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Rubin Shul Needs a Makeover

The interior designers of the Beren Campus knew that the most visible part of the university should look formal, sleek and polished. 245 and 215 Lexington, the former with variable tinted glass curtain walls, the latter encrusted with faux Jerusalem stone and wooden paneling, are both dignified meeting spaces befitting our women’s division. The same can’t be said for the men’s campus.

Yeshiva University’s uptown guests are faced with a rather unpleasant sight. Rubin Shul, the location of an event virtually every night of the week is disheveled and unimpressive, to say the least. Bookshelves are strewn with all manner of accumulated textbooks, migrated seforim, and unused Judaica. The blinds are continuously closed, in opposition of the Mishna Berurah’s diktat to have a window open to the sky during prayer services (Hilchot Tefillah, OC 90:8). Old photocopies of various shiurim are stashed on the shelves behind the impromptu mechitza. Hefker coats accumulate dust on the coat rack outside. Chipped folding tables add to the general sense of disorder. A big cleanup would go a long way in making Rubin a respectable venue and makom tefillah (place of prayer). Simply reshelving books, however, wouldn’t change Rubin’s rather grim and unalluring appearance.

Miscellaneous objects aside, Rubin Shul is in dire need of a serious cosmetic makeover. Freight-train sized commercial air conditioners sit right outside the windows forming a colossal eyesore and, oddly an earsore, as an eerie whistle can be heard whenever the doors are closed. The Mashiv HaRuach sign sits awkwardly behind the podium when the room is used for events. The plastic-wrapped bimah and amud covers belong in the Portokalos family’s living room from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, while the chairs, comfortable as they are, belong to the gym’s warm up bench. Rows of aseptic fluorescent lights hang from a claustrophobically low ceiling. The dark brown Costco Aron Kodesh, placed off-center and blocking a significant portion of the light, looks like an afterthought. It’s no wonder parents and visiting students are rarely shown the room.

Bigger aesthetic changes are needed. A half-baked facelift would do little to change the place; a serious investment is required. Recognizing Modern Orthodoxy’s changing aesthetic tastes, a new Aron would give the shul (and indeed Rubin Hall) a more contemporary look. A new Bimah, matching amudim, plaques, and bookcases would compliment and further refine the room. New carpets and paint would complete the renovation. Oh, and stained glass windows would be nice.

Yeshiva has a history of doing some outstanding renovations. The fifth floor of Belfer Hall, the basement of Furst Hall, and Morgenstern Residence Lounge are a few outstanding examples. President Richard Joel has placed an emphasis on renewing the most visible and active locations on campus: Nagel Bagel and the Heights Lounge, for instance. Rubin is used for a number of formal and impromptu events daily. From shacharit and maariv minyanim to university and yeshiva events, Rubin Shul hosts hundreds of students, faculty members, and outside visitors. Let’s make it a priority. Let’s make it a place we can show off as a meeting venue and synagogue. Let’s refine Rubin.