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December 23, 2014 / 1 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Yeshiva University’

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.

Builders Of The Jewish People

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

This past Sunday, I joined thousands of celebrants in Yeshiva University’s Lamport Auditorium for a most joyous occasion, as a record 230 of our young rabbinical students received their ordination, from our Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

The atmosphere at this quadrennial Chag HaSemikhah event, attended by more than 3,000 people on our Wilf Campus, was simply electric; the potential energy latent in the collective capacity of these young men reverberated in the room, throughout our campus, and around our Jewish world.

The moment was not merely memorable – it served as a dramatic demonstration of Jewish vibrancy and Torah vitality in our day, a ceremonial call to arms for the incoming leadership of our people.

At the ceremony, I invoked the verse from Isaiah in which the prophet proclaims that “All your children shall be students of God and great shall be the shalom of your children.”

The Talmud in Tractate Berachot famously takes the word banayich, your children, and interprets it as bonayich, your builders, indicating that students of Torah build and preserve the Jewish people through their study.

Two meanings: children and builders. Ostensibly, we must choose our interpretation. And yet our rabbinic tradition instructs that we may never fully abandon the literal meaning of a text. And so it would seem it is our responsibility to fulfill both of these roles, as children and as builders.

The most basic interpretation of this dichotomy speaks to the magical duality that stands at the epicenter of Modern Orthodoxy, and defines our critical purpose in the world that will continue for generations to come: our responsibility to become inheritors – children, if you will – of a sacred textual tradition that informs a rich life of mitzvah, while partnering with God in advancing civilization.

Our rabbis bear the sacred responsibility of serving as both banayich and bonayich, children and builders of the Jewish people, here in North America, in our beloved state of Israel, and throughout the world.

As builders, they serve as the guardians of the halachic process in treading the line between Torah norms and modern sensibilities. We are blessed with a sacred legal system. It defines us. Jewish jurisprudence matters.

We are a law-driven people. Non-negotiables exist. The openness of modern society challenges our commitment to process and precedent – but that’s simply not who we are at our core. It is that commitment to the halachic process that enables us to embrace tomorrow. We are builders in that we build upon – we do not build anew.

And yet we are not simply bonayich, but banayich; and we must fulfill that role by preserving the delicate innocence and joy of childhood. We must overcome the too prevalent penchant for cynicism, and seek the beauty and wonder in all people and things; we must safeguard the innocent notions of shemiras halashon; we must comport ourselves with childlike gentleness and model the idea of love for our fellow man; we must have difficult and contentious yet vital conversations with a child’s goodness, patience, tolerance, honesty and compassion, as respectful and loving children, with humility, reaching beyond, looking to make new friends.

Banayich and bonayich. Two parts of the same person, two halves of a nuanced whole. Builders within a sacred system, children of understanding.

These young men – with the professional training they have acquired, the intellectual rigor they possess, and the skills of leadership, counseling and community building they have gleaned – stand to work with all Jews in shaping the community of tomorrow.

At the conclusion of the event, the assemblage poured out onto Amsterdam Avenue in an outburst of jubilant song and dance. The sight of it all caused my heart to be filled with hope for those young musmachim: hope that they will take on nuance, not run from it; hope that they will respect and revere the halachic system into which they enter, while responding to needs of our people with warmth, humility and understanding; hope that they will inspire all of us to build lives of meaning and of purpose, engaging with the wide world around us while informed by our sacred Torah. 

Yeshiva University May Run Out of Money in 2015

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Yeshiva University is at risk of running out of unrestricted cash in the near-term future, Moody’s Investors Service is warning.

Moody’s has downgraded  the university’s credit rating several times over the last three years, including a March 5 downgrade to B3 rating, indicating a high credit risk.

A new report released March 21 warns that deep and growing operating deficits are likely to continue due to “poor financial oversight and high expenses;” much of YU’s cash and investments are tied up in restricted funds the university cannot use for operating expenses; and banks may not extend credit to the troubled university.

“The negative outlook reflects the risk that Yeshiva will deplete its available unrestricted liquidity before management is able to execute a successful financial turnaround,” Moody’s new report says.

Only 14 percent of the $1.2 billion the university had on hand in 2013 is free from donor restriction and could be used for operating expenses, according to the report. Unless there is a change in operations, the report warned, the university will run out of money by the end of 2015.

YU was a victim of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which cost it $1900 million, but its financial problems can be traced to roots a lot deeper.

The Moody’s report, which was first publicized by the Forward on Tuesday, calls YU’s business model “untenable.” Last year marked the sixth consecutive year of operating deficits, and YU’s operating margin excluding gifts dropped in 2013 to -42 percent. Seven years ago, the operating margin was at -6 percent.

“The severity and long duration of Yeshiva’s operating deficits are primarily due to weak financial management and the board’s unwillingness or inability to act,” the report says. “Historically ineffective internal controls and limited transparency contributed to an inability to identify and correct problems.”

The report faults the board for failing to hold leadership accountable. Through a spokesman, YU President Richard Joel declined to comment.

The university has taken several steps in recent months to improve the university’s finances. Last month, YU confirmed that it is selling 10 apartment buildings in the vicinity of its campus in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, which could net the school $250 million. The board also has approved exploration of a voluntary retirement program, the Moody’s report said.

“The university’s near-term financial viability depends on substantial and swift actions,” Moody’s said.

The report cites several reasons for high costs at the university: maintaining separate men and women’s campuses, upgrading equipment at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx and the university’s high-cost educational model. Meanwhile, tuition revenue has stagnated as YU’s competitors eat into the school’s core market for students.

Yeshiva U Threatens to Deny Ordination Over ‘Partnership Minyan’

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The rabbinical school of Yeshiva University is withholding the ordination of a student who held a partnership minyan for his wife in their home.

Rabbi Menachem Penner, acting dean of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, or RIETS, sent a letter to the student ordering him not to participate in partnership minyans “nor create a public impression that he supports such activities in normative practice,” The New York Jewish Week reported Thursday.

The student, who is identified as Shalom in the letter dated Jan. 13, has chosen to remain anonymous.

The letter indicates that the student will not be a “musmach,” or graduate, of the seminary unless he is able to subscribe to the principles laid out therein, including to “defer, in matters of normative practice, to the opinions of recognized poskim,” or decisors of Jewish law.

In a partnership minyan, women lead many aspects of the Sabbath service and are called to the Torah but maintain Jewish law, such as a maintaining a separation between men and women but still allowing women to lead prayers or be called to the Torah aws well as read from it.

Most halachic sources prohibit the practice of partnership minyans, including Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a rosh yeshiva at RIETS.

The student told The Jewish Week that he is in discussions with seminary officials in an effort to resolve the standoff. The Chag HaSemikhah Convocation, during which the Yeshiva University rabbinical students receive their ordination, is set for March 23.

The student told the newspaper that he is unwelcome in his community’s Orthodox synagogue and has since held other services in his home.

Coach Jonathan Halpert Ends Long Yeshiva U. Career with Victory

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Jonathan Halpert, whose contract as the men’s basketball coach at Yeshiva University was not renewed, closed out more than four decades on the Maccabees’ bench with a victory.

Y.U. edged Maritime College, 60-57, before a nearly full house at the New York school’s Max Stern Athletic Center on Saturday night, according to the Yeshiva website, pushing its record for the season to 7-18. The gym’s basketball court bears Halpert’s signature.

Halpert finished his 42-year career at the Division III school with 416 victories. Addressing the crowd after the game, he thanked the fans for their support, the Y.U. website reported.

In an interview last week with The New York Jewish Week, Halpert said of Y.U. not renewing his contract, “It rips your heart out. To end this way makes no sense.”

Y.U. said in a statement earlier this month that Halpert “will conclude his service” following the season, The Jewish Week reported. The university has been criticized for its handling of Halpert’s departure.

“What happened here you’d expect at some faceless, large university, where people come and go,” David Kufeld, who played for Halpert from 1976 to 1980 and is the only Y.U. player ever drafted by the NBA, told The New York Times. “There could’ve been a better way to make a bridge to the next phase of coaching.”

Kufeld was among more than 300 signers of a letter to “Coach Johnny” in Yeshiva’s student newspaper, The Commentator, expressing their support for Halpert, who twice won Coach of the Year in the Skyline Conference.

From 1986-87 to 2001-02 season, the Maccabees under Halpert did not have a losing season, but they have not enjoyed a winning campaign since 2005-06. According to The New York Times, some alumni with ties to the board of trustees have wondered why Halpert, who is in his late 60s, could not duplicate the earlier success.

In a statement, Y.U. President Richard Joel lauded Halpert’s “caring commitment, as both mentor and coach, to his players and the YU community.” The statement added, “His legacy and lasting contribution to the university will be remembered each time our student athletes step onto the court that carries his name.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/coach-jonathan-halpert-ends-long-yeshiva-u-career-with-victory/2014/02/24/

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