Past Leadership

nisson touroff

Nissan Touroff
Dean, 1921 to 1926

Born in Russia in 1877, Nissan Touroff was a noted Hebrew scholar, educator psychologist and author. He served as a principal and superintendent of Russian Jewish schools during the Czarist regime, helped establish a Jewish public school system in Palestine in 1908 and set up a teachers seminary in Tel Aviv. He immigrated to the United States in 1920 and helped found the Hebrew Teachers College of Boston. Later, he became a professor at the Jewish Institute of Religion and served as its dean for seven years. He also served as professor of education and psychology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem just before World War II. Touroff died in New York City in 1953 at the age of 75.

samuel perlman

Samuel Perlman
Dean, 1926 to 1932

Samuel Perlman was born in Minsk, Belarus, moved as a young adult to Germany, where he earned his doctorate, and later settled in Palestine. A noted editor and translator of works by Heine, Herzl and Strindberg, Perlman was recruited personally by Nissan Touroff, a friend and collaborator, to succeed him as dean. During his time at the college, Perlman was known for his extraordinary command of the Hebrew language, compelling lectures on modern Hebrew literature and love of song. He spent his entire six-year tenure in Boston without his wife and son, who were unable to obtain American visas under the United States' recently enacted anti-immigration laws.

louis hurwich

Louis Hurwich
Dean, 1932 to 1947

Louis Hurwich, who helped found Hebrew Teachers College in 1921, became the institution's third dean after the retirement of Samuel Perlman. He had formerly served as principal of the United Hebrew Schools in Indianapolis and held the position of superintendent of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Boston at the time of his appointment. Hurwich was concerned about Jewish teachers leaving the field of Jewish education for other professions and sought an educational system that promoted Hebrew literacy at all levels. He stepped down as dean in 1947 after suffering a series of illnesses. He died on his 81st birthday, in 1968.

eisig silberschlag

Eisig Silberschlag
Dean/President, 1947 to 1970

Eisig Silberschlag, an eminent Greek scholar and translator of the classics into Hebrew, was considered an authority in the field of Hebrew literary criticism. He joined the faculty of Hebrew College in 1944 and was named dean in 1947. In the late 1960s, his title was changed to president. Silberschlag directed Hebrew College's move, in 1952, from its original home on Crawford Street in Roxbury to 43 Hawes St. in Brookline. Three years later, he oversaw the college's initial accreditation from the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. He died in 1988 in Texas at the age of 85.

eli grad

Eli Grad
President, 1970 to 1986

Eli Grad, a native of Poland, was a well-respected sociologist and educator. Before joining Hebrew College, he served for 20 years as director of education at three different institutions: B'nai Israel School in Washington, D.C., from 1950 to 1955; Shaary Zedek School in Detroit, from 1955 to 1965; and Beth Tzedeh School in Toronto, from 1965 to 1970. He died in 1992 at the age of 64.

samuel schafler

Rabbi Samuel Schafler
President, 1987 to 1991

Samuel Schafler was a New York-born rabbi, historian, editor and Jewish educator. In 1987, he became the first pulpit rabbi to be elected president of Hebrew College, a position he held until his death from cancer in 1991. Prior to his presidency, Schafler served for 11 years as superintendent of the Chicago Board of Jewish Education, where he preached the need for Ahavat Yisrael, love of Jews for one another.

rabbi david gordis

Rabbi David M. Gordis
President, 1993 to 2008

Under the leadership of David M. Gordis, Hebrew College evolved into a nationally recognized leader in transdenominational Jewish education. Gordis oversaw the college's move from Brookline to Newton Centre, created the college's Rabbinical School and cantor-education program and forged relations with neighboring Andover Newton Theological School. Prior to assuming the presidency, Gordis served as vice president, provost and associate professor of Talmud at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles and lecturer of Jewish Law at UCLA. He has also served as vice president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee and founding executive director of the Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel.


Provost Barry Mesch, the Stone-Teplow Families Professor of Jewish Thought, served as acting president of Hebrew College during the 1991-92 academic year.