One legacy, many voices.

The Academy for Jewish Religion was founded as a rabbinical school in 1956. Initially called The Academy for Liberal Judaism (then later, The Academy for Higher Jewish Learning), it was granted a charter to ordain rabbis and instruct Jewish leaders by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. After renaming once more in 1964, the Academy for Jewish Religion asserted itself as a still, small voice on the rabbinical scene.

From its inception, AJR was inspired by Rabbi Stephen Wise’s vision to educate rabbis and other spiritual leaders for Klal Yisrael—the entire Jewish community. Launched with courage and initiative by Rabbi Louis I. Newman, AJR is indebted to many learned scholars for their superior teaching and extraordinary dedication in forming and sustaining an independent seminary. Rabbis Felix Levy, David Neiman, and Chaim Pearl, along with Professors Cyrus Gordon and Max Kadushin, gave enormous support and enthusiasm during the early years. As Dean, Rabbi Stephen Leon served with distinction and was devoted both to the institution and its students. Rabbis Robert Aronowitz, Michael Gelber, Emily Korzenik, and Albert J. Lowenberg also contributed greatly to the early administration.

AJR experienced a period of growth and development during the 1990s, under the leadership of Rabbi Dr. Shohama Wiener and Rabbi Samuel Barth. This included the addition of a cantorial program led by Cantor Ken Cohen as well as an increase in student population.

In 2001, AJR moved to Riverdale. AJR was now in dedicated space on a campus full of valuable services for students, including computer labs and gym and library facilities, and beautiful possibilities of educational and spiritual interactions with the College of Mount Saint Vincent. The Academy benefitted greatly from the devotion of leaders such as Rabbis David Greenstein and Cherie Koller-Fox, as well as Hazzan Ramon Tasat.

Since 2003, Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, serving in her dual role of Professor of Bible and as Academic Dean and CEO, has been at the help of AJR’s continued success—implementing new and exciting modes of learning for Jewish education. An inspiring teacher and author, Dr. Prouser has made noteworthy contributions toward making the Bible speak to Jewish existential concerns, specifically regarding ethical dilemmas, such as the area of Disability Studies

In 2012, AJR moved to a larger location in Yonkers, New York. This allowed AJR to serve students and the Jewish community in new and exciting ways. Its tailor-made space with better capacity for both classrooms and offices, and which houses the largest Judaica library in Westchester County, is conveniently located within close walking distance to public transportation.

Beginning 2014, AJR introduced a Master of Arts Program in Jewish Studies. All ordination students are now able to earn their M.A. degrees as part of their ordination programs, adding a further academic credential to their already impressive portfolios. This program also trains graduate students who are not interested in ordination in the study of Jewish sacred text and the contemporary Jewish community. It makes it possible for those who want to continue their Jewish study to do so in a pluralistic setting. This adds an important dimension to their education and prepares them to meet many challenges in the Jewish community today.

During the Fall 2017 trimester, AJR introduced our extensive Distance Learning program, opening the doors to individuals who do not live within commuting distance but still desire to become a student at AJR. On-site and Distance students learn together as one community in real time. Utilizing the video conference platform, Zoom, together with our state-of-the-art Hybrid Classrooms—each equipped with professional video and sound systems—students participating online are fully immersed in the on-site classroom experience

In 2018, AJR became an Associate Member of the Association of Theological Schools, an organization that promotes the improvement of theological schools. This relationship has led to connections with many theological schools that have led to interesting interfaith dialogue on the one hand, and administrative improvements on the other.

AJR has taken its place in the Jewish world as a seminary of major significance, preparing individuals to serve the Jewish community as congregational spiritual leaders, chaplains, educators, and administrators in Jewish communal service organizations. AJR alumni serve in Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Orthodox, and unaffiliated congregations and Jewish settings throughout the United States, as well as internationally. AJR’s pluralistic communal life, rigorous training in traditional text, as well as its diverse and all-inclusive faculty, prepares our students to truly meet the spiritual needs of twenty-first century Jews.

AJR is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, and is a registered 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt organization.