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Orthodox Judaism: Hebrew Theological College

HEBREW THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE (Beis HaMidrash LaTorah), Orthodox rabbinical school and institute of higher Jewish education; founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1922, by Rabbis Saul Silber, Ephraim Epstein, Abraham Cardon, and Chaim Zvi Rubinstein. It was an outgrowth of the Hebrew high school, Yeshiva Etz Chaim, organized in 1899 and was the first Orthodox rabbinical institution in America to require courses in Bible, Jewish philosophy, and history, etc., in addition to Talmud and Codes. In 1970, about half of those ordained at the Hebrew Theological College were in the practicing rabbinate. Others served as teachers in yeshivot and religious high schools. Requirements for admission to the rabbinical school include a college degree and extensive preparation in Talmud and related Jewish subjects. Graduates receive a Bachelor's degree, as well as rabbinical ordination. Among its non-talmudic faculty was Eliezer Berkovits, professor of Jewish Philosophy. Its first president was Rabbi Saul Silber. In 1966 Simon Kramer, who was then president, brought Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik to serve as rosh ha-yeshivah. The rabbinical program was extended from two to three years and the course of talmudic study somewhat reorganized.

As of the 1990s the Hebrew Theological College has seen significant growth and development under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Morgenstern, rosh ha-yeshivah, and Rabbi Dr. Jerold Isenberg, chancellor. As of 2005 the yeshivah had ordained 391 rabbis. The 17 members of the Sam & Nina Bellows Kollel pursue advanced Torah learning, while serving as study partners (ḥavrutot) and role models to younger students.

Since 1997 the college has been affiliated with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges as an accredited institution. Hebrew Theological College houses two main collegiate divisions on separate campuses: the Beis Midrash (for men) and the Blitstein Institute (for women) with a combined enrollment of 214. Graduates receive a B.A. degree through its department of Talmud and Rabbinics (men only), the Bressler School of Advanced Hebrew Studies, and the Kanter School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Additional majors are offered in: Accounting, Business, Computer and Information Sciences, Education (both Elementary Education and Special Education are recognized Illinois State Certification programs), English, and Psychology. An expanded science curriculum prepares students for graduate and professional studies in allied health sciences. Students enrolled in the college have the option of participating in a year abroad in Israel through HTC's Israel Experience Program. Hebrew Theological College also supports an Adult Degree Completion Program that provides accelerated degree programs.

The college's Saul Silber Memorial Library is the largest rabbinic library in the Midwest with over 75,000 books and manuscripts. The library's Lazar Holocaust Memorial Wing has significant holdings in Holocaust studies. The college regularly publishes several publications including the Or Shmuel Torah Journal, and the HTC Academic Journal.

Other programs of the college include a preparatory division, the Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman Yeshiva High School for young men, whose 2005 enrollment was 173 and two summer camps: Yeshivas HaKayitz, a residential summer camp for boys in grades 7–12 and Midreshet HaKayitz, a program for girls in grades 9–12. The Community Services division provides annual lectures on campus as well as variety of classes throughout the community including the Chicago Jewish Medical Forum and an annual Medical Ethics Yarchei Kallah. A vibrant alumni association serves the institution's alumni throughout the year.

HTC's 10-acre Skokie campus, constructed in the late 1950s, includes a spacious Beis Midrash, modern classrooms and computer and science laboratories for both the college and high school programs. The campus also houses libraries, dormitory facilities, auditoriums, dining halls, apartments for faculty and married students, computer centers, fitness center, and Memorial Hall. The new, separate Chicago campus for the Anne M. Blitstein Teachers Institute for Women consists of classrooms, computer and science laboratories, library facilities, a student lounge, offices and student residences.

Hebrew Theological College's annual budget for 2004 was $6,000,000.


Sources:The Hebrew Theological College Dedication Journal (1939); Hebrew Theological College, Select Research and Publication Activities of the Faculty (1963).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.