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American Jewish Educational Institutions –

Rabbi Evan Hoffman


Rabbi, Congregation Anshe Sholom, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Ordination, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

MA, Modern Jewish History, Bernard Revel Graduate School

Rabbinic Editor, Talmud Israeli – Daf Yomi for Us


Author: Parashah Themes in Historical Perspective, Volumes I & II


Episode #1

Q: American Jewish Educational Institutions - INTRO


  • American Jewry late 19th/ Early 20th Century

  • Described as wasteland

  • Wave in 1840’s German

  • 1880’s wave - Eastern European

  • Later major Russian immigration

  • Remnant of older elite Sephardic Jewry

Episode #2

Q: Hebrew Union College – Origins


  • Origins of Hebrew Union College

  • Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise moves to Cincinnati

  • Zion College 1855

  • Maimonides College / Isaac Leeser

  • Wise forms Union of American Hebrew Congregations 1873

  • Non-Kosher Graduation Banquet 1883

Episode #3

Q: Was Hebrew Union College modeled after Geiger Berlin?


  • HUC was not modeled after Geiger Seminary Berlin

  • Over years there was an alignment

  • Similar alignment between JTS NY & JTS Breslau

  • Also between Hildesheimer Berlin & REIITS NY

  • Wise cobbled things together – no precedent

Episode #4

Q: Who were the original HUC Faculty?


  • Challenge to attract top faculty

  • Max Lilienthal joined after escaping Russia

  • Also Talmudist Moses Mileziner

  • Louis Ginzberg was hired but it was rescinded

  • Dispute over Documentary Hypothesis

Episode #5

Q: What are the origins of the Jewish Theological Seminary JTS?


  • Reaction to perceived failures of HUC

  • More traditional alternative on East Coast

  • Dispute between Alexander Kahut and Kaufmann Kohler

  • Founded 1886 in Spanish Portuguese Synagogue

  • Goal to train young men for American rabbinate

Episode #6

Q: What were early years of JTS?


  • By turn of century original founders gone

  • Revitalized by wealthy German Jews

  • Jacob Schiff, Worburgs, Louis Marshall, Sulzberger, Strauss

  • 3 main reasons:

  • Attract new Russian Immigrants

  • Need to have East Coast NY Institution

  • Desire for Scientific Studies

Episode #7

Q: What was Solomon Schechter’s role at JTS?


  • Solomon Schechter came to JTS in early 1990s

  • Reorganization by Cyrus Adler

  • JTS was known as Schechter’s Seminary

  • Successful in bringing top notch faculty

  • Alexander Marks built JTS library

Episode #8

Q: JTS and Conservative Movement- Relationship?


  • JTS starts of officially as non-denominational

  • Trained those who even served as Orthodox Rabbis

  • Joseph Hertz, Herbert Goldstein

  • Schechter & Adler form United Synagogue of America I 1913

  • Becomes United Conservative Synagogues of America

  • Rabbinical Assembly as alumni group formed in 1918

Episode #9

Q:  What are the origins of Yeshiva University?


  • Eitz Chaim founded in 1886

  • RIETS Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary 1896

  • Named after Rav Elchanan Spektor

  • Higher Talmudic Yeshiva Studies

  • Students wanted secular studies

  • Bernard Revel joins in 1915

  • Yeshiva College 1928

Episode #10

Q: How did Yeshiva College commence?


  • Yeshiva College set up in 1928

  • Funds raised – roaring 20’s

  • Campus purchased for $5Million

  • Amsterdam Avenue 185th, 186th

  • Very Wealthy Business People

  • Lampert, Gottesman, Fischel

Episode #11

Q: Why was Yeshiva College created?


  • Ideological reason – Torah & Secular

  • Practical  Reason - convenience

  • Students studying at City College, NYU, Columbia

  • All Christians groups had colleges

  • Intense merger talks with JTS

  • Revel against

  • Issue of Mordecai Kaplan

  • Institutional loyalty

Episode #12

Q:  HUC, JTS, YU – Post WW2


  • HUC faced competition

  • Rabbi Steven Wise forms Jewish Institute of Religion

  • HUC and JIR merge

  • JTS booms 1940s, 1950s

  • Outstanding faculty, Lieberman, Heschel

  • Yeshiva struggles during depression years

  • 1946 earns university status

  • Rabbi Belkin 1943 – 1975

  • Medical & Law Schools opened

Episode #13

Q: What is the future of Jewish Institutions of Higher Learning?


  • Jewish Studies in Universities

  • Versus Jewish Educational Institutions

  • Harry Wolfson – Harvard

  • Salo Baron – Columbia

  • HUC Cincinnati closing

  • JTS new renovation but not a strong

  • Orthodox flourishing

  • Plethora of Yeshivas


Full Interview - Rabbi Evan Hoffman

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