Rabbis learn to Care

June 6, 2011 by Ayal Tusia
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Five of Melbourne’s Orthodox Rabbi’s are currently undertaking a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) training course.

L-R: Rabbi Samuel Altshul, Rabbi Dovid Gutnick, Rabbi Michoel Stern, Rev'd. Marilyn Hope, Rabbi Yosef Nerenberg, Rabbi Boruch Schapiro, Rev. Tom Miller, Rabbi Meir Shlomo Kluwgant.

This course is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, in that it caters exclusively for Orthodox rabbis and is the result of an effective joint partnership between Jewish Care Vic.; The Rabbinical Council of Victoria Inc.; The Alfred Hospital and The Healthcare Chaplaincy Council of Victoria (HCCVI).


Although CPE considers itself non-denominational, it was created by Christian pastoral care educators.   This specially adapted CPE course is presented by Rev’d. Marilyn Hope, an Anglican and Rev. Tom Miller, a Lutheran. The rabbis undertaking the CPE course are Rabbi Yoseph Nerenberg from Jewish Care; Rabbi Michoel Stern from Emmy Monash; Rabbi Dovid Gutnick, Army Chaplain and Rabbi of East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, Rabbi Boruch Shapiro of Russian Chabad House (F.R.E.E); and Rabbi Samuel Altshul of Blake Street Hebrew Congregation.


The course consists of 400 hours of supervised learning, involves a full day weekly for 17 weeks and group work, written assessments, private and group supervision. Objectives are to help students integrate theology, spirituality, ministry and personal identity as well as provide a self-directed learning experience in the ministry. The rabbis will receive their CPE certification at a formal graduation ceremony to be held at Jewish Care in June.


Rabbi Kluwgant says, “One of the portfolios of Jewish Care’s Cultural and Spiritual Centre is to provide pastoral support to individuals and families who are going through difficult times. Unfortunately, formal pastoral training is not part and parcel of the conventional orthodox rabbinic ordination programs. In the contemporary context where many communities are engaging a younger generation of rabbis, the lack of extensive life experience needs to be supplemented so that they are able to provide high level assistance to people at crucial life junctures.

“I had followed the development in USA of structured CPE programs and was amazed to find out how many of my colleagues had actually done the program. In discussion with the local CPE chapter who are providing this kind of training it became evident that such a course could be arranged here in Melbourne. The HCCVI has provided major funding and there were also other funding sources including scholarships from the Alfred and Community CPE Centre. This is a ‘first’ for us here in Australia and I am hoping it will set the path for many more rabbis to train in CPE”.

Both rabbis and CPE supervisors are enjoying the exchange of ideas and approaches to concepts in spiritual care. The helping relationship role that Judaism suggests is that of accompanying or journeying together with an individual.   Rabbi Kluwgant is also currently working with a group of community volunteers who are interested in developing a structured training program for pastoral visits in Melbourne’s hospitals.


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