BMP: Best Midrash Program
As a new student at Yeshiva University, my first few months were a blur. The only thing that made sense to me at the time was my shiur. My Rebbe in the Stone Beit Midrash Program (BMP) instantly became my mentor, and the talmidim became my friends. To this day, even though our particular shiur is no longer offered, our shiur’s WhatsApp group is still alive and well. This type of unique kesher between a Rebbe and his talmidim is the real focus and highlight of the BMP program.
This approach is far different from that of The Mazer School of Talmudic Studies, better known as YP. YP, with over 500 students divided into 24 shiurim, is a very large program and gives students the chance to learn from the Roshei Yeshiva in a rigorous format. In contrast, BMP has just over 300 students divided into 9 shiurim, with levels ranging from beginner to advanced. The goal of BMP is more of a gap-year yeshiva style program. For example, BMP has seder in the morning from 9AM to 1PM, just like at many yeshivot in Israel. As in Israel, I take my learning very seriously and so do the 30+ talmidim in my shiur. Most importantly, my learning at BMP offers a foundation to my both my secular and Judaic learning here at YU.
BMP is a program where students who appreciate the Torah learning style they experienced in their year in Israel can continue that. The warmth that the Rebbeim in the program provide is unmatched, and the chevrah that are created through that warmth last a lifetime. Its Monday through Wednesday night seder with Yehuda Meyers offers both a refreshing and a modern take a halacha. BMP is truly a diverse program with many fulfilling opportunities for any student.
So why is there this stigma of BMP that it is comprised of the “lesser” half, the so-called “second class”? Obviously, BMP and YP are two different programs, with two very different focuses. One reason that this stigma exists could be that BMP finishes at 1PM, whereas YP finishes at 3PM. This might lead to the idea that students in BMP are less motivated to learn and just want to get on with the rest of the day. While the advantage of a more flexible schedule is existent, I would argue that no matter what morning program a student is in, we all have the same challenges with balancing our busy schedules. While studying in the library one day, I was speaking with a new student on campus who was bogged down with many pages of readings due for next class. He was asking me how the professors expect him to finish all these readings while devoting half his day to studying Talmud in YP. I told him that it is all part of a balancing act. Every student at YU, no matter what morning program they are in, needs to decide at one point or another where their focus lays. Yeshiva University is just that, a Yeshiva and a University, and YP and BMP are both equal morning programs for students whose focuses on learning differ.
Another possible reason for the stigma could be coming from the student council. The Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY) president is chosen from the morning program with the most students registered for it. Since there are more students in YP, the student president of YP is also the SOY president. That technicality could be costing the students of BMP some of their integrity. However, this situation is completely fair because if one day BMP grows larger than YP, the SOY president would come from BMP.
After speaking with a few UTS (Undergraduate Torah Studies) administrators, I heard yet another perspective. The way they see it, students come from over 50 yeshivot in Israel to be funneled into 2 different programs. There is bound to be overlap and competition when it comes to interests.
We must also remember that BMP has been around for many years, and the stigma precedes any of us here now. While the true reason for the stigma might only exist in the past, we live in the present, and right now defines us. As a Yeshiva, it is our job to see to it that every student feels comfortable. There should not be this feeling of duress that BMP students feel when answering the question of “What morning program are you in?” As a University, there needs to be a understanding that our time here is a time for students to find themselves and to discover where in life they want to go; that too needs be respected, even if people have different priorities than we do.
The UTS administrators I spoke to point out that in their estimation, the stigma is about five times less what it was two years ago due to efforts in improving the cohesiveness of the Yeshiva. The point of this piece is to push even further, to shed more light on this stigma and to raise awareness about its presence. But even more so, my goal is to explain the differences between the two programs in order to weaken and ultimately destroy this stigma. Students in BMP are excited to be in BMP for what it is: The best Beit Medrash Program for them.
Author’s Note: IBC and JSS, the two other morning programs at YU, are structured in an vastly different way from BMP and YP. Therefore, for this piece’s purpose they are not relatable. It is not my intention to ignore and or to look down on these programs.