Administration Announces No New Student-Run YU Community Minyan
Following repeated requests for the President’s Office or Dean Chaim Nissel to offer a comment, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs released a statement to The Commentator, stating that the addition of a “student-run YU community minyan” where women would be permitted to give divrei Torah, will ultimately not be created on the Wilf Campus. This comes after Dean Chaim Nissel previously announced the creation of a new minyan for the Fall 2018 semester.
The full statement: “The Office of Student Life has conferred with the student leaders and at this time they were not interested in creating a new community minyan. Moving forward, the administration will be working closely with student leaders to find a direction for the wide range of our student body to have a meaningful, vibrant Shabbat experience on the Wilf Campus.”
This marks the conclusion of a discussion regarding the role of female students within the Wilf Campus Shabbat experience. In December 2017, Lilly Gelman (SCW ‘19) delivered a dvar Torah after the conclusion of tefillah at Klein@9, a student-run and Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY)-sponsored Shabbat minyan in the Klein beit midrash. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Menachem Penner, Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Undergraduate Torah Studies, enacted a policy that prohibited women to give divrei Torah at the minyan.
The next February, Gelman criticized Rabbi Penner’s decision in a much-read Commentator article, which led to many follow-up discussions and articles, including a critique of the administration for not responding to the criticism. Within days after Dean Nissel’s announcement at the end of March, further critique was directed towards the administration in the form of an editorial and a joint response by the entire Wilf Campus student council.
Noah Marlowe (YC ‘19), this year’s President of Klein@9 and last year’s SOY Vice President, was one of the student leaders that met with Dean Nissel to discuss the creation of a new minyan. Marlowe stated that he shared with Nissel that “most, if not all, students were not only disinterested in starting a new minyan but didn’t understand the concept at all.” He explained that students would not “want to abandon their community to form a new one” and that there was no interest in “creating a minyan solely on the platform of female students sharing divrei Torah.”
Marlowe further added that after consulting “many different types of students,” he believes that “somewhere between half the minyan and the majority of the minyan [Klein@9] is in favor of female students sharing divrei Torah.” He said that “nevertheless, we respect the University’s decision” and stated that “we don’t want to rock the boat or start a revolution; and we don’t want to make our community members feel uncomfortable. Instead, we wish to build a YU community that embraces and reflects the vision and mission of Yeshiva University and Modern (or Centrist) Orthodoxy.”