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July 30, 2015 / 14 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Yeshiva University’

My Encounter with Rav Lichtenstein

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Some 25 years ago I decided I wanted to go to Israel and debated over which Yeshiva I would attend.

The “Gush”, Yeshiva Har Etzion, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s yeshiva in Israel, was one of the options on my very short list.

I applied, and was invited to come down to Yeshiva University for an interview with Rav Lichtenstein.

I spent weeks preparing for that interview. I picked out an interesting piece of Gemorah, and learned it backwards and forwards.

I walked confidently into Rav Soloveitchik’s apartment in YU where Rav Lichtenstein was holding interviews with prospective students, and we began to learn. He asked questions and I answered them. I defended my positions. Very straightforward.

And then I don’t know what happened.

He raised a question from a different Gemorah related to this particular sugiyah. A Gemorah I had also studied in preparation for this interview.

I don’t recall it even being a complex question. But his question came from a perspective I hadn’t considered, and it turned everything upside down. Suddenly we had to take everything I learned apart, and we started again from a completely different angle.

I walked into that interview thinking I knew that Gemorah like the back of my hand, and by the middle of this experience, I realized I knew almost nothing, including how to learn.

What was supposed to have been a 15 minute interview, turned into an intense, more than hour-long learning session and intellectual battle, the likes of which I had never experienced in my entire life.

I walked out of the apartment as white as a sheet, and covered in sweat from the energy I expended in the intellectual battle I just fought and lost with Rav Lichtenstein, realizing that my weeks of learning, where I thought I knew the Gemorah inside and out, had barely scraped the surface of the depths of what learning truly was.

The students who were waiting patiently outside for for their turn, took one look at me and were afraid to go in next for their interviews.

While it had been intellectually satisfying, I was sure I hadn’t been accepted to the Gush after displaying how embarrassing little I had managed to actually learn in the few weeks ahead of the interview, compared to what we had accomplished in such a short time.

But to my surprise I was accepted.

Ultimately, I chose a different path to Israel, but that encounter — learning with Rav Lichtenstein — was the yardstick by which I measured the quality of my learning from that point forward.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein Dies at Age 81

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, a leading national religious figure and chief rabbi of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Gush Etzion, died Monday morning at the age of 81. He will be buried on Tuesday in Gush Etzion.

His health has been declining in recent years.

He was born in Paris shortly after the Nazi occupation, but his family managed to escape to the United States. He studied at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Yeshiva University and at Harvard, where he earned a doctorate in English Literature.

Rabbi Lichtenstein was married to a daughter of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, under whom he studied. He was head rabbi of Yeshiva University before moving to Israel

He joined Rabbi Yehuda Amital to head the Har Etzion Yeshiva in 1971, and he maintained a close connection with Yeshiva University through its Gruss Institute affiliate in Jerusalem and its Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

Rabbi Lichtenstein was awarded the Israel Prize for Jewish Literature last year on Yom Ha’Atzmaut.

He and his wife, Dr. Tova Lichtenstein, moved in 2005 from Jerusalem to Alon Shvut, where Yeshiva Har Etzion is located.

They had six children.

It’s War: YU Board Rejects Faculty 80-3 Vote Of ‘No Confidence’ In President Joel

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Published on Jewish Business News

by Ilan Shavit

Dr. Henry Kressel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yeshiva University, sent out an email statement in reaction to a faculty “no confidence” vote Friday against President Richard Joel.

Kressel’s message said, in no uncertain terms: “The Board is confident that President Joel and his administration will continue to work diligently to strengthen the bonds of collaboration and maintain the focus on the needs of our students, as well as the needs of the University as a whole. This is the best way to ensure YU continues to flourish.”

A full 80 percent of participating faculty members of Yeshiva College (YC) at Yeshiva University last Friday afternoon voted “No Confidence” in Joel. Only 3 percent voted “confidence,” with 17 percent abstaining. 64 percent of the faculty voted.

Despite the fact that the no-confidence vote does not carry immediate ramifications, Professor Gillian Steinberg, an associate professor of English at YC and member of the YC executive committee, told the Jewish Week that this unusual gesture would likely “signal donors in a meaningful way” and “indicate that the board of trustees is moving in the wrong direction.”

“It’s the time of year when we put the schedule together, and we realized we were paralyzed because we didn’t know which faculty would be around,” Steinberg explained. “The administration won’t tell us who will get a contract renewal. Now, the rubber hits the road.”

The Jewish Week also reported that the faculty of Albert Einstein School of Medicine, also affiliated with YU, took a vote of no confidence in the YU board on Jan. 23.

Dr Kressel responded with an email message Sunday night, stating that the near-unanimous “no confidence” vote “is an unfortunate development, given the Administration’s work and many meetings with the faculty to develop plans to enhance the quality of the educational experience at YU while saving costs.”

Kressel explained that “while it’s regrettable that a small number of contract faculty will leave the University, we are building an organization and an academic program that creates more flexibility and options for students. Details will be shared soon on ways more of our students can enjoy and benefit from our outstanding scholars, and how smaller programs can be strengthened.”

Having said that, Kressel stated clearly that he basically won’t have any of that nonsense, because “the Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for ensuring the University is able to move forward with excellence. This responsibility includes implementing a financial plan to ensure the sustainability of the institution.”

He continued, even more specifically: “Under our direction, President Richard Joel, his administration and the Board’s outside advisers, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), have identified areas across the entire university to streamline and realign operations, while ensuring the student experience remains vibrant. They have performed admirably in a difficult environment.”

On Creation, and Did Dinosaurs Actually Exist?

Friday, October 17th, 2014

As this week’s Parsha is Breishit (Genesis), we thought it would be interesting to run one of Rabbi Natan Slifkin’s talks on Torah, Creation… and Dinosaurs.

The photo above is from the site AllAboutJerusalem.com and the article there talks about the dinosaur footprints that were found in Beit Zayit in Jerusalem.

The Billion Dollar Question: Can Yeshiva University Survive?

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

There is only one Yeshiva University. There are many ‘Lakewoods.’ I have no issue with Charedi Yeshivos like Lakewood  whose purpose it is to learn Torah only.  My criticisms are only about how widely that is implemented in the Charedi world. I disagree that all Charedim should strive to do that to the exclusion of all else. But certainly such institutions should exist. There is nothing wrong with focusing on your area of expertise. Whether one should also be well versed in other subjects for their own sake (Torah U’Mada)  or only to enhance one’s Yahdus (TIDE) is what separates us from Charedim who do not place much value on Mada at all except for utilitarian purposes.

The fact is that Yeshiva University is a Yeshiva that has both a Yeshiva and a university on the same campus and encourages its students to study both. Its motto is Torah U’Mada. That is in contrast to the Charedi worldview where very few Charedim seek secular education beyond high school in America (and at all in Israel). That some go on to become professionals via a higher education is not a function of any value they place on secular studies. It is solely a function of getting the education required to make a decent living.

There is nothing wrong with studying Mada for parnassa purposes.  That’s what Touro does. Their education is geared towards Paranassa. I am a big supporter of that. But YU actually values secular studies per se. They take seriously the Gemarah’s statement ‘Im Omar Lecha Yesh Chochma BaGoyim, Taamin.’ If someone tells you that non Jews have wisdom, believe them.

YU’s goal is to seek out that wisdom and teach it to its students. It is the only Yeshiva to do so L’Chatchila beyond high school .  Those who study in the Yeshiva program – the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS, which is what YU is really all about) are typical of those who place primary importance on Torah study but place great value on Mada too. There are plenty of Masmidim there. One can go into the Beis HaMedrash at YU at any given time and find it filled with students learning B’Hasmadah Rabbah (with great diligence). Some into the wee hours of the morning. And they do not neglect their study of Mada at all  – succeeding at those studies with similar degrees of excellence.

I bring all this up in light of the recent report* about the financial straits YU is going through.  Apparently YU’s board of directors approved risky investments that went south to the tune of a billion dollars. I cannot image any Yeshiva having those kinds of funds to invest, let alone to operate with. That is some serious money. That’s 1000 million dollars. They lost it all, it seems.

A lot of people blame YU’s president, Richard Joel. He is after all the CEO responsible for, among other things, YU’s financial welfare (and being handsomely paid for it). But I am not one of them.  He consulted with the board about those investments and they must have approved it.  He did not just blindly go into the market and invest in penny stocks. He consulted with acknowledged experts in the field of financial investments and if I understand correctly followed their recommendations.  When the economy tanked a few years ago, so did those investments and apparently they did not recover when the economy started rebounding.

But… I understand that Mr. Joel is getting the blame for all this. He is the man in charge. He is the man at the top. The buck stops there. So if he gets fired, it is just as understandable as when a Cubs manager gets fired. If the team is doing badly you don’t fire the team. You fire the manager. Even if he is a proven winner in his past engagements with other teams that have won pennants under his leadership. That’s just the way it is. Richard Joel will land on his feet. I’m pretty sure he put away piles of money from the very generous compensation he received over the years as CEO of YU (unless he put that money into risky investments too. I hope not).

Montefiore Health Systems and YU Join to Run Einstein

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is going to be run by a new entity created by Montefiore Health System and Yeshiva University, YU and Montefiore announced on Tuesday, May 27.

According to the joint statement, Montefiore will assume greater responsibility for the day-to-day operations, financial management and significant aspects of the governance of Einstein, while YU will continue to be the degree-granting institution with “a key role in the educational aspects of the entity.”

“This agreement marks an important milestone for the future of each of our institutions as well as for healthcare as a whole, ” said Steven M. Sayfer, M.D., president and CEO of Montefiore.

“We look forward to further strengthening Einstein as a major research institution that spans the scope from bench science to healthcare delivery transformation,” Sayfer added.

Richard M. Joel. president of Yeshiva University, also expressed enthusiasm for the new venture.

“We are delighted to emphasize our shared commitment to assuring the continuity and growth of the educational and research functions of Einstein while remaining a leader in medical education. At the same time, we are taking a powerful and important step towards building a financially sustainable Yeshiva University.”

The announcement explained that “it is anticipated that there will be one unified faculty, retaining academic appointments from YU, while being employed by Montefiore, as they continue to teach and mentor Einstein’s students and Montefiore residents.”

Einstein has been plagued by serious financial difficulties, largely believed to be the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff was a trustee of Yeshiva University who lost millions of dollars of his clients’ investments, of which Einstein was hit particularly hard. According to Bloomberg News, the medical school operated at a deficit of nearly $106 million in 2012.

There are reports of widespread faculty pay freezes and severance offers. Layoffs are expected to begin over the next month.

 

YU Rabbinical Student Sentenced to 13 Years In Abuse Case

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

A Yeshiva University rabbinical student who pleaded guilty to child exploitation and possession of child pornography was sentenced on Tuesday to 13 years in federal prison.

Rabbis and a professor from Yeshiva University had written letters to the Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the United States District Court in New York, requesting leniency in his sentencing, the YU student newspaper The Commentator reported Thursday.

Evan Zauder, 28, pleaded guilty in January to one count of enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, one count of transportation, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography.

Zauder also worked as a sixth-grade teacher at the Modern Orthodox school Yeshivat Noam in Paramus, N.J. He was arrested in May 2012 after the FBI raided his Manhattan apartment and discovered on his computer hundreds of images and videos of boys engaged in sex acts.

He also was charged with having relations in 2011 with a 14-year-old male he met on the Internet. The teen was not a student at Yeshivat Noam.

Zauder also served as a former youth director at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck and a former part-time youth director with Bnei Akiva youth groups, according to The Commentator.

The letters in support of leniency are dated from February 2013 through April 2013 and include letters from family members and friends from Yeshiva University, requesting the minimum sentence of 10 years.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/yu-rabbinical-student-sentenced-to-13-years-in-abuse-case/2014/04/03/

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