From the Editor’s Desk: A Blessing On Your House (Vol. 34, Issue 14)
Yeshiva College’s Senate is now officially a reality. Meeting with student leaders last Thursday, Dr. Belkin stated that he accepts the Senate proposal as passed by the students and faculty, “because I trust Yeshiva students. I think the Senate is a blessing to the institution.” The President, who was in an unusually expansive mood, then related that he had recently been asked by a prominent person what he would do if students invaded his office. “If students invaded my office,” he smiled, “since they’re learning Kiddushin, I’d take out a gemara and give a shiur.”
Dr. Alvin Schiff, head of the Department of Jewish Education at Ferkauf, spoke to an unfortunately small (less than half of Rubin Shul) group of students last week on “Opportunities in Jewish Education.”
One of the major problems which Dr. Schiff noted in his exceptionally interesting talk, was the fragmentation within Orthodox Judaism which hinders the development and staffing of day schools. Despite Orthodoxy’s great successes, this stands in contrast with the highly structured bodies which represent Reform and Conservative Judaism, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the United Synagogue of America.
Orthodoxy’s divisiveness particularly struck me as I was reading the latest issue of the Jewish Observer, the voice of Agudath Israel. The lead article, “The Orthodox Student on the College Campus,” was billed as a “startling report of a new survey.” This survey, which was based on the responses of “a number of yeshiva and girls seminary students, attending City College in New York on a part-time basis,” attempted to analyze the dangers facing the Orthodox student on the secular campus. (A much better job is done by Menachem Greenberg in the current issue of Jewish Life). The article concludes with the words: “Is it really possible to provide adequate preparation in the light of the present campus situation? Or must colleges be ruled out for the Orthodox youngsters at this juncture? Are there alternatives that can be explored, such as New York State examinations that catty college credits?”
“New York State examinations!!!” What about Yeshiva University???. But the article never mentions the alternative of YU, aid by that omission, the conclusion can be drawn that the editors of the Jewish Observer would prefer equivalency exams to historic Washington Heights or bustling 35th Street. Well, so be it. Yeshiva University may not have the support of the entire Orthodox community, but it is its finest standard hearer.
For this reason, Dr. Schiff pointed out, YU—its teachers and graduates—must assume the leadership of American Jewish education, primarily in the day and high schools, and secondarily in the Talmud Torahs, However, Dr. Schiff’s plea was mainly directed at persuading students to go into chinuch. If he, and Rabbi Rabinowitz in EMC are successful, then the future is promising. But for the present, YU must take the lead, through such organizations as Torah U’mesorah and the Jewish Education Committee, in formulating curriculums and innovative teaching methods, and by providing more in-service courses for current teachers (a la Belfer).
The recent pronouncement by Dr. Belkin ordering the closing of the Belfer building on Shabbat was viewed by one administration spokesman as having “put out the fire.” But that really isn’t the case, and unless some more constructive action is taken, the problem will continue to persist.
Belfer’s massive existence on our campus is a reality, and debates concerning that problem are strictly academic. However, if Dr. Belkin’s order is enforced, Dr. Irving Borowitz, associate professor of chemistry at Belfer, asserts that “the future growth of experimental science would be greatly curtailed.” It is hard to believe the administration would allow this to happen.
So, granting the reality and complexity of the problem—there is even some work in YC laboratories that requires daily supervision—what is needed is a thorough study of the halachic issues involved in this type of research. It goes without saying that such a comprehensive study should havé been undertaken before Belfer was even established, but this is no reason for any further delay in creatively confronting this sensitive situation.
The problems of the residence halls, which were editorially discussed on April 24, were spotlighted again last week at a series of floor meetings convened by Rabbi Cheifetz to discuss the continuing inadequacies, The director, assisted by the Dorm Committee has compiled a floor-by-floor evaluation of dormitory problems, including the recommendation of many of the improvements mentioned in THE COMMENTATOR editorial.
These recommendations have been submitted to Rabbi Miller and Mr. Blazer. Rabbi Cheifetz now views his position as being akin to the proverbial gadfly in attempting to open the proverbial purse strings and effect some of the improvements. As one can imagine, any of the renovations, be it soundproofing, new beds, or adequate desks, entail a huge expenditure, but it is hoped that Rabbi Cheifetz is successful in prying funds loose from the administration as it looks like it will be a number of years before a new dormitory can be built. Now that the Senate has been achieved, student support must mass behind an attempt to improve and expand our facilities.