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IBC Students to Receive Credit for Shacharit

As Isaac Breuer College (IBC) students registered for classes last week, they found that a new elective course was listed to fulfill part of their Jewish Studies curricula: “Explanation of Prayer.” Although many were surprised by this new class, it was actually announced in an email dated December 10, 2011 from Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies, with the following description: “The course will be explanatory prayer and discuss the practices, minhagim and structure of the prayer service, as well as the service itself.”

As of Fall 2010, IBC students are required to take 15, instead of 12, Jewish studies credits each semester, ranging from halakha and hashkafa to Bible and Talmud. With an obligatory fifteen credits, equivalent to five classes, per semester, IBC students end up taking five finals during reading week. This hurts IBC students, who have substantially less finals-preparation time than men in other morning programs. With the addition of “Explanation of Prayer,” or Shacharit, as a course, IBC students will have the option to join an official IBC minyan four days per week that will count for Jewish Studies credit.

This is not the first time that a Yeshiva University morning program has accepted tefilah for course credit. The Mechinah program used to have Shacharit as a mandatory part of its daily schedule.

IBC Student Body President Gilad Besterman explained the benefits of this new course, noting that “this is the best of both worlds. IBC guys can take Shacharit and create a more manageable schedule at the same time.” There are already 23 students signed up in this class, with a high cap of 75. Besterman hopes, as an added incentive, that the IBC Student Council will be able to sponsor breakfast for students who attend the class.

Adding this course to the schedule was a surprisingly quick and simple process. Besterman said that it “took only a week” to get approval from the appropriate administrators. The comparatively speedy development of this course is surprising.

Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky stressed that this is not a requirement, but a new elective in the IBC program.

The new course will have the same attendance requirements as any other IBC morning course. Additionally, there will be a short explanation of a specific part of the tefilah at the end of davening. If students miss more than the specified number of classes in a semester, they will fail the course, as in all IBC classes.

Some students are surprised by the announcement of this new course. Oliver Sax, who switched to IBC from the Mazer Yeshiva Program (MYP), explained that the email from Rabbi Kalinsky pushed him to switch back to MYP. He said, “It’s unfair for the students going to IBC expecting a growth in Torah, because now they are implementing a program that hinders that growth and they are misappropriating the value of prayer. Prayer shouldn’t be something you’re obliged to go to get an “A”—it should be between you and God.” This may be the root of a larger problem for IBC, regarding the difficulty of the coursework that many call into question.

Besterman hopes that this will change widespread perception of IBC, a program not known for its minyan attendance. “If students get into the hang of it [minyan] now, hopefully it will continue in the future.”