By: Avi Hirsch and Benjamin Koslowe | News  | 

Israel, the Modern Era, and Market-Readiness: President Berman Discusses YU’s Path Forward

In an interview this afternoon with The Commentator and The Observer, Yeshiva University President Ari Berman and Provost Selma Botman elaborated on new programs and initiatives for YU students. One year into his presidency, Berman articulated his visions and goals for the University.

President Berman announced two main categories of initiatives for this academic year. One category, which formed the bulk of Berman’s words, emphasized YU’s connection to Israel, focusing on new pathway programs with Israeli institutions. The second category highlighted YU’s new initiatives in YU’s graduate schools.

“Israel is no longer a poor cousin,” commented Berman, “but rather is a significant power in its economy and its innovation in the world of education.” In this vein, Berman announced several new pathway programs in conjunction with Israeli universities. According to Berman, YU has signed memoranda of understanding with four of Israel’s universities: Ben-Gurion University’s medical school, Hebrew University, Bar Ilan, and Technion. The memoranda mean that a YU graduate applying to one of these universities will be “automatically accepted into their graduate program.”

[Update: Since this article was published, The Commentator has learned that Ben-Gurion University does not offer academic acceptance into its program, as was originally quoted. Rather, the university offers students who fulfill all the prerequisite courses and a minimum Science GPA of 3.2 the opportunity to receive an interview at Ben-Gurion's Medical School for International Health prior to having their MCAT scores. This does not guarantee admittance to the school.]

Berman added that some supporters of the nascent partnerships are offering scholarships as high as $10,000 to top students to “subsidize and help them on their journey to Israel.” Berman further stressed the presence of “thousands” of YU alumni living in Israel who can help graduates “find internships in high-tech startups,” as well as a recent deal signed with “Yissum, which is the start-up section of Hebrew University, to bring companies over to YU.” He added that “there are a lot of other new initiatives that are going to be announced” this year.

According to Berman, these new initiatives have led to a converse effect of Israel extending influence into YU. He specifically mentioned Israeli mathematics Professor Mina Teicher joining YU to teach mathematics and neurobiology at Stern College this spring. “The possibilities of Israeli visiting professors coming to us,” explained Berman, “strengthen our product.”

Asked about his stated desire last year to offer targeted scholarships to students who volunteer for the Israeli army or sherut leumi (national service), President Berman stated that although such scholarships are not yet finalized, they are “definitely in the pipeline.”

President Berman’s second category of new initiatives focused on new graduate degrees and programs created by YU. Emphasizing his desire for students to “leave here market-ready,” Berman stressed new master’s programs which allow students to stay for one extra year and leave YU with a master’s degree. He highlighted new collaborative master’s degrees “between schools, whether it’s Cardozo and Einstein, or Cardozo and Katz.” Throughout, Berman expressed an ethos of interdisciplinary collaboration. “That’s the world of tomorrow,” reflected Berman. “That’s why we're building the world of tomorrow, today.”

President Berman explained that his new initiatives are a product of much “listening and learning” during his first year, as well as “market research” and “bringing in data.” As of the time of publication, The Commentator has yet to learn the exact methodological details of this research.

A major theme reiterated several times by President Berman was the disciplines and skill sets characteristic of the modern era. “We’re thinking a lot about science and technology and math and innovation and entrepreneurship,” Berman said. He articulated that industry is no longer thought of as “separate from the educational experience,” but rather as “part of the education experience.” He also mentioned new “innovation labs” and reinvigorated career services within YU. Students leaving YU should know that “they will have a network of incredible life-long support that will help them in their professional careers,” he explained. Berman several times conveyed confidence in YU’s “leaders of tomorrow.”

Berman also mentioned the virtues of social sciences and humanities and how they fit into his vision. “A core strength for us,” explained Berman, is to “think deeply about the deep existential questions.” He noted that this thinking is “very important” and can emerge from “new technologies and innovation in the changed world.”

In addition to his primary messages, Berman highlighted new faculty hirings, various awards that current YU faculty have received, and interdisciplinary faculty discussions that he coordinated last year. He further discussed the importance and relevance of the Five Torot to all Yeshiva University students. Regarding YU’s vibrant student life, Berman stated, “Our market research has shown that we’re high in Jewish communal life, and we’re thinking about how we can move the needle further. It’s very important.” He expressed particular interest in the YU Shabbos experience, an area he is “thinking about deeply” so as to create an “environment that would excite our student body.”

President Berman did not elaborate on YU’s finances but promised that he has “a clear understanding of our financial situation and clear pathways of how we’re on a path of growth.”

“It’s a very exciting time for Yeshiva University, our community, our students, and our future,” reflected President Berman. “That’s what energizes me and I’m excited about looking ahead with you.”


Photo Caption: President Ari Berman

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University