Hebrew College says it has deal to absolve school’s debt

The Hebrew College in Boston has freed itself from a $32.1 million debt that threatened its existence, according to a letter from the college’s president.

Rabbi Daniel Lehman sent out a letter to his board members Nov. 18, telling them that the college has struck a deal with its creditor to eliminate its $32.1 million debt obligation.

As part of the agreement, Hebrew College is obligated to put up for sale its building, and the proceeds of any sale would go to its creditor.

“Together with the nearly 50% reduction in operating expenses over the past three years, as well as changes in management and board composition, the planned resolution of our debt will pave the way for sustainable, responsible growth in the years ahead,” Lehman wrote. “We are grateful for our creditor’s willingness to work with us to reach this outcome.”

Here is the letter from Lehman:

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The upcoming holiday of Hanukah celebrates the power of faith and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. With persistent effort and a profound dedication to our sacred mission, Hebrew College has successfully emerged from a period of financial uncertainty and can now look toward realizing our vision for the future with great hope and confidence.

We are grateful for the remarkable dedication, passion and support of our donors, Board, faculty, staff and students over these many months. Your extraordinary efforts have enabled Hebrew College to make significant strides this year. And now, we have reached an important milestone to ensure a firm foundation for our future: a signed agreement with our creditor to eliminate our $32.1 million debt obligation. This is a tremendous accomplishment of which we can all be proud while also mindful that much work lies ahead.

Together with the nearly 50% reduction in operating expenses over the past three years, as well as changes in management and board composition, the planned resolution of our debt will pave the way for sustainable, responsible growth in the years ahead.  We are grateful for our creditor’s willingness to work with us to reach this outcome.

While this agreed-upon resolution of our debt will free us to pursue a bright future, it will come with some significant change. Our agreement requires us to market our building for sale and use the proceeds of the sale to repay our debt.  Many people donated generously to bring the dream of a new building in Newton Centre to fruition. Hebrew College is deeply appreciative of their support and acknowledges the sense of loss we all feel. 

We strongly believe that Hebrew College’s mission reaches well beyond the four walls of a building. We are a community of learners who will continue to be nourished by the study of Hebrew language, Jewish texts and the great cultural achievements of the Jewish people. Currently, more than 1,400 people, including those in youth and adult programs, graduate programs in Jewish studies, education and communal leadership, here and around the world, come to Hebrew College to explore the complexity and richness of Jewish civilization.

We have also continued to expand and enrich our programming, including:  

  • Enhancing our leadership in high school programming, and establishing the Makor middle school program in partnership with local congregations; 
  • Increasing the impact of the Rabbinical School and the School of Jewish Music by successfully placing graduates in a wide range of important leadership positions;
  • Building partnerships to train Jewish educators, including our innovative programs in Jewish special education; Attracting new audiences for our Me’ah and Ikkarim adult education, and launching new programs for young adults and parents of teens; 
  • Expanding our online degree and certificate offerings in Jewish Studies; 
  • Strengthening our relationship with our neighbor Andover Newton Theological School and expanding our interfaith activities.

Hebrew College will remain on the Hill, leasing office, library, study, and classroom space on the Andover Newton Theological School campus; this is a logical extension of our existing administrative and academic synergies with ANTS. We will move in either August of 2011 or August of 2012 depending on the timing of the sale.

Your dedication to our institution has been unwavering and it will carry us through as we chart a new course to further solidify Hebrew College’s position as a nationally recognized leader in pluralistic education for youth, adult learners, and Jewish professionals. 

Shalom u’vracha,
Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann
President

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