Last week, Touro College Los Angeles (TCLA) announced the appointment of Rabbi Dr. David Jacobson as its dean. Rabbi Dr. Jacobson, who has over thirty years of experience in Jewish education, held the position of Director of College Affairs at TCLA last year. He worked on community relations and building institutional ties, as well as recruiting new students. In his new position as Dean, Rabbi Dr. Jacobson hopes to continue expanding TCLA’s role in the greater Los Angeles Jewish community and entire Western United States, offering additional courses and degree options, as well as a proposed beis midrash program for young men who would like to continue their Torah education while pursuing college degrees.
Rabbi Dr. Jacobson sees TCLA as an invaluable component of a vibrant Orthodox community. He explains that there is an increasingly greater demand for higher education, which is more and more necessary in this day and age in order to make a living. “However, the pitfalls of attending a secular university are doubly increasing,” he says, lamenting the deteriorating moral and cultural atmosphere on college campuses. “We as individuals and as a community have invested so much in our future by sending our children to Jewish schools through twelfth grade. It is a terrible loss when it all dissolves, for many students, within a few years of attending secular college.” He adds that it can also be viewed as a bad return on investment for the community. “Having a quality higher education available under Orthodox auspices is the keystone to the whole system,” Rabbi Dr. Jacobson notes.
Currently, most of TCLA’s students are alumni of local Orthodox Jewish high schools, many of whom have returned home after spending a year or more overseas in yeshiva or seminary. Some students do come from other communities, taking apartments or boarding with local families, as TCLA does not currently have a dormitory. For those going to Israel and planning to return to continue their degrees at TCLA, the school offers its Israel Option program. By enrolling in TCLA before going to yeshiva or seminary, students can get a full year’s college credit for their studies abroad and are also eligible for the same federal and state student aid they would receive while physically at TCLA, accelerating their bachelor’s degree and increasing its affordability.
In its two separate men’s and women’s divisions, TCLA offers degrees in business, in Judaic studies, and in psychology, with several different areas of concentration, including one in health sciences, which has successfully prepared graduates for admission to medical, nursing, pharmacy, and PA schools, among other allied health fields. Rabbi Dr. Jacobson is hoping to expand the health science concentration into a full degree of its own.
TCLA has also offered continuing education for teachers who are currently working in local Jewish schools. In fact, Rabbi Dr. Jacobson began his work at TCLA by teaching a summer course for Jewish educators. As the founder and executive director of Yeshiva Educational Services, Inc., Rabbi Dr. Jacobson is passionate about improving the quality of education in Jewish schools. In the future, he would like to expand TCLA’s course offerings to include a full certificate program in Jewish education, which could be earned part-time by teachers who already work in local schools.
In addition to the courses offered on its own campus, TCLA works with several local Orthodox high schools, enabling students to earn college credits while in their senior year in high school. The high school students take their own schools’ courses, but are concurrently enrolled at TCLA. The TCLA administration works with the schools to ensure that the instructors are sufficiently qualified and are following a college-level syllabus, aligned with Touro’s own courses. The students can take such courses in English, math, science, government, and psychology. Rabbi Dr. Jacobson is planning to expand the nationally popular program to involve more local high schools.
While there are other Orthodox programs helping students earn college degrees, perhaps through testing or distance learning, TCLA is unique in California because its faculty teaches students in person here in L.A., and its courses are designed to provide the students with the skills they need to succeed in their career of choice. Touro offers its own regionally accredited courses and degrees under WASC, so it has the same accreditation as USC, UCLA, and Stanford. Moreover, TCLA is a division of Touro University Worldwide, which puts behind it the strength, resources, and further education opportunities of the Touro College and University System, which has nearly 18,000 students attending its undergraduate, professional, and graduate programs.