Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary is an affiliate of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic Movement. Rabbi Simcha Wasserman originally founded this pioneering institution of higher Jewish studies on the West Coast in 1953, as Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon.
In 1977, Chabad joined forces with Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon, West Coast Talmudical Seminary. The 25 year old educational institution continued to function under the name of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary. At the time of the merger, a group of ten older students were sent from the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in New York to join the existing student body to introduce Chabad flavor and philosophy to the school.
A creative staff of young, talented educators, highly effective outreach programs, and a growing number of students began to pave the way for newer and expanded avenues of education. Before long, its facilities in West Hollywood were too small and Ohr Elchonon Chabad moved to a larger campus at 7215 Waring Avenue, Expansion brought additional expert educators, a full range of modern equipment in all phases of modern Jewish studies and, of course, an expanded student body.
Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary seeks to develop scholars thoroughly trained in all aspects of advanced Jewish scholarship. It prepares its students for positions as rabbis, teachers and communal leaders, as well as for responsible, conscientious, and intelligent lay membership of the community. Small classes, seminars, and individual consultations guide the student towards the realization of his full potential as a scholar. The college provides opportunities for original research and intensive advanced study and encourages the publication of the results of such research. It is concerned as well with transmitting the ethical, philosophical, and spiritual teachings and values of Judaism, particularly the unique philosophy of Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidism.
Chassidism is two and a half centuries old. Founded by Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov in the Carpathian Mountain region, he taught that Torah is the property of all Jews, and underscored the important role of emotion and sincerity in the practice of Judaism.
Lubavitch Chassidism, also know as Chabad (a acronym of the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge), was conceived by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov’s successor. He synthesized Chassidic fervor and worship with Talmudic rationality and learning, successfully blending emotionalism and intellectualism.
Lubavitch came to the United States in 1940 under the leadership of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson, who had fought against overwhelming odds for the preservation of traditional Judaism in Russia. Rabbi Schneerson became the founder of numerous Yeshivos, day schools and the worldwide education network, Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch.
Under the leadership of the Rebbe’s son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the seventh leader of the movement, Lubavitch continues to thrive. Among the many institutions of learning established since his ascendancy is Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary. Lubavitch has become one of the most powerful influences in world Jewry. Across the globe, a network of nurseries, Talmud Torahs, girl’s schools, vocational schools, and Yeshivos cater to the educational needs of all ages and levels. Lubavitch provides social work programs, summer camps and a “Jewish Peace Corps,” involving hundreds of senior students who spend their summer vacation period visiting outlying communities armed with educational material and religious inspiration.
More than twenty million volumes have come off the Lubavitch press in recent years. Printed in over a dozen different languages, they are designed to meet the reading needs of people of all levels of religious education, from those well versed in Torah and Jewish tradition to those who need interpretation of the basic tenets of authentic Judaism.
Although the philosophical teachings of Chabad Chassidism are abstract, delving as they do into the most profound mysteries of Creation, they are also immensely practical, emphasizing the translation of intellectual knowledge into concrete action. Its writings make considerable use of examples gleaned from real life experience, rendering its lessons comprehensible even to beginners. Chabad is thus a living guide to Jews in all walks of life, to elevate the plane of their religious feeling and awareness.
Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary, as part of the Lubavitch movement, devotes a large segment of the daily academic schedule to the study of Chabad Chassidism in all its intricacy. Courses in the writings of its major exponents play a focal role in the religious education of students in Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad/West Coast Talmudical Seminary.