and the community as viewed by modern psychiatry.”

Dr. Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of the Seminary, at a press conference said that the first course in the newly created department will be taught by five leading New York psychoanalysts. Fifteen sessions, for senior students in the Seminary’s Rabbinical School, will, according to the psychiatrists, “help make the modern rabbi aware of the psychological needs of his congregants, and especially of young people.”

In a joint statement, the psychoanalysts said that the ability to distinguish “between normal temporary emotional stress and mental illness is essential to the young rabbi. With this new insight, he can offer the solace and reassurance of religious observance and ritual to the many who seek it and confidently advise to the few, the psychiatric help they need.

Stress was placed on the fact that the “rabbi should not underestimate the power of religious belief and observance to stabilize and regulate the psychic life, nor overestimate his specific role in the area.” The doctors pointed out that the course is “not intended to equip the rabbis for the practice of psychotherapy” but to be “better prepared to handle many human problems and situations.”

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