Menu JTA Search

Urges Merger of Theological Seminaries to Prevent Duplication, Save Funds

A merger of existing Jewish theological seminaries, representing the same trend of thought, as a means of preventing duplication of work, overcrowding the rabbinical field and saving financial expenditure is urged by Dr. Tobias Schanfarber, Rabbi Emeritus of the K. A. M. Temple of Chicago and prominent in reform circles.

Rabbi Schanfarber suggests that one theological seminary, representing each phase of Jewish thought is sufficient. He calls for the merger of the Jewish Institute of Religion, headed by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and the Hebrew Union College, headed by Dr. Julian Morgenstern, and the Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva of New York and the Theological Seminary in Chicago.

A double expenditure is called for under existing conditions, he says. All this work could have been done under one roof with at least half of the expense saved. In these times of crying financial distress, it is absurd to maintain this duplication of effort.

Rabbi Schanfarber scores the leaders of Hebrew Union College for not inviting the cooperation of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, declaring if such co-operation had been sought, the Institute of Jewish Religion would never have been founded.

The fear was entertained that if he were made a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew Union College, he would be a disturbing element. What of it? Perhaps the Board of Governors needed just such a disturbing force to arouse it to its full duty and to start it out on new lines of creative activity. Certainly the future historian of American Judaism will have to put it down as a tremendous mistake that two theological seminaries having practically the same “Richtung” were operating in this country during the present century when there was absolutely no necessity for more than one.

“What is true of these institutions with reform tendencies is equally true of the Yeshiva of New York and the Theological Seminary in Chicago,” Rabbi Schanfarber asserts. “The one or the other of these two seminaries could easily be dispensed with. Both of these seminaries have been crying for help. Both of them have come before the public and have declared that unless financial help was forthcoming they would have to close their doors.

“One of them certainly ought to close its doors. Why should there be a double expenditure to do the work that one institution is capable of doing?” he asks. “It is a sacrilege to waste the money of the Jews of this country in this way. The Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati and the Jewish Institute of Religion should combine. The Elchanan Spector Yeshiva of New York and the Theological Seminary of Chicago should combine. If these combinations were formed, both institutions would profit. The Jews of the country would not be taxed so heavily for the conduct of their theological seminaries. The country would not be over-run with rabbis. The time has come to make active propaganda along these lines. There is no need for five Jewish theological seminaries in this country. There is need for but one institution for each of the trends in Judaism—one orthodox, one conservative, and one Reform theological seminary in America. An outstanding Jew or outstanding Jews with sufficient courage and fearlessness should come forward and speak the sensible word that would bring about this absolutely necessary and desirable consummation,” Rabbi Schanfarber asserts.

NEXT STORY