History of Hebrew Theological College

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HTC West Side Campus

In 1919 a group of rabbis met to evaluate the priorities of higher Jewish education in Chicago.  The Beis HaMidrash LeRabanim was founded at this meeting, with ten students. On October 15, 1921, the name of the school was officially changed to Hebrew Theological College ‑ Beis HaMidrash LaTorah, and chartered by the State of Illinois as a degree granting institution of higher education.

 The school was established on the West Side of Chicago and a building was erected to accommodate the growing student body.  Shortly thereafter, the Teachers Institute for Women was established as a division of Hebrew Theological College to provide women with opportunities for advanced Jewish studies and to prepare those seeking careers in Jewish education. In 1976, the women's division was endowed and named the Anne M. Blitstein Teachers Institute for Women.  

From 1922 until 1946, Hebrew Theological College was led by the esteemed Rabbi Saul Silber.  One of Rabbi Silber's major goals was the training of 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 made it necessary to relocate.  In 1958, a new classroom and administration building was completed in suburban Skokie and operations in the new location began at once.  The Synagogue Building was completed shortly thereafter. The growth of the women's division from a part-time evening program to a full-time all-day seminary/college program necessitated the acquisition of a second campus in 1994, including classrooms, computer labs, library facilities, faculty and administration offices as well as student residence facilities.

The School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, later renamed in memory of William and LiIlian  Kanter, was established in 1959, to further promote the goal of encouraging each student to pursue general knowledge while providing the best Judaic Studies program possible. By the late-1980's 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. In addition to the Hebrew Teacher Certification, the Department of Education developed a program leading to State of Illinois Certification in either Elementary or Special Education.  Additional options for additional majors were introduced gradually during the 1990’s.  Today the additional majors offered are Accounting, Business, Computer and Information Sciences, Education, English and Psychology.  Recently, the Kanter School of Liberal Arts and Sciences has introduced a variety of courses preparing students for graduate and professional studies in allied health sciences.  In Fall, 2005, the baccalaureate degree was renamed the Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Since 1921, Hebrew Theological College has ordained hundreds of rabbis who have served as rabbis, chaplains and educators in the United States, Canada, Israel, and throughout the world. The thousands of alumni who have studied at HTC have made an indelible impression, as lay or professional leaders, on the world Jewish community. Hebrew Theological College is a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.