By: Shai Barnea  | 

Dr. Lamm Addresses Lieberman Candidacy at Year’s First Dorm Talks (Vol. 66, Issue 4)

On Monday, October 30, the academic year’s first Dorm Talks program with President Norman Lamm was conducted in the Morgenstern Hall Lounge. Though the lounds was far from filled to capacity, an occurence to which many previous Dorm Talks can lay claim, a reasonably large crowd turned out to hear Yeshiva University’s President Rabbi Norman Lamm address two primary topics of interest to students. At times, student participation in the discourse allowed an examination of a number of smaller subjects to enter the program. The principal discussions for the evening, however, focused on the candidacy of Senator Joseph Lieberman for Vice President, and the fallibility of Jewish leadership. 

Dorm Talks, a biannual opportunity for “the kids to get to know the rebbeim,” as Rabbi Michael Schmidman, Dean of Jewish Studies, remarked in his introduction, generally features one of the RIETS Roshei Hayeshiva in an informal topical question-and-answer session with students. 

Though the meeting began like a typical lecture, the interactive nature of the event followed the initial address, as students questioned the possible repercussions that Jews might encounter should the United States fall into a recession with Lieberman as Vice President. Lamm began by sarcastically remarking that there was no reason to worry, since the jews have been controlling the Federal Reserve and the World Bank for some time. He stressed that such fears were unfounded, since “America is a true democracy, unlike Germany in the early 20th century or Spain in the 1000s.” 

As discourse on the topic continued, however, the concerns of students were not entirely pacified. YC junior Eric Gutman disagreed with Rabbi Lamm’s assessment of America, although he did agree to having been impressed with Lamm’s message of “cautious awareness.” 

With regard to the question of whether Lieberman has had a positive effect on American Jewry, Lamm emphatically remarked that in the short time that Lieberman had campaigned, “he [had] already had more of an effect [on American Jewry] than two generations of rabbis.” Alan Goldenberg, a sophomore, focused his line of questioning on Lieberman’s response to a question regarding whether Jews can intermarry, Goldenberg believed that Lieberman’s public statement that there was nothing wrong with intermarriage, a clear contradiction of Jewish Law, raised doubts about the candidate’s level of observance. Lamm dismissed Lieberman’s statement as a “foolish answer — an error on Lieberman’s part,” and stressed the ever-popular sentiment that Lieberman was not running for religious office. 

Another topic that elicited strong student response involved the question of pinpointing the proper time for students to make aliyah. Lamm responded by suggesting that it would be beneficial for all parties involved if people making aliyah were able to support themselves and bring tangible skills to the workforce in Israel prior to their arrival. Lamm also noted one exception to the aliyah equation that stood very close to his heart. Teachers, Lamm stressed, must be even more careful about their decision to leave, because of the dearth of quality educators in America. 

Picking up on that sentiment, Ephraim Shapiro questioned Rabbi Lamm about the absence of an education major at Yeshiva. Rabbi Lamm responded by saying that if anyone wanted to go into Jewish education, it is more important that they attain semicha. He added that it is important that when students go to the Azrieli School of Education, they bring “skills” with them and those “skills” can be acquired by studying a variety of disciplines in college. 

Another topic that was broached was the fallibility of Jewish leadership. Lamm stressed the importance of weighing all the facts and judging people and organizations fairly. The students present did not seem to be as enthralled with this topic as they were with the others as was evidenced by the lack of questions. In fact, one attending student deemed this particular discussion “[not] informative and not what the students wanted to hear.” 

Overall, however, “Dorm Talks” was deemed a success by Rabbi Lamm and students alike. Lamm noted that he had “really enjoyed it” and commended the students on the quality of the questions posed and the topics discussed.