Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Currently located in Riverdale, New York, it seeks to "recruit, professionally train, and place rabbis" who will promote its founder's philosophy. Supporters state that YCT expresses commitment to and observance of Halakha (Jewish law) while maintaining an openness to modern culture, the broader Jewish community, and sensitive approaches to addressing contemporary issues.
YCT's rabbinic education program combines a classic curriculum in Tanakh, Talmud, and the codes of Jewish law with a program in Pastoral counseling, leadership retreats, and education in fund-raising and other realities of contemporary religious leadership.
YCT ordained its first graduating class of rabbis in June 2004 and has continued to do so every June since. Its current Rosh HaYeshiva (head of school) is Rabbi Dov Linzer, a Talmudist and student of Jewish law. Its current president is Rabbi Asher Lopatin.
In addition to its rabbinical studies program, the yeshiva offers a public Jewish educational program, in association with the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, at its Riverdale campus in the Bronx, New York. YCT also runs a variety of events open to the entire Jewish community, including its annual yemei iyun ("study days") on Bible and Jewish Thought and a public lecture series.
In April 2006, YCT applied for accreditation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the major American association of Modern Orthodox rabbis, which would have made YCT graduates eligible for RCA membership. YCT subsequently withdrew their application when it became apparent that the application would be denied.
The origins of Yeshiva Chovevei Torah go back to 1996, when Rabbis Avi Weiss and Saul Berman founded a program known as MeORoT (Modern Orthodox Rabbinic Training) which provided supplemental lectures on issues in Modern Orthodoxy to rabbinical students then enrolled in Yeshiva University. The fellowship at that time was co-sponsored by Yeshiva University, Edah and Weiss's synagogue, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. In the following year, 1997, Weiss added the Torat Miriam Fellowship to the MeORoT program, inviting women involved in Jewish Studies on the graduate level to participate in these lectures.
In September 1999, Weiss and Rabbi Dov Linzer launched Yeshivat Chovevei Torah as an undergraduate learning program primarily for students in Columbia University and Barnard College. The YCT University Program had Rabbi Linzer serving as its Rosh HaYeshiva and was housed at Congregation Ramath Orah, a Modern Orthodox congregation on 110th Street in Manhattan. The faculty consisted of three recent graduates of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) affiliated with Yeshiva University: Rabbi Dov Weiss, who also directed the program, Rabbi Barry Wimpfheimer, and Rabbi Ari Perl.
In January 2000, the leadership of the YCT university program, which consisted of Avi Weiss, Berman, Linzer and Dov Weiss decided to create a rabbinical school which would officially open in September 2000. In September 2000, the rabbinical school welcomed its first class of 7 students.
In January 2004, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah moved from its location in Ramath Orah to the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School on 60th Street and West End Avenue and then to the Kraft Center/Columbia Barnard Hillel on 115th Street in July 2005. After spending five full years at the Columbia Hillel, the school then left Manhattan in the summer of 2010, moving to the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where it is at present.
Controversies over YCT came to a head when in 2006 YCT applied for membership in the Rabbinical Council of America, the rabbinical body affiliated with the Orthodox Union, the largest North American Modern and Centrist Orthodox body. YCT subsequently withdrew their application when it became apparent that the application would be denied.
Having reportedly ordained 27 rabbis as of June 2006, the count nearly doubled by June 2009 to 54, who, not being eligible for RCA membership, can join The Rabbinic Fellowship, an organization co-founded in 2008 by Rabbis Avi Weiss and Marc Angel.
Faculty and administration
According to the YCT website, YCT’s faculty is headed by Rabbi Dov Linzer, the Rosh HaYeshiva. Other faculty members include Rabbi Yaakov Love, Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, and Dr. Michelle Friedman. On 21 October 2007, Linzer was installed as the new dean of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, taking over from Weiss.
Curriculum and pastoral counseling program
Like classical Orthodox Rabbinic ordination programs, YCT’s curriculum has a strong focus on Talmud and Halakha... According to[specify], it has particular emphasis on the areas of Sabbath observance, dietary laws, laws of family life, and mourning. YCT’s curriculum is also supplemented by a strong focus in Bible and Jewish thought. YCT states that the classical approaches to subject matters are complemented with academic and innovative methodologies. Their stated goal is to create knowledgeable, broadminded and critical-thinking Torah scholars, halakhic decisors and spiritual leaders.
One of the more innovative areas of YCT’s curriculum is an unprecedented emphasis on pastoral care and professional development. Whereas it is common in other rabbinical schools to offer a semester or a year of pastoral counseling courses, YCT’s program spans the entire four year curriculum. The pastoral counseling program is taught by leading psychiatric professionals, and includes formal classroom instruction, role-playing, clinical experience and mentored field work. The program places particular emphasis is placed on topics that rabbis regularly encounter: religious doubt and personal change; rites of passage; adolescence; substance abuse; marital and family problems; sexual function and dysfunction; homosexuality; domestic violence; loss, tragedy and bereavement; and response to catastrophe.
The first-year courses are organized around basic principles of counseling. The second-year courses follow the life cycle, giving an overview of normal development as well as addressing potential difficulties. In their third and fourth years, students take seminars in chaplaincy, marital and family therapy, and psychology and religion. Fieldwork with direct clinical supervision is an essential part of the curriculum. In their third and fourth years, students rotate through an intensive chaplaincy program and meet regularly with senior clinicians to discuss pastoral issues that arise during their internships.
One of the other hallmarks of the YCT pastoral counseling program is the introduction of the process group. A common feature of graduate psychology programs, a process group consists of the students from a given class year who meet weekly with a mental health professional throughout the full four years of the program. In this completely confidential setting, students are free to explore issues of faith, authority, training, personal situation, etc.
Student body and recruitment
A 2007 YUcommentator article  reported YCT's enrollment to be 43 full-time students. YCT has attracted students from the following universities and yeshivot: Brandeis University, Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago, Yale, Yeshiva University, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yeshivat Shaalvim, Yeshivat Ohr Somayach and Yeshivat HaKotel.
YCT invests a lot of resources into its recruitment efforts visiting many college campuses, Israeli yeshivot, and sponsoring and annual weekend retreat for prospective students. YCT’s recruitment also includes an intensive advertising and PR campaign.
Yeshiva University's student newspaper, The Commentator, reported that many young men who previously would have considered YU's rabbinical school are now attending YCT.The Commentator reported that this was a result of an "aggressive marketing campaign".
As of June 2009, YCT had reportedly placed 47 Rabbis in rabbinic positions throughout the United States, Canada, Israel and Europe. YCT’s alumni are serving in 21 synagogues, 7 college campuses, 14 day schools in addition to 6 other Jewish communal organizations.
Absorption of EDAH functions
In July 2006, YCT officials announced that they would absorb some of the personnel and functions of the Modern Orthodox advocacy organization EDAH, which had announced its closure and became defunct. YCT also announced its assumption of EDAH's journal, website, and audio-visual library. YCT will absorb EDAH's current director, Rabbi Saul Berman, its journal, website, and audio-visual library. Rabbi Berman joined YCT in the Fall of 2006 as head of a new Rabbinic Enhancement Initiative and is listed in this role on YCT's web site
Role of women in Judaism
Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, like all Orthodox rabbinical schools, accepts only male candidates for ordination. However, YCT, unlike a number of rabbis and institutions within Orthodox Judaism, has expressed an openness to the possibility of expanded roles for women in ritual life. Founder Avi Weiss explained:
"Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, as an Orthodox institution, requires that its students daven only in synagogues with mechitzot [partitions for the separation of men and women]. The phenomenon of women receiving aliyot in a mechitza minyan is currently being debated on both a halachic and communal level within the Modern Orthodox community. YCT Rabbinical School does not currently take a position on this issue." 
Haredi and certain Modern Orthodox groups in the United States have criticized YCT for theological positions they believe are inconsistent with traditional values. The Centrist Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America does not accept the school's ordination as valid for membership.
- YCT Home Page, QUICKLINKS: About YCT, "Mission and Values". Retrieved August 26, 2009.
- Weiss, Avraham, "Open Orthodoxy!" (pdf) Judaism Fall 1997 p. 409
- "eager to transform Orthodoxy into a movement that meaningfully and respectfully interacts with all Jews, regardless of affiliation, commitment, or background." http://www.yctorah.org/content/blogcategory/13/49/, which also notes that "all tuition is waived..."
- "Opening Up Orthodox Judaism" The Jewish Week, December 12, 2007
- "Orthodox Rabbis Eye Liberal Seminary" The Forward April 7, 2006
- Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Website, faculty
- Jan. 22, by Zev Eleff
- "Students Choose Between RIETS and Chovevei Torah", The Commentator, December 31, 2002
- A 2003 article, http://www.forward.com/articles/7445/ in The Forward said they placed "a dozen" graduates as interns
- a 2006 article (http://www.forward.com/articles/1198) says "a number" in pulpit positions, i.e. not merely interns
- "Modern Orthodox Think Tank to Fold, The Jewish Week, June 30, 2006
- R. Saul Berman, "The Emergence, Role, and Closing of Edah." The Jewish Week, July 12, 2006.
- "Gender Taboos Fall at New Orthodox Prayer Services", Forward, September 20, 2002
- "Between A Rav And A Hard Place", The Jewish Week, June 24, 2009.
- Lichter, Yisroel (February 21, 2007), "Yeshivat Chovevei Torah: Is It Orthodox? An Exposé on a Threat to Halachic Judaism", Yated Ne'eman (Monsey, NY): 53–66, retrieved August 18, 2011
Books and journals
- Helfgot, Nathaniel, ed., The Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Tanakh Companion to the Book of Samuel, Ben Yehuda Press, October 2006 ISBN 0-9769862-4-8
- Milin Havivin/Beloved Words – The Torah Journal of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School http://www.yctorah.org/content/blogsection/8/53/