UTAM’s origins trace back two centuries to the Chassidic Master Rabbi Moishe Teitelbaum, zt'l, author of the renowned text Yismach Moishe. Under his towering influence, the Talmud Academy in Uhel, Hungary was developed into an esteemed institution for training young men in Talmud, Ethics, and Halacha. The institution served the entire community. Its curriculum was not limited to the narrow goal of producing outstanding scholars skilled in refined intellectual analysis, but rather the Yeshiva embraced the broader mission of training its community's youth for a life based upon reflection and discipline. Inspired by Rabbi Moishe's teaching, the community's residents held fast to tradition and sustained each other with warm concern and affection in difficult times.
A succession of Chassidic leaders carried forward the mission of the Yismach Moishe and his Yeshiva. By the eve of World War II, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt'l, headed the Yeshiva and served as leader of the Satmar community. His keen mastery of Jewish scholarship was tied to a rigorous adherence to traditional ways, and under this profound, saintly man the Yeshiva became a regional institution attracting gifted scholars from all over.
Then this world was plunged into darkness. Towns and villages saturated with Torah and Mitzvos were set ablaze; the old communities flowed with rivers of Jewish blood. A world was destroyed in the gas ovens of Nazi occupied Europe.
But the mission endured, and a hand-full of survivors committed their every effort to reclaiming the world of Torah that had been so tragically destroyed before their eyes. This tiny group of leaders launched an effort to rebuild on American shores from the European remnants. At the head of this effort stood the Satmar Rav, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum.
Others had before failed to establish a vibrant Yiddishkeit in the United States, but with his great learning and bristling faith, the Satmar Rav lifted up an orphaned generation and sparked in them the courage to join him. From the scarred survivors of the holocaust, whom many feared were too bowed to build anything ever again, he erected a spirited Torah community. To those who argued that Torah must make accommodations, he replied with a serene assumption: Truth did not change with time and place. The eternal law and its explication were the only guide and they must be studied, understood and scrupulously followed. At first a lone voice, he became the architect of a new American orthodox generation.
UTAM stands as the capstone of the educational institution that he erected. It provides advanced students with rigorous training in the intellectual foundations of classic Jewish thought, law and philosophy and stands today as the leading institutional voice and training ground for unswerving classical Judaism.
Established in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949, amid the Satmar community, the school initially attracted only a small number of students. Its first classes were held in neighborhood synagogues, with few amenities, but its devoted staff and impassioned leader pushed forward. The Satmar Rav knew no fear, gave in to no compromise, in planting the scholarly traditions of Torah study in America. Over the decades, the school expanded into an institution of worldwide prominence with many hundreds of students pursuing the classical curriculum. From the one- room, book cluttered classroom-library of the early days, the Yeshiva expanded to many different locations including the Village of Kiryas Joel in Monroe, New York where the UTAM today occupies a vibrant modern campus.
Under the sage leadership of the Satmar Rav's revered successor, Rabbi Ahron Teitelbaum, shlita, UTAM continues to press forward its educational mission with vigor, dedication and a commitment to excellence.
The mission of the institution is to provide higher education founded on classical Jewish learning. Its curriculum emphasizes the study of Talmud, Halacha and Hashkofa in order to prepare students for a richer, more meaningful, intelligent and fulfilling life. It provides the specialized education that serves as the intellectual capital for students who wish to become rabbinic authorities, dayanim, Talmud educators, and communal functionaries. Its goal is to carry forward the chain of Talmudic knowledge and, by enhancing it, to provide the basis for a reflective life in contemporary society. Its specific aims include the following:
- Inculcate an abiding interest in Jewish culture, history and heritage;
- Provide the intellectual training for future leaders who will serve the Jewish community as clergymen, teachers, halachic judges, religious functionaries, and educators;
- Train students in the systematic higher learning of classical biblical, Talmudic, and philosophical texts;
- Teach language and reasoning skills, textual analysis, legal research, logic and modes of argumentation;
- Emphasize the moral application of Torah principles through the study of mussar and ethical works by Chassidic masters;
- Create an integrated Torah perspective for understanding and interacting with the modern world;
- Foster in students a contemplative spirit, an awareness and respect for the life of the mind;
- Offer a challenging special program of study for the gifted who may seek to devote their lives to scholarly research and study;
In sum, UTAM offers a program of study that focuses upon the intellectual traditions of Chassidic Jewish life and seeks to weave the reconstructed fabric of Old World Jewish thought in modern America.