Touro University Illinois/HTC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, dedicating the Rabbi Fabian and Ruth Schonfeld Campus in Skokie, Illinois. More than 200 people attended, including Rabbi Shabsai and Debby Wolfe, who dedicated the campus, Rabbi Yoel and Rebbetzin Peri Schonfeld, Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish, Hebrew Theological College (HTC) CEO Rabbi Shmuel Leib Schuman, and Touro University Illinois Associate Provost, Dr. Chani Tessler. The campus is set to be used as both a yeshivah and a science and research facility.
On a walkthrough, one would find the front portion of the premises dedicated to physician assistant education, while entering from the opposite end would open to an expansive beis midrash imbued with a signature kol Torah, a separate shul, and dedicated classrooms for limudei kodesh courses.
Dr. Kadish, himself a former Chicago resident, shared his excitement about the launch of the new Touro school and campus. “We are thrilled to dedicate our newest Touro campus offering top quality graduate programs in high-demand fields.”
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, remarked, “This division of Skokie Yeshivah and Touro University is what my parents strove for, ‘Torah im derech eretz,’ the coexistence of Torah study and secular disciplines,” truly befitting for the new educational facility to bear their names.
For over a century, Hebrew Theological College has produced graduates and Torah scholars who influence their communities. Their hanhalah strives to better the world around us through stellar educational divisions and community services. Established in 1921 under a Modern Orthodox banner, HTC boasts an eight-to-one student-to-faculty ratio that now includes students from chareidi and chasidish backgrounds, and offers over a dozen academic paths.
Known colloquially as Skokie Yeshivah, the institution is a long-standing mekom Torah in Illinois. With a primary focus on limudei kodesh and Jewish tradition, HTC is proud of its private university, a division of Touro University, with separate programs for men and women. Their divisions include Beis Midrash & Men’s College, an accredited BA program for men with core curricula in advanced Judaic studies, offering six major areas of study; Sarah Hartman Women’s College, the only Orthodox Jewish women’s college between the coasts, offering an accredited BA program for women with 12 major areas of study; Fasman Yeshiva High School, a boys’ high school boasting intensive Judaic and general studies for college preparation and success, and Yeshivas HaKayitz, an unforgettable overnight Summer program that combines camp activities, sports, and exciting daily adventures.
Launched first as Beis HaMidrash L’Rabanim in 1919 with ten students, HTC/Beis HaMidrash LaTorah was founded by Chaim Tzvi Rubinstein and Saul Silber in October 1921, on Chicago’s West Side, and chartered by the State of Illinois as a degree-granting institution of higher education. Rubinstein, an alumnus of Volozhin Yeshiva, had arrived in the United States in 1917; Silber, a pulpit rabbi in Chicago, served as president of the school for its first 25 years. They were followed by Oscar Z. Fasman, Simon G. Kramer, and Irving J. Rosenbaum. Under Kramer’s stewardship, HTC reached its highest enrollment with approximately 300 students in the high school and 200 in the college. Don Well was president from 1981 to 1989, followed by Jerold Isenberg (from 1989 to 2013), until Schuman became interim CEO in 2013.
In 1924, HTC established the Teachers Institute for Women to provide women with opportunities for advanced Jewish studies and to prepare those seeking careers in Jewish education. From 1922 until 1946, the school was led by the esteemed Rabbi Saul Silber, with the major goal of training Orthodox rabbis to meet the needs of the American Jewish community while, revolutionary for those times, requiring a baccalaureate degree of all students before ordination. The continuing growth of the college and the population shift eventually made it necessary to relocate from 3448 West Douglas Boulevard in the North Lawndale community, and in 1958 HTC moved to its current location in the northern suburb of Skokie.
The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established in 1959 and was later renamed by William and LiIlian Kanter. In the 1970s, the School of Advanced Hebrew Studies was endowed by Max Bressler. Meanwhile, the Teachers Institute for Women became the Rose Cohen Women’s College, also in 1959. In the early 1960s, under the direction of President Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman, HTC formally opened a yeshivah high school to serve Chicago-area students as well as boys from around the country. The high school was subsequently renamed after Rabbi Fasman in 1981. In 1976, the women’s teacher’s institute was endowed and named the Anne M. Blitstein Teachers Institute for Women.
By the late 1980s, HTC made a concerted commitment to establishing a full range of course offerings leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Judaic Studies for both men and women at their respective campuses. Additional teacher certifications were offered, and additional majors were introduced gradually during the 1990s. By 1994, with the women’s division having grown from a part-time evening program to a full-time all-day seminary/college program, HTC established a second campus in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood, including student residence facilities. In Fall 2005, the baccalaureate degree was renamed the Bachelor of Arts Degree. HTC became accredited by the North Central Association, Higher Learning Commission, as a candidate in 1995 and fully accredited in 1997. In 2015, HTC formally joined Touro University, connecting its students to a system with 19,000 students spanning 30 undergraduate and graduate schools across four countries. The move also provided funding and institutional support in areas including finance, HR, operations, legal, Web development, and marketing. The university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Touro University Illinois offers graduate-level programs in Cybersecurity and Data Analytics for Healthcare as well as Physician Assistant (PA) and Family Nurse Practitioner. PA students came out to celebrate the momentous occasion, joining Touro deans from around the globe and local community leaders.
Local Chicago officials in attendance included Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, CEO and President of the Skokie Chamber of Commerce Howard Meyer, and State Representative Kevin Olickal, among others.
During the invocation, Rabbi Schuman declared, “The education on this campus should achieve the mission of Touro/HTC and the focus of Rabbi Schonfeld to accomplish great things for the Jewish community and society at large.”
In addition to academia, it is important to note HTC’s long-standing philosophy of community service, engaging students and alumni to meet the needs of the local and global community. Collaborating with community partners, HTC provides an array of religious, communal, and social services, while providing students with hands-on learning opportunities, including Rabbi William Z. and Eda Bess Novick z”l Bigdei Yisrael program that collects more than seven tons of clothing for families in need in Israel, distributing nearly 100,000 pounds over the past 13 years, the weekly divrei Torah publication Likutei Peshatim, memorial, yahrzeit, and kaddish services, mishloach manos given to over 3,000, daily minyanim, and enriching Torah lectures that uplift the spiritual growth in the neighboring community, including the Thursday Gourmet Torah Lunch-and-Learn at Shallots Bistro.
Biblical Scholar Badges & Micro-Credentials offers learners a Biblical Studies badge for completing a one-credit course focused on the analytical study and traditional interpretation of the Hebrew Biblical text. Completion of six badges leads to a micro-credential. Monthly, Sarah Hartman Women’s College hosts the Samuel T. and Sarah W. Cohen High Tea and Torah Lecture series; and annually, the Bariff Yom Iyun Series for Women occurs, leading up to the Yamim Nora’im.
The Beis Midrash & College Program offers three daily tracked learning sedarim in an intensive, yet wholesome yeshivah environment with customized programs to earn a BA at a pace best suited for a student’s needs, including the Yeshiva Honors Program, intended for gifted, self-motivated students, and Rabbi Chaim Twerski’s Yoreh Yoreh Semicha Program. The members of the Hebrew Theological College’s Samuel and Nina Bellows Kollel are involved in a myriad of activities in and around the yeshivah. Rebbeim include Rosh HaYeshivah Emeritus Rabbi Avraham Friedman, Rabbi Yaakov Sussman, Rabbi Zvi Zimmerman, Rabbi Chaim Twerski, Rabbi Shmuel L. Schuman, and Rabbi Moshe Revah.
Rabbi Nissan Yablonsky, an alumnus of Slabodka, served as the first rosh yeshivah for the first few years, followed by Rabbi Chaim Korb, and later Rabbi Chaim Zimmerman, from 1947 to 1966, when Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik became rosh yeshivah until founding Yeshivas Brisk in Chicago in 1974. In 1985, Shlomo Morgenstern, an alumnus of Hebron Yeshivah, became Rosh HaYeshivah, serving in that position for 22 years. On January 27, 2008, Rabbi Avraham Friedman assumed the helm.
Over the years, roshei yeshivah have included Rabbis Yosef Babad, Nachman Barr, Avrahom Yitzchok Cordon, Eliezer Y. Gottleib, Yaakov Greenberg, Moshe Hershler, Dovid Kaganoff, Hirsch Isenberg, Herzel Kaplan, Yisrael Mendel Kaplan, Chaim Kreiswirth, Yosef Leff, Yechezkel Lichtman, Dovid Lifshitz, Chaim Mednick, Elazar Muskin, Chaim Dovid Regensberg, Mordechai Rogow, Chaim Zvi Rubenstein, Nachum Sachs, Yitzchak Sender, Zelig Starr, Zvi Teller, and Moshe Wernick. Also, notable members were Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, chairman of the department of Jewish philosophy from 1958 until 1967, and the highly-regarded Rav Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe and Chaver Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in America.
By QJL Staff