First mainstream Canadian seminary opens officially


TORONTO (JTA) — The first mainstream Jewish rabbinical seminary in Canada held its official launching.

The Toronto-based Canadian Yeshiva & Rabbinical School inaugurated Sunday is "fully-halakhic yet modern, the home of Classic Judaism," according to its website. "We are, first and foremost, a rabbinical school for Canadians who wish to grow and serve in the community they love."

The yeshiva opened its doors last September with several classes open to the general community. Its seminary is expected to open in September. Sunday’s "inaugural convocation" installed Jerry Grafstein, a former Canadian senator, as the institution’s honorary chair.

Until now, Canadians wanting to be rabbis usually went to New York,  Cincinnati or Israel for training and ordination — and many never returned to Canada. The lack of a seminary has also led to the majority of rabbis in Canada being American.

The school will eschew the traditional Jewish categories of Reform, Conservative or Orthodox and embrace "Classic Judaism."

Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum, president of the yeshiva and rabbinical school, told the National Post newspaper that the definition follows the European Judaism of the 1700s in which denominational differences were absent.

"We don’t think the struggle between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox is a good thing for Jewish life. We believe that it is destructive," he said. "There’s reasons why during the Enlightenment these groups began, but it is important to go back to when Jews were just Jews."

The school will not ordain women, though they will be able to attend and receive a degree in Jewish theology.

The seminary and yeshiva is housed inside a Catholic school of theology, which is part of seven Christian colleges that comprise the Toronto School of Theology.

"I have never heard of a situation like this in the world in which a Jewish seminary is among Christian theological schools and seminaries," Tanenbaum told the Post.

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