Rabbi Shmuel Fox, Rabbi Hillel Fox, and Tzvi Fox
This year, HTC is celebrating its 100th year. For a century, HTC has served a unique role in the Jewish community, producing graduates who are bnei Torah that contribute to the Jewish community worldwide. For many, attending HTC has become a family tradition. In commemoration of our Centennial year, HTC sat down with three generations of graduates from the Fox family: Rabbi Shmuel Fox, 98, Rabbi Hillel Fox, 63, and Tzvi Fox, 26, to hear about their memories and experiences at HTC.
Rabbi Shmuel Fox, the Foxes’ patriarch, was born in a small primarily Jewish town called Lukach, Poland. To avoid the oppressive laws against Jews, he and his family made the voyage to America by ship in 1929. The Foxes settled in Wisconsin, where his father, Rabbi Yitzchak Fox z”l, was offered a position as a shul Rabbi. In 1929, there were no Jewish Education systems in place in Milwaukee. A short time after his bar mitzvah, Shmuel’s father took him and his 12-year-old brother Menachem Mendel to Chicago by train, to allegedly visit a relative who had a grocery store in Southern Chicago. After visiting that relative, Shmuel and his brother were informed of the true purpose of their trip. His father had arranged for the boys to be interviewed with the Dean of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Greenberg, back when the Yeshiva was on Douglas boulevard. After the Dean of the Yeshiva, Rabbi Greenberg, interviewed the boys on Chumash and Rashi, they were accepted on the spot. Though there were no dorms at the time, Rabbi Greenberg promised he would take care of the boys and arranged for the boys to board at a community member’s house.
“It was hard to be on our own, sort of having to fend for ourselves in a new city and a new environment. But it was a very fine yeshiva. Baruch Hashem, looking back, we think it was a wise move and we both did well.” In 1950, Rabbi Shmuel obtained semicha from HTC. After remaining at the Yeshiva for about a decade, Rabbi Shmuel went on to obtain a Law degree from DePaul University and a Master’s in Jewish History from Yeshiva University. Both Fox brothers went on to become Rabbis of their own congregations. “Most people urged me to go into law from a private and financial standpoint,” said Rabbi Fox, “but I was an idealist. I loved the rabbinate all along so that was my choice and, Baruch Hashem, Hashem has been very good to me.” Rabbi Fox served his first pulpit in Little Rock, Arkansas before settling in Dayton, Ohio where he served as the Rabbi for over 50 years. After those years of service in Dayton, Rabbi Hillel Fox took over, with Rabbi Shmuel as Rabbi Emeritus in Dayton. Today, Rabbi Shmuel lives in Boca Raton, Florida with his wife, having recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. Together, they have two daughters and three sons, all of whom are Skokie graduates. Today, Rabbi Shmuel is proud to have 28 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren, with more on the way, G-d willing.
Rabbi Shmuel’s son, Hillel, born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, attended the Yeshiva alongside his two older brothers. Though he had skipped 8th grade, Rabbi Hillel graduated from FYHS in 1976, even delivering the valedictorian address at graduation. He later received a Bachelor’s in Hebrew Literature and received a Practical Rabbinics Certificate, all while obtaining a degree in Psychology from Loyola University. In the early 1980s, Rabbi Hillel Fox received semicha from HTC. Rabbi Hillel received a degree in Dentistry from Ohio State University, delivering the opening address in front of 50,000 people, the first time the college had broadcast a Rabbi at graduation. Rabbi Hillel then returned to his home town in Dayton, Ohio and followed in his fathers footsteps in the rabbinical position for 18 years. Today, Rabbi Hillel works as the Director of Spiritual Services at the Northshore University Hospital.
Tzvi, the youngest of the Foxes to have attended the Yeshiva, grew up in Dayton, Ohio as well. After attending day school in Dayton, Tzvi planned to go away to FYHS for high school. “I had the pleasure of having most of the Rebbeim as my personal Rebbes,” said Tzvi. Because of the weaker education in Ohio, Tzvi started in the most basic shiur in FYHS, but in only the short span of a year, Tzvi proved to everyone how capable he was, something that Rabbi Hillel Fox relayed proudly. “I started out in Rabbi Cardash’s shiur in 9th grade. I moved up to Rabbi Rand, and then to Rabbi Schuman.” When Tzvi was entering 11th grade, his parents were given a Sabbatical year in Israel. “I tried to go with, and I went to an all-Israeli school,” said Tzvi, “but long story short, it didn’t work out and I wanted to go back to the Yeshiva. They welcomed me back with a smile, with open arms, without any hassle. Years later during Covid, again, my apartment situation fell through, and I called Rabbi Zimmerman. He said the Yeshiva would love to have me in some capacity. Again, they were a home I could go back to; it has always really felt like my home. I think that speaks to the character of the Yeshiva.” In 2013, Tzvi graduated from FYHS, before spending a few years in the Beis Midrash. Tzvi is currently in a Semicha program with Ateres Ami as he finishes his master’s in Jewish education. He currently works as a Special Education Rebbe.
“I think it’s a very significant point that all three of us, based on our Yeshiva education, went into limudei kodesh/Jewish education,” Rabbi Hillel said. “Tzvi is finishing up his master’s in Jewish education from Touro and my father, even though he has a law degree, chose to be in the rabbinate for his entire life. I have a dental degree and I chose to become a shul rabbi and to then pursue chaplaincy! I think it’s a beautiful thing and that it’s a very strong statement on behalf of the Yeshiva.”
A common thread between the three generations of alumni interviewed was the strong connections they felt to their Rebbeim. “We had wonderful Roshei Yeshiva,” said Rabbi Shmuel Fox, “including Rabbi Selig Starr zt”l, the longest serving Rosh Yeshiva in the Yeshiva, who my father-in-law actually called when looking into me as a potential shidduch for his daughter since they were friends from the Slobodka Yeshiva. I had Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l, who was a brilliant person and later became the Chief Rabbi of Antwerp. He actually came in from Antwerp to be Mesader Kedushin at my wedding in Cincinnati! He came to the Yeshiva as a young man and cultivated a friendship with me. He was both a Rabbi and chavrusa to me. Sometimes we’d go to the drug store and have a soda together. I have wonderful memories of our discussions. Also, Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz was also one whose home I went to a number of times. He invited me to his bungalow one time for Shabbos, and it was extremely memorable. We walked together and I heard divrei Torah from him; it was special. They were experiences that I cherished my entire life. Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz zt”l was another outstanding Rabbi. He was in the Yeshiva for a few years, and he later became one of the Roshei Yeshiva of YU with Rav Soloveitchik.”
One thing all the generations of FYHS graduates in the Fox family have in common is the ongoing connection they feel to the institution. Rabbi Shmuel recalled with great joy the time he spoke at an HTC fundraising event. “I remember one year the event was on a blistery cold evening and I was the guest speaker,” he said. “It was a small repayment for the years of learning that I received at the Yeshiva, and for my children and grandchildren. I’m greatly indebted.” That same connection to the institution carries over in his children and grandchildren. “I still have a chavrusa with a Skokie guy, Dr. Ranan Wolff,” said Rabbi Hillel. “It shows you that the relationships you build in those years are very formidable. I would say that some of my best friends until today were my high school friends.” “I still have a chavrusa every week with my close friend Ido Karavani over facetime because he’s in Israel,” added Tzvi. “Also, something that I think is really special is that Rabbi Schechter was never my Rebbe, but post high school, he’s actually one of the Rebbeim that I’m closest with. He invites me over for Shabbos regularly and he’s offended if I go too long without going to his house on Shabbos. He always reaches out and is always there for me.”
HTC is proud of the connections they have made with their students. In celebration of our Centennial year, we gladly reflect back on the last century with pride for our students, their accomplishments, and its impact.