Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hasidic Rabbinical college celebrates 40 years in Morris County 

Over the past 40 years at its tree-lined 82-acre campus in Morris County, the Rabbinical College of America has educated thousands of people from all over the world in the principles of the Lubavitch sect of Judaism.

This has led to far-flung graduates, now rabbis, teachers and community leaders, despite their distance from New Jersey, to know a lot about Morristown.

"If you say Morristown, then everyone knows the Rabbinical College," said Rabbi Mendel Solomon, the assistant to the dean of the 500-student school.

This year, the college, which urges graduates to help bolster the spiritual lives of other Jews, is celebrating the 40th anniversary at the campus, which actually lies in Morris Township.

This past Sunday, the college welcomed Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States and an alumnus of the school, for a dinner in Newark. It was held just minutes from the single-family home that served as the school’s first location when it was founded in 1956.

The school moved from the Newark site in 1971 to the larger and more serene Morris County location, partly to make way for continued growth of the student body, Solomon said.

The woody, secluded campus has garden apartments for married couples enrolled in classes, and expanded upon the original multi-story building, which once was a residence for an order of nuns.

While many sects of Orthodox Judaism focus their spiritual practice on a circle of followers, the Lubavitch sect encourages members to set up houses of worship, called chabad houses, throughout the world, Solomon said. The houses are meant as a religious resource for the Jewish community, whether it be in Shanghai or Short Hills.

Alumni work as rabbis and teachers in chabads on six continents.

"We are preparing the leadership around the world," said the school’s dean over the last 40 years, Rabbi Moshe Herson. "We are preparing the captains and officers."

The school currently has about 500 students, 200 of whom are in the K-8 school on the campus.

The heart of the college’s education is directed towards 300 students, from 14 countries and 24 states, ages 16 and up.

About 60 are seeking training to be ordained as rabbis, while others are in programs that study the Talmud, or a range of topics like Jewish philosophy and history, Herson said.

Herson noted that many of the students come to study while on sabbatical from other educational institutions, largely with a desire to improve their knowledge of Judaism.

"They come here to find themselves," Herson said, "not necessarily to find another degree."


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