Hebrew Theological College believes it has an answer—and used it as the theme (“HTC Invigorated”) for the upcoming 96th anniversary dinner, taking place November 27 at the Westin O’Hare, which will honor Robert W. and Lee Matanky with its Distinguished Leadership Award; Roz and Renan Sugarman with its Distinguished Service Award; and Dr. Shmuel and Chana Goldstein with its Distinguished Parents Award.
Even as it speaks of change, tradition remains the bedrock of the organization. HTC still offers its core Yeshiva experience: Fasman Yeshiva High School, the HTC Men’s College, Blitstein Institute for Women, and Yeshivas HaKayitz summer camp. All these balance thoughtful educational programming with a commitment to Torah and learning.
But it’s not just business as usual at HTC. Case in point: HTC’s new “Flex” Program welcomes young men who still want to be in a yeshiva environment but aren’t able to commit to a morning and afternoon learning program. These students attend evening college classes at HTC and attend night seder.
“This program is indicative of how we’re re-imagining every aspect of Hebrew Theological College while remaining true to the Yeshiva experience,” says Rabbi Shmuel Schuman, CEO of HTC. “We have come to understand that old models need to be redefined for the modern era, while new models also need exploration. That’s what we mean by ‘HTC invigorated’—reimagining our programs, our messaging, our leadership model, and our facilities.”
The Beis Medrash has also bolstered itself with the addition of dynamic rabbeim. Rabbi Moshe Revah joined in the fall as a new maggid shiur, while Rabbi Yaakov Robinson joined as a part-time machshava rebbe. And of course, the Yeshiva’s kollel, led by Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Avraham Friedman, continues to maintain a strong kol Torah throughout the beis medrash.
Personnel and leadership have also been invigorated, starting with Rabbi Schuman’s assuming the helm as CEO in 2013. This was soon followed by HTC’s partnership with Touro College and University System in 2015, a move which both shored up HTC’s resources and also helped lay the foundation for a dramatically improved infrastructure. HTC appointed Rabbi Dr. Zev Eleff Chief Academic Officer. Dr. Eleff has increased the academic rigor and created new programs at HTC, important developments that helped HTC renew its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.
Similarly, Blitstein Institute is also under new leadership. In 2017, Dr. Chani Tessler became Dean and remains driven to ensure that the school’s outstanding education no longer remains a well-kept secret.
“People drive by our West Rogers Park campus every day and have no idea that we have state-of-the-art science labs here, or modern learning taking place using the latest technology,” she says. “Our goal is to become the destination of choice for Jewish girls who want to stay home in Chicago or out-of-towners who prefer the warm intimacy of the Midwest.”
This past fall, HTC hired Rabbi Dovid Kupchik, a musmach of YU and RIETS, as principal of Fasman Yeshiva High School. Previously the principal of HAFTR Lower and Middle Schools in the Five Towns area, Rabbi Kupchik has brought a renewed energy and excitement along with a very student-centric focus with him to the high school. Among the notable changes he’s already made: adding an Israel Advocacy Club; adding the “Names Not Numbers” Holocaust education program; and improving the ruach and achdus throughout the school, with programs such as the school-wide kumzits to conclude the first week of school.
“Fasman Yeshiva is the premiere model for what an inclusive yeshiva should look like,” says Rabbi Kupchik. “We proudly serve students from all sides of the Orthodox spectrum. Our challenge is to do so in a way that meets the needs of the modern student, which is not the same as it might have been 20, 10, or maybe even five years ago.”
HTC has also positioned itself for future growth with the 2018 purchase of the old ORT building on Fargo Avenue in Skokie. Current plans call for this facility to be used for both HTC men’s college programs and Touro University Illinois graduate programs to be offered jointly with HTC.
Additionally, HTC rounded out its management team with the hiring of Heather Warechowicz, its first official HR director, and Sid Singer as Vice President/Chief Operating Officer.
“Each of these developments, together with Touro’s guidance and support, JUF’s support, and the passionate engagement of a devoted and experienced lay leadership team, has contributed to a stronger HTC,” says Schuman.
“We won’t go so far as to say ‘This is not your father’s HTC’ since many of our current students’ fathers did, in fact, go to school here,” Schuman, himself a Fasman Yeshiva graduate in 1985, says wryly. “But we will say this: It has been invigorated. And there’s more to come.”