By: Adina Cohen | Features  | 

From the TAC President’s Desk: Uniting Our Kolei Torah

A few weeks ago, I was making plans with a friend to catch up about our summers, and I asked him if there was night seder that night or if he was free. Laughing, he told me, “Adina, asking me if there is night seder is missing the whole essence of what night seder is and how it functions.” He proceeded to explain to me that night seder uptown is not an official state of affairs per se. Chavrutot do not decide to learn based on whether night seder is technically happening on a given night. In fact, even saying that night seder happens or does not happen is a misunderstanding of the system. Chavrutot learn because there is Torah to be learned and, since most classes are over by 8 p.m., what could be a better use of time than sitting in the beit midrash reveling in God’s Torah? This attitude, which seems to permeate the walls of the Glueck Beit Midrash, is one that I have been chasing in my time on the Beren Campus. Moreover, I think it is safe to say that I am not the only one who is searching for this feeling within the seventh floor Beren beit midrash.

I once thought that passion for Torah learning downtown was incomparable to the fervor emanating from the Wilf campus. However, I no longer believe that to be true. The women on the Beren Campus learn Torah and attend Torah programming. The women on the Beren Campus schedule chavrutot and stick to them. Yet, with all that, the kol Torah and positive peer pressure of late night learning on the Beren Campus are still lacking. Why is this the reality? And even more importantly, what can be done to change that?

Kol Torah in a beit midrash does not happen by accident. It happens when large numbers of people choose to learn Torah there at the same time. On the Wilf Campus, the Glueck Beit Midrash serves not only as the home for some of the undergraduate students during their morning seder programs, but houses a thriving semikhah program and Kollel Elyon. The beit midrash is not another classroom in the university, rather it is a yeshiva that exists in its own right. It functions outside of the schedules of busy Yeshiva College and Syms students. When a student in YC or Syms steps into the beit midrash, he is entering an oasis and joining his peers as they learn, be it for morning seder, night seder, or even afternoon seder. The kol Torah in Glueck is a product of the yeshiva and not the individual students; the students add to it, of course, but writ large, it is the already existing kol Torah that propels the students uptown to join the conversation.

On the Beren Campus, we do not have a yeshiva. The well-established architecture that exists uptown is still in its initial stages on the Beren Campus. If we play our cards right, one day the seventh floor beit midrash will serve as a beacon of women’s Torah learning in the same way that the yeshiva uptown does for the greater Jewish community. The question then remains; what can we, the women of the Beren Campus, do as a community to not only increase the kol Torah during our time on campus, but help lay the foundation for future women who will walk the halls of the Beren Campus?

Since the beginning of the semester, I have already noticed a shift on campus. I recently went to the beit midrash to daven mincha and was amazed by the number of women learning and the chatter of Torah that surrounded me. I was struck with the realization that the ever elusive kol Torah that I have been searching for on campus is within reach. It is there and quite frankly it always has been, but it is the medium through which the individual kolot can unite that has been missing. In fact, this unification has already begun through the efforts of the campus couples. The number of weekly chaburot on campus is more than five times the number of chaburot that existed last year. Rabbi and Rebbetzin Bernstein as well as Rabbi Rosenzweig can frequently be found in the beit midrash and are friendly faces, responding to the needs of students through scheduling chaburot as well as chavrutot. Their energy is contagious and they have played a huge role in attracting more women to the beit midrash on a day-to-day basis.

Another way in which we — TAC, our related clubs and the campus couples — hope to facilitate the passion for Torah that exists on campus is through the new incentivized Beren Bekiut Program (BBP). The program has been months in the making and has the potential to be a mechanism that solidifies the foundation of a culture of learning that has been emerging since the beginning of the semester. BBP consists of five different tracks — Gemara, Halacha, Mishna, Tanach and Chumash — and aims to cater to the diverse learning levels and interests that exist on campus. By taking on a Torah project along with the greater Beren community, our individual Torah learning no longer exists simply within the context of our daily schedules but takes on greater meaning. It builds community, positive peer pressure and amplifies the kol Torah.

We are at an exciting stage in the development of Torah on the Beren Campus. The passion is here, the (wo)manpower is here, the facilitators are here as well. If we take advantage of the opportunities offered and unite in our Torah learning, we will be the students who will be able to look back at their time in university and be proud of being part of the beginning of the Beren Campus’ kol Torah spreading beyond the walls of the beit midrash and out into the world.


Photo Caption: June Zman 2017 in the Leo and Leon Eisenberg Beit Midrash on Beren Campus.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University