By: Nat Lewin and Irwin Haut  | 

Accent on Secularism Harmful to Y.U., Rabbi Gorelik States Need for Change (Vol. 20, Issue 6)

Renowned for his fiery oratory and his frank criticism of Yeshiva, Rabbi Jeruchem Gorelik has been a rosh yeshiva in R.I.E.T.S. for the past twelve years. During this time he has impressed both students and fellow rabbis with his great sincerity and extensive knowledge.

Rabbi Gorelik was born in Slutsk and studied in the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Radin. His father was a rabbi in a village near Pinsk, and his grandfather taught at the Yeshiva of Slutsk. Upon arriving in the United States in 1942, he taught at the Mesifta Tifereth Jerusalem and came, after one year, to Yeshiva.

“The aim of Yeshiva University,” says Rabbi Gorelik, “is to give the Yeshiva student a chance to attend a college in a Torah-knowledge atmosphere. If the student is steeped in the light of the Torah and immersed in the depths of Torah ideas, his entire being becomes one of Torah.

“Any apparent conflicts between Torah and secularism are automatically resolved for such a student. If Torah is envisioned in this way, then the secular knowledge becomes an adjunct

which enables the person to better appreciate the glory of the Almighty. The college education can then act as a means for the Yeshiva student’s approach to the masses of Jewish people who need his Torah enlightenment.”

Not Fulfilling Aim

Rabbi Gorelik insists that Yeshiva University could certainly prepare a student for his entry into a future active life while giving him a thorough Yeshiva education. “However,” he says, “the institution, as it now stands, is not fulfilling this aim because the Yeshiva education is being compromised in favor of the secular studies.”

He believes that this situation is in no way the fault of the administration, for, knowing Dr. Belkin from the time they learned together in Radin, Rabbi Gorelik insists that the President of the University is ‘‘a staunch opponent of compromise.”

“The blame can rather be put on a small group of influential people who persist in keeping the ideals of the fanatical Maskilim of the late 19th century,” he says. “These long outmoded ideals exercise great influence on Yeshiva University, causing confusion in the minds of the students and leaving them dissatisfied and unsure of themselves. 

“The present accent on the College and the large amounts of time-wasting extra-curricular activities which do not fit in with the aims of the Yeshiva are proofs of the tendency towards secularism at the expense of Yeshiva.” 

“But,” the Rabbi continues, “any change in policy would have to come as a result of demands by those inside the institution. Only those who have faith in the yeshiva and would like to see it fulfill its aims will criticize the institution so that it might improve and one day reach its goal. The University, however, instead of encouraging constructive criticism, discourages it, branding its critics ‘fanatics’.” 

Suggests Improvements 

Rabbi Gorelik believes that a committee of the R.I.E.T.S. faculty should be formed to meet regularly and discuss problems facing the students. 

Another improvement that he advises is that students set aside one or two years between high school and college which they could devote solely to Jewish studies and thus develop a sound foundation in both outlook and knowledge. He feels that the same objective coild also be realized by lengthening the college program to six years, thereby allowing more time for Torah study. 

The weak relationship between students and rabbis in the Yeshiva, according to Rabbi Gorelik, can be blamed on the present status of the Yeshiva. “The emphasis on college studies,” he says, “causes the student to consider his rabbi as just another teacher. Thus, no true close relationship may be developed. The attitude of the administration in not recognizing the true worth of the boy who learns Torah also allows for little incentive for Torah study among the students. Since the Talmudic scholar receives no more recognition than the basketball player, the student feels that a close relationship between himself and the rosh-yeshiva is not necessary.” 

Discusses Mixed Seating

When asked his opinion concerning one of the major problems now facing a graduate of R.I.E.T.S. — that of mixed seating in a synagogue, the Rabbi answered that he was “pleasantly surprised by the stand taken by Rabbi J. B. Soloveichik in a recent newspaper article.” Rabbi Soloveichik strongly criticized those synagogues which have mixed seating or lack a satisfactory partition separating the men from the women.

Rabbi Gorelik remarked, “This stand taken by Rabbi Soloveichik on a matter which does rot have a strong and clear basis in the Shulchan Aruch seems to classify him with the ‘extremist’ wing of the orthodox group. But it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the Yeshiva if a student is faced with the problem of mechitza only when he is about to seek a livelihood. The comprehension of mechitza should be a part of the Yeshiva atmosphere. Dean’s receptions and other mixed affairs are surely not in keeping with this ideal.

“The student who does not receive a training in the laws concerning mechitza during his stay at Yeshiva, will be so confused over this issue that he will not know how to handle it outside,” the Rabbi concluded.