Schachter, Jacob J.

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SCHACHTER, JACOB J. (1950– ), U.S. Orthodox rabbi. Schachter was born into a prominent rabbinic family; his father was Rabbi Herschel *Schachter who was among the first to enter Buchenwald after liberation and who served as rabbi of the Moshula Jewish Center and as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Jacob Schachter graduated from Brooklyn College in 1973, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, winning the Abraham S. Goodhartz Award for Excellence in Judaic Studies. He was ordained at Mesivta Torah Vodaath that same year. He then went to Harvard, where he was a teaching fellow from 1978 to 1980 and from which he received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages in 1981. He became rabbi of the Jewish Center in Manhattan, one of the most prestigious Orthodox congregations in the world, where Rabbis Norman *Lamm and Leo *Jung had served. Mordecai *Kaplan had also been there in the early 20th century during the waning years of his service as an Orthodox rabbi. Under Schachter's leadership, the synagogue grew from almost 200 to nearly 600 families – with close to 1,000 participants in services on Sabbath mornings. Among his other activities while at the Jewish Center, he directed Yeshiva University's Torah u-Madda Project from 1986 to 1997, and was an adjunct assistant professor at the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University from 1993 to 1999. In 1995, he was awarded the prestigious Daniel Jeremy Silver Fellowship from the department of Near Eastern languages and civilizations, Harvard University. He also served as a member of the faculties of The Wexner Heritage Foundation (from 1992) and The Wexner Foundation (from 1995). He was a member of the editorial boards of the magazines Tradition and Jewish Action, served on the board of governors of the Orthodox Union, and was the founding president of the Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the Upper West Side (1994–2000).

Perhaps tired of the pulpit and seeking to move closer to academic life, he shocked many when he left the Jewish Center to become dean of the newly founded Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Institute in Boston in 2000. The institute is dedicated to perpetuating the teachings of Rabbi Soloveitchik as a force within the Orthodox community and as a model for all Jews. Guided by the integrity of halakhah, Jewish tradition, and meaningful engagement with general culture, the institute is intended to enhance Jewish study and actively develop Jewish leadership for the contemporary world.

He returned to New York in 2005 to become professor of Jewish History and Thought and Senior Scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University. His appointment was seen as a signal by the new president of Yeshiva University that he wanted to reinvigorate the college, and to stress the twin goals of Yeshiva University. As a university professor, Schachter was asked to develop multidisciplinary initiatives in various academic units of the university. The position of Senior Scholar enabled Schachter to play a prominent role in the new center's development and to shape the Orthodox world for contemporary Orthodox Jews who are sophisticated, intelligent, and rooted professionally and culturally in the secular world while living traditional Jewish lives.

He took up the battle for a different type of synthesis within contemporary Orthodoxy. Writing in the student newspaper, Schachter said: "By 'synthesis' we must understand not a co-existence of equals but an integrated system of religious and secular ideas based on the eternal verities of our religion. We begin our career here with the basic postulates of Orthodox Judaism. Then, as we continue our studies, we fit the secular ideas into the religious pattern, thus broadening our understanding and enriching our religious life."

As a scholar, Schachter was the founding editor of The Torah u-Madda Journal and editor of Reverence, Righteousness and Rahamanut: Essays in Memory of Rabbi Dr. Leo Jung (1992), Jewish Tradition and the Nontraditional Jew (1992), and the award-winning Judaism's Encounter with Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration? (1997). He was also the co-editor of the Orthodox Union's Siddur Nechamas Yisrael: The Complete Service for the Period of Bereavement (1995). He was the co-author, with fellow yu Professor Jeffrey Gurrock, of the award-winning A Modern Heretic and a Traditional Community: Mordecai M. Kaplan, Orthodoxy, and American Judaism, which traces Kaplan's disillusionment with Orthodoxy while rabbi at the Jewish Center (1996), and author of close to 50 articles and reviews in Hebrew and English.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]