Dean of Students Chaim Nissel Announces New Wilf Minyan Where Women Can Give Divrei Torah
Dr. Chaim Nissel, Dean of Students released a statement to the student newspapers on Friday, March 23 outlining the framework for a new “community” minyan on the Wilf campus next year, where women will be able to give divrei Torah. Dr. Nissel explained that this decision was made after “student feedback” regarding Shabbat services at YU. The statement comes one month after several articles in the student newspapers discussed, questioned, and further criticized the administration for not addressing Wilf campus policies concerning women’s roles in uptown Shabbat activities.
Dean Nissel’s full statement:
“In light of student feedback, we have decided to review our policies with respect to the Klein@9 minyan and Shabbat services at YU. Klein@9 has been conceptualized as one of the yeshiva minyanim, and so had followed the typical practice of minyanim in batei midrash at men’s yeshivot in which presenters of divrei torah in the sanctuary are men. Starting next semester, we will add a student-run YU community minyan in a new, soon to be determined venue in which––like minyanim in YU communities across the world––women and men alike may deliver divrei torah after services. We look forward to continuing to work with students to formulate meaningful programming at Yeshiva University.”
The statement comes after the recent controversy regarding women delivering divrei Torah at a Wilf campus Shabbat minyan. On December 16, 2017, Lilly Gelman, a student at Stern College for Women, delivered a dvar Torah from the pulpit upon the conclusion of the student-run and Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY)-sponsored Klein @9 Shabbat morning minyan. Soon after, Rabbi Menachem Penner, Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Undergraduate Torah Studies, issued a formal policy that disallowed women to give divrei Torah from the same position. Gelman later wrote an article criticizing the response, leading to much discussion on the Wilf and Beren campuses, as well as in the Modern Orthodox community at large.
One of the features of the Klein @9 minyan is its student-delivered, post-davening, pre-Adon Olam brief dvar Torah. On occasion, students also lead optional chaburot after kiddush. An informal arrangement prior to the December incident, which had been made between student leaders of the minyan and the RIETS administration, provided for women to deliver post-kiddush chaburot, but not divrei Torah at the end of services.
RIETS is generally responsible for religious decisions and policies on the Wilf campus, while the Klein @9 minyan is overseen by the SOY student council.