In August, Rabbi Jerold Isenberg retired as Chancellor of the Hebrew Theological College (HTC). Here are some excerpts from an interview with this community leader:
On major changes at HTC:
Our Kollel and Beis Midrash program has grown and our Blitstein Institute for Women has flourished, developing into a full college and seminary program. Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission and membership in the North Central Association attests to the high level of academic standards throughout the college. The high school program has been strengthened with the introduction of several initiatives in both Judaic and general studies as well as the extra-curricular experience.
On his career highlights:
I take pride in the many successes that our wonderful staff have been able to achieve together with the guidance and input of our board, faculty, and parents. One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been my connection with students. Watching a student's face light up as he realizes the unique joy of intellectual success is an incomparable feeling for a teacher. On the personal side- participating in the graduation ceremonies when my sons received degrees from HTC's high school, college and rabbinic programs.
On transitioning from student to teacher to administrator:
My father, Rabbi Hirsch Isenberg, of blessed memory, a master pedagogue, was the greatest influence on my life. The many lessons he taught me are the foundation for my teaching methodologies. It took eight years until the last fellow-student who knew me prior to my becoming administrator received rabbinical ordination himself. That moment was unquestionably a highlight for both of us.
On technology in teaching at HTC:
HTC has embraced a variety of technologies and incorporated them into both the educational and administrative aspects of the school. The Internet can be an outstanding source of information for both Judaic and general subjects, yet it can also have a significant negative influence.
On his Masters in mathematics and MBA impacting Talmud study:
The logic of the Talmudic process and math indeed complement each other. My Judaic background, my math background, and my business background each inform distinctive aspects of my life. Some sections of Torah study are easier to understand because of my math background. I always view business decisions, both those discussed in the classroom and those in daily life, from the Torah perspective.
On HTC's relationship with Federation:
HTC and the Jewish Federation have always had a close relationship as long as I can remember. The Federation recognizes Hebrew Theological College as a community-based institution which plays an important role in the ongoing growth of our greater Chicago Jewish community. HTC is extraordinarily grateful for the financial resources and organizational expertise Federation provides to it and to all the beneficiary agencies in the Federation family. I'm confident that the strong relationship will continue and yield even greater successes in the future.
On HTC students' knowledge of the wider Jewish community:
HTC imbues its students with an appreciation for the fact that we are all one people and have a responsibility to help whenever we can. Our students are involved in variety of chesed projects throughout the community and have earned a well-deserved reputation for helpfulness, manners and respect. That is a great source of pride to all of us in the faculty.
On his own studies:
I am on my second round of the Daf Yomi program having made my first siyum on Shas a few years ago. I enjoyed delivering the Patinkin Memorial lecture at HTC a few months ago. My research into the origins, meaning and structure of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel was a very rewarding experience. I am currently preparing for another lecture dealing with the Yeshiva Experience and look forward to additional such opportunities in the future.
On his years at HTC:
I feel blessed to have grown up in an environment which was based on a philosophy designed to provide an excellent general education while maintaining the primary role of Torah in our lives as our moral compass. I had parents who lived it, teachers who modeled it, and I was educated and worked in a school that encourages it. For 36 years, I dedicated my efforts to ensuring that HTC continues to provide that opportunity, allowing its graduates to develop into leaders who live a Torah life as productive members of the wider community. I am certain, that with the help of the Almighty, that legacy will continue.
Hebrew Theological College is a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.