Trying to Keep Divinity ...
Depending on the day at her Methodist seminary, Jennifer Wilsford wants to be either a parish minister or a professor. Her seminary, for its part, has tweaked its curriculum, brings in speakers and tries to hold her hand through the logistics of ordination — all designed to nudge Ms. Wilsford and other seminarians toward the pulpit.
Jason Miller entered the rabbinic seminary with the notion that he wanted to graduate to a pulpit job, but leading a congregation out of school was daunting. He said that to help him prepare for the calling — and not be tempted to leave it before he graduated — he became “the guinea pig” in a new program, attending classes in one state, living and working as an assistant rabbi in another and serving as the primary rabbi in a third.
[...] As a board member for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and traveling to smaller Jewish communities around the world, Ned Gladstein saw the result of the waning popularity of pulpit work — smaller or emerging congregations can be left struggling for rabbis.
Mr. Gladstein, president of Sunrise ShopRite Inc., which runs grocery stores, donated the money to establish a scholarship for an internship program structured to guide a seminarian through the process of learning how to serve a synagogue. This is done by serving in two simultaneously. While going to school, the student serves as the assistant rabbi at a large established synagogue and lives in that community; using what he learns there as a knowledge base and the head rabbi as a mentor, he travels for holidays and regular Shabbats to a synagogue that is smaller and newer.
Rabbi Miller did not go into the rabbinate immediately after completing the program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He took a position at Hillel at the University of Michigan instead. (The program has since been changed to give incentive to the graduate to take a post with a smaller synagogue.)
But now he is a rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus, Ohio, and Rabbi Miller said that his experience was a lasting influence on his eventual arrival at the pulpit. It taught him, he said, to try his varied activities “in baby steps, I know I can’t do everything at once” in a way that a less-rounded program might not have.