From the Archives (September 23, 1943; Volume 8 Issue 1) — 1) Dr. Samuel Belkin Assumes Office As New President of Institution 2) Prospectus for New Year Outlined by Dr. Belkin
Editor’s Note: In honor of the recent Investiture of Yeshiva University’s fifth president, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, the Commentator has chosen to reprint several articles from its archives relating to the inauguration of the university’s second president, Rabbi Dr. Samuel Belkin, in 1943.
It is with happy and joyous hearts that the student body of Yeshiva and Yeshiva College greets the news of Dr. Samuel Belkin’s appointment to the presidency of the institution. The appointment is all the more appreciated when it is realized that it fills a long-felt, if mute, need.
Since the death of our saintly leader, Dr. Bernard Revel, the institution has been like the proverbial body without a head. This is not to deny that progress has been made during the last three years. But that progress has been of a desultory nature, each department pursuing an independent course towards what it considered its goal.
We need one goal, and collective effort, if Yeshiva is to assume its rightful position in American Jewish life. And this collective effort must receive its direction from and be lodged in the person of one individual.
The appointment of a president is therefore happy news to all those interested in the welfare of the institution.
But that the choice should be a man of the qualities and capabilities of Dr. Belkin makes this occasion doubly auspicious.
Since he stepped into Yeshiva life in 1936, Dr. Belkin has endeared himself to students and instructors alike. As a teacher, he was one of the most beloved and respected on the faculty. As Dean, he impressed all with his conscientious work and sincere efforts in behalf of the Yeshiva. It is only necessary to point to the remarkable strides Yeshiva has taken during the last few years to prove, if proof need be given, the inspiring leadership virtues of Dr. Belkin.
But it is as President of Yeshiva and Yeshiva College that we think Dr. Belkin will write his most glorious page in Yeshiva history. His splendid Talmudic and secular scholarship will underscore every line; his rich sagacity and vision every verse.
So today we comment the Board of Directors on its wise choice and say to Dr. Belkin:
Congratulations! The student body of Yeshiva College pledges its whole-hearted support to you and your administration. We know that under your guidance Yeshiva will reach year greater heights. We know that under your leadership there will be no room for political bickerings and behind-the-scenes manipulations. You are our leader; you have but to lead and we will follow.
We pray that the Almighty grant you strength and courage, physical and spiritual fortitude. They will be needed in the critical days ahead.
A slightly perplexed student body greets the inauguration of the new term at Yeshiva. Old students are wondering about the administrative changes which have taken place. They are curious about the essence of the new policies which have been formulated. New students are in doubt as to the aim of Yeshiva and the position it occupies on the American-Jewish scene.
In a recent interview, Dr. Samuel Belkin, newly elected president of Yeshiva and Yeshiva College, discussed the Yeshiva of ’43-’44 with a view toward clearing up some of the uncertainties.
No changes have been made as far as the various departments and deans are concerned. Three new Roshei Hayeshivos have assumed posts in the Yeshiva department and Rabbi Marcus has been appointed chairman of the permanent, already functioning, Placement Committee.
Grad School Enlarged
Courses in the Bernard Revel Graduate School have been increased and intensified. Dr. Joshua Finkel is now a permanent lecturer on Semitics. A course dealing with the traditional evaluation of the Torah with commentaries is being offered for the first time. Dr. Zeitin, eminent historian, has given up his college position in order to devote his time to the Graduate School.
In reference to the renewal of seminars which aroused to much favorable comment last year, Dr. Belkin state, “As the occasion warrants seminars will be arranged for graduate students.”
The smicha requirements are identical with those of last year. The knowledge amassed during years of study in the lower and upper divisions and an intensive Talmudic background will count toward smicha aspirations. No student may begin the study of Chulin before having been graduated from college.
Dr. Belkin then proceeded to discuss several general matters pertaining to Yeshiva policy.
The purpose of The Commentator, as Dr. Belkin expressed it, is “to serve not merely as secular paper for college activities but as the representative of the Yeshiva man in his entirety. It is my conviction that the college should in no way be separated and treated as a distinct unit. One cannot divorce himself from the essence of his being in the afternoon after having devoted the morning to Torah.
“The college as founded by our late Rosh Hayeshiva, Dr. Revel, of blessed memory, serves a double purpose. It gives the Yeshiva man a secular education in a Jewish environment; and, by being a Yeshiva college emphasizes the greater ends and purposes of learning which above all mean the moral and religious form of life. We hope that Torah knowledge will influence the character of the student body and that our students will realize that the purpose of their secular studies is to supplement and complement the essence of religious life.”
Turning to the pertinent war problems, Dr. Belkin reported that the greatest number of Orthodox chaplains in the armed forces are Yeshiva-ordained. He added, “We encourage our young graduates to enlist as chaplains.”
As President of Yeshiva, Dr. Belkin is concerned with the improvement of the institution as a whole. The complete harmony existing between the president and various deans and faculties of the departments will facilitate the continued progress of Yeshiva.