Central faculty and administration are always working to expand curriculum offerings – and doing so with an eye toward students’ futures. For this reason, several advanced courses offering college credits have been introduced to the curriculum to put Central graduates ahead as first-year college students. These courses are taught by Yeshiva University professors and are one of the many examples of the strong relationship that exists between YU and YUHSG.

One popular class is Psychology and Torah, taught by psychologist Rabbi Dr. Chesky Gewirtz, Adjunct Clinical Supervisor at Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. In its second year on the roster, the class is seeing full enrollment, and those who pass the course will receive college credit for Psychology 101. “It’s a great opportunity for seniors, because instead of taking an AP exam for credit, this course converts directly to college credit,” said Dr. Gewirtz.

The prospect of college credits isn’t the only draw for Central seniors; the course’s unique curriculum figures into its appeal. “Part of why I think the girls connect to the material is because I try to make it relevant to them, incorporating the course material into everyday life – giving them practical ways to understand themselves and society around them better,” Dr. Gewirtz continued. “We started the semester by discussing that over the past few decades, psychology has become more of a science in which theories are proven or disproven with the use of scientific research methods. For example, psychologists will not prescribe a treatment without backing it up with research.

“Then we discussed the biology behind psychology and human behavior. A major theme we’ve returned to repeatedly is “nature versus nurture” – how we understand human beings while keeping in mind that both genetic backing and environment play a role.” This is one of many topics that have captured student attention. “Psychology and Torah is one of my favorite classes this year,” offered senior Sari Beer. “Even before the class started, I heard so many great things about it from past students. Right now, we are learning about developmental psychology and the psychology of infants and how that experience plays into our psychology as adults.”

Discussions of science are also balanced with discussions of theology. “Another aspect of the class I enjoy is the connection between psychology and Judaism, and how Jewish ideas connect to many psychological ideas,” said senior Leah Kalantarov. “I think that’s a unique perspective on psychology. I’ve really enjoyed the class so far.”

Dr. Gewirtz agreed: “Anyone who studies Torah would be able to find many connections and parallels between what modern psychology has to say, and what the Torah has to say,” he said. “For instance, we had a discussion recently about the Torah’s perspective on educating a child based on the child’s stage and individual needs. We’re seeing how the Torah and wisdoms of the world can combine into one.”

Upcoming student assignments will require students to develop their own ideas for a psychological study, identifying both an independent and a dependent variable to create a study design. Another assignment will require “each student to do her own research using reliable sources to answer a question related to psychology that piques her interest – and to research what the Torah has to say about the topic,” Dr. Gewirtz said.

Central students are meeting these new challenges with enthusiasm: “I can’t wait for all of the new things I will learn in this class!” Sari added.