Hebrew College Centennial
Remember. Renew. Reimagine.
Hebrew College is excited to begin celebrating our 100th year in fall 2021 around the theme “Remember. Renew. Reimagine.” Join us! Throughout the year, we invite you to visit this page often to learn about special events, join our Centennial Lecture Series; read our new historical centennial book Hiddushim; listen to our Centennial season of our Speaking Torah Podcast; read stories; view historical photos, and learn about Hebrew College’s exciting next chapter on a new shared campus in Newton, Mass.
We hope you’ll plan to join us for our year-long centennial events, including our exciting plans for Hebrew College’s next chapter on our new shared campus in Newton (pictured above). Please bookmark and visit our events page for the most up-to-date information on centennial events throughout the academic year. A few highlights include:
- “Seeing Torah” Fall Art Exhibit & Gallery Talks (Sept. 12 – Dec. 10, 2021)
- Centennial Speakers Series (Oct. 21 – May 19, 2022)
- Prozdor Virtual Alumni Reunion (Dec. 2, 2021)
- Groundbreaking for our new shared campus (above) (Dec. 5, 2021)
- A Day of Learning: in-person and online (Winter 2022)
- “Remember, Reimagine, Renew: Hebrew College at 100” Art Exhibit (April 1-June 15, 2022) – Call for entry information: Deadline: Feb. 1, 2022
- Commencement & Ordination (May 29, 2022)
- Spring event celebration (June 2, 2022)
Did you know?
- June 25, 1925, Hebrew Teachers College held its first graduation with speaker Rabbi Stephen S. Wise: 13 students graduated—10 men and 3 women.
- May 17, 1951, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion visited Boston (pictured above) to raise money for Israel Bonds. Before he spoke to a sold-out audience of 18,000 at Boston Garden, he visited Hebrew College to speak to students and faculty. During his speech he said that if he had to select just one place in America to give a speech, he would have chosen Hebrew Teachers College.
- The Hebrew Teachers College building on Crawford Street in Roxbury, Mass. included a gymnasium with showers, locker rooms, a removable stage and seating for 500 for plays, concerts and High Holiday services, as well as a library, a museum that highlighted the flora and fauna of Palestine, and a roof garden for open air concerts.
- In the height of the Depression, Hebrew Teachers College launched a three-year extension course for adults, the precursor to today’s Me’ah adult learning program. It also created the New England Women’s Association of the Hebrew Teachers College in 1932, which raised funds for student scholarships.
- Eisig Silberschlag, who became Hebrew Teachers College’s fourth dean in 1947, was an internationally renowned poet, translator, literary critic, and master of Greek and Latin. Silberschlag’s translation of Aristophanes’ comedic plays into Hebrew won him the Tel Aviv Prize in 1965. He oversaw the College’s move from Crawford Street to Hawes Street in Brookline, Mass.
- The first Dean of Hebrew Teachers College, Dr. Nisson Touroff, was a former editor of Israel’s daily newspaper Ha-aretz, which is still published today.
- Hebrew Teachers College’s second Dean, Dr. Samiel Perlman, was a renowned Hebrew scholar who worked with Vladmir Jabotinsky, a Russian Jewish Revisionist Zionist leader, author, poet, orator, soldier, and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa, on a historical Hebrew atlas, later used in schools throughout the world.
- From its inception, Hebrew Teachers College was open for women and men to study together.
- Hebrew Teachers College presidents were called “Deans”.
- In 1944 during the height of World War II, Hebrew Teachers College founded Camp Yavneh.
- In the 1930s, during World War II Hebrew Teachers College students and alumni wrote letters to the Hebrew College faculty from the front lines. One soldier wrote from Fiji: “My religious activities continue to keep me pleasantly occupied…. A recent project of mine has been to arrange with Shapiro’s Book Store to send the boys who request them (and many do), some gold ‘Mogen Davids’ (religious tokens) which they can attach to their Dog Tag chains.”
- On March 5, 1969, the Hebrew Teachers College Board of Trustees voted to amend Charter of the Corporation to change the school’s name to Hebrew College. On May 9, 1969 the Massachusetts Legislature passed the bill and the governor signed it.
- New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft is a graduate of Prozdor, Hebrew College’s high school program.
- The Hebrew College library has an “incunabulum” manuscript (above, right) printed in the 15th century. (An incunabulum is a book, single sheet, or image that was printed before the year 1501 in Europe and is very rare.) Hebrew College’s incunabulum is part of one of the earliest printed bible commentaries by David Kimhi to the early Prophets, the book of Judges and I & II Samuel, published by Joshua Soncino from 1485 in Soncino, Italy.
- Hebrew College taught English and Jewish culture to Russian immigrants in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
- In the 1990s, Hebrew College briefly had a master’s program that attracted many Japanese students from the Japanese Christian Zionist group Makuya.
- From the 1950s to 1970s there were several Jewish scholars who were launched into their careers by attending Hebrew College. These included Arnold Band, Michael Fishbane, Ben Halpern, Paula Hyman, Anne Lapidus Lerner, Jonathan Sarna, Isadore Twersky, and Ilan Troen—all scholars at the top of their respective fields of Jewish studies and all of whom were pathbreaking in significant ways.
- The Me’ah program began in 1994 and quickly became a centerpiece of the College. It started with two classes and a few years later hundreds of students were enrolling every year.
- Hebrew College’s moved to Newton campus in 2001. The campus was designed by world-famous Israeli architect Moshe Safdie.<
- Hebrew College Rabbinical School founder and Rector Rabbi Arthur Green, started the havurah movement in the 1960s. He founded the Rabbinical School with two central ideas: (1) students would spend time in traditional chevruta (partnership) learning in the beit midrash and (2) students needed to take their own spiritual quest seriously.
- Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld became the first female president of Hebrew College in 2018.
A Special Online Centennial Lecture Series
The Old Made New and the New Made Holy
In honor of our centennial, eight leading Jewish thinkers reflect on the challenge of renewing Judaism for today. Each speaking through the prism of their own life’s work, these faculty members and friends of Hebrew College—from across North America and Israel —will explore the ways in which Judaism has responded and continues to respond to communal and existential challenges. Monthly via Zoom beginning October 21, 2021 from 7-8:30 p.m. EST.
Instructors: Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld (Hebrew College), Rabbi Angela Buchdahl (Central Synagogue, NY), Rabbi David Ellenson (HUC-JIR), Rabbi Arthur Green (Hebrew College), Rabbi Shai Held (Hadar), Rabbi Benay Lappe (SVARA), Rabbi Jennie Rosenn (Dayenu), Jonathan Sarna, PhD (Brandies University)
Pioneering Jewish Studies Historian
Paula Hyman z”l (left with her sisters) was a trail-blazing historian whose scholarship, teaching, and activism, her students say, shaped the academic discipline of Jewish studies. But her own foundation, she always said, came from her time at Hebrew (Teachers) College.Read more
The Enduring Impact of Hebrew College
University of Chicago Professor Michael (Buzzy) Fishbane, PROZ `60, BJE `64 calls himself “one of the old timers,” a Hebrew College student from an earlier era. Fishbane attended Hebrew College Prozdor and Hebrew College’s BJ.Ed program in the 1950s, soon after the College had moved to an elegant classical beaux arts mansion at 43 Hawes Street in Brookline.Read more
“Hebrew College was my second home. My experience there shaped my entire life,” said Dr. Arnold Band `49, who spent every weekday afternoon as a teenager at Hebrew Teachers College in Roxbury, Mass. studying Hebrew language and Jewish studies with close buddies who would become friends for life.Read his story
Finding a Home at Hebrew College
“My comfort zone came at Hebrew College. I was with like-minded people, with similar interests,” said Marsha Lewin. “There was something very safe about Hebrew College, even if you had to go on the MTA to get there.”Read more
Jewish is the Name of My Life
“I have been aware of The Hebrew Teachers College since I was 14. Why would I say that? Because my mother, Sarah Granofsky, volunteered at the College and held many important positions. She loved working for the College.” — Esther Feldberg, now of Palm Beach, FloridaRead more
The Family Rebbetzin
“We called her ‘The Family Rebbetzin’. Not only was she learned, she also instilled values of love of Jewish learning, tikkun olam, and a commitment to Jewish philanthropy in us. And those are values we carry on today. L’dor vador!”
— Bob Sigel, speaking about his mother, Vivien Siegel ` 51
Hiddushim, A Centennial Volume
This special centennial book was commissioned by Hebrew College for its 100th year. Below, read a message from the editors, Rabbi Arthur Green, Dr. Jonathan Sarna and Dr. Michael Fishbane.
It is with a great sense of honor and delight that we present to you this collection of essays by alumni, faculty, and Israeli friends of Hebrew College. The centenary of this venerable institution, a mainstay of the greater Boston Jewish community that has also achieved a national and international reputation, is indeed an occasion for celebration.
As Daniel Judson’s historical survey will show you, both the College and the American Jewish community have been through vast upheavals in the course of these hundred years. The founders of Beyt ha-Midrash Le-Morim in 1922 could not have begun to imagine what Jewish life looks like today. They knew only that they were dedicated to shaping and strengthening the Jewish future in uncertain times, and understood that this needed to begin with Hebrew literacy and a solid foundation in Jewish learning, neither of which was to be taken for granted in the post- immigrant generation. In that sense, it may be said that they and the present leadership of Hebrew College have a great deal in common.
The volume is divided into three sections. The first is devoted to the institution itself: Boston Hebrew Teachers College/Hebrew College. The historical essay is followed by a series of personal memoirs, written by alumni of various years and programs offered by the College. This is followed by the longest section, essays in Jewish thought, literature, and history, by scholars who study a wide range of the Jewish people’s experience and creativity. The essays are arranged in chronological order of the subjects under consideration. The final section is a group of essays in areas of Jewish education, a special focus of this institution throughout its history.
We hope you learn from these essays and enjoy reading them. May they stimulate the ongoing growth of your own Jewish education, a process that continues throughout life and across the generations. May Hebrew College celebrate many more milestones in the years ahead!
“On the Jewish front, we are kind of busy this month. We have resumed a Saturday morning Service (The Torah Reading is… a new job for me) and are preparing for Chanukah. Our monthly Oneg Shabbat promises to be a great success. Our services are gaining popularity and attendance these days. We have reached a fairly good medium for our program, considering that we have no chaplain there. The services are recited at half and half Hebrew and English with a good amount of congregational participation. I relate a few talmudic or other folk tales and present a reading. Then, after the religious service there is an informal discussion (always successful) led by us or a guest chaplain or doctor. Our subject matter varies with the events of the day and the speaker’s specialty. Occasionally (often enough), I conduct one on Zionism, a “Jewish” literature, etc. Of course, our singing is as important as ever and very popular.”
— Letter from unidentified soldier to Hebrew College Registrar, December 6, 1944, excerpted from the Hiddushim essay by Rabbi Dan Judson, Ph.D. entitled “A Home for Jewish Learning in ‘The City on the Hill’: The History of Hebrew College (Hebrew College Archives)
Speaking Torah Podcast Centennial Season
In Hebrew College Speaking Torah podcast, writers, readers, and musicians think creatively about how Torah is relevant to today. Listen to past episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or where ever you listen to podcasts, and watch for new episodes this fall, winter and spring that parallel our centennial theme of “Remember, Renew, Reimagine.”Listen