Partner Feature

USCJ’s Conservative Yeshiva Gives Students Foundational Jewish Learning Experience

Dr. Josh Kulp

Dr. Joshua Kulp was a 24-year-old studying in Israel when he co-founded Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 1995. At the time, he envisioned a place where people from a variety of Jewish backgrounds had the opportunity to learn sacred Jewish texts at a high level and engage with peers in a supportive, open-minded environment.

Today, Dr. Kulp and the Conservative Yeshiva staff, some of which have been involved for more than 15 years, are more dedicated than ever to enriching young people’s lives and seeing the institute grow to further heights. Students of all ages and Jewish backgrounds (Conservative, Reform, Unaffiliated, Reconstructionist, etc.) come from around the world to study the Bible, Talmud, Tanach, Mishna, Hebrew, Jewish Philosophy and other classical Jewish texts, take part in daily egalitarian prayer and interact with a community full of individuals with similar and different viewpoints.

The institute, located at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism, offers year- and semester-long programs, a six-week summer or two-week winter course, a year-long course for those in the Nativ College Leadership Program and French and Spanish summer programs. “Conservative Yeshiva allows students to not be interrupted with work and other daily life obligations and really focus on Jewish studies and Jewish living,” Dr. Kulp says. “The program gives students a boost that they can take with them through the rest of their lives and allows them to really forge deep relationships with the other students.”

While many of the students are recent college graduates, older generations come during a sabbatical or mid-career break over the summer. “The people who come here choose to come because they want to study and truly learn something—that is very powerful,” Dr. Kulp says. “There are no grades and no tests. The philosophy is that it seems people work best when they are passionate about what they are learning.”

Away from the Beit Midrash (house of study), students are welcomed to choose a volunteer project that benefits the surrounding community, such as assisting the elderly, tutoring children or singing at a Shabbat service. They are also encouraged to share Shabbat meals together and explore the surrounding city.

From 2016 to 2017, student enrollment doubled at Conservative Yeshiva from 30 to 60 students, while the summer program went from 76 to 120 and the winter program from 18 to 30. Part of that was due to the growing number of qualified applicants who were interested in attending and passionate about Jewish learning. Director of North American Engagement Rabbi Andy Katz, whose one of many responsibilities include recruiting and admitting students and was a Conservative Yeshiva student from 1996-1999, says one of the biggest things he looks for in a student is someone who is “excited about developing their skills and prepared to get the most out of the overall experience.”

For Rabbi Katz, the biggest benefit Conservative Yeshiva provides to attendees happens once a student goes back to their community. “By doing a one year deep dive at Conservative Yeshiva, students can reach the height of someone who spent years at a Jewish day school,” Rabbi Katz says. “It’s all material they can put to use immediately and benefit from for the rest of their life. I’ve seen students who return to their synagogue and begin leading services, reading Torah and joining the education committee because they now have a sense of what being an educated Jewish person looks like. It’s truly foundational.”

For more information about Conservative Yeshiva, visit here.

What does a typical day at Conservative Yeshiva look like?

7:45-8:45 a.m. Shacharit (morning prayer) in the Beit Midrash

8:45-9:00 a.m. Breakfast

9-noon Talmud I-IV

noon-1:15 p.m. Lunch

1:15-4:15 p.m. Practical Halakha – Yom Tov and Tefillah

3:15-3:30 p.m. Mincha & Announcements

3:30-6:30 p.m. Chumash, Advanced Midrash and Megilot and the Cycle of the Jewish Calendar

6:30 p.m. Ma’ariv p.m. (evening prayer)

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