By: Benjamin Koslowe | Features  | 

A Comprehensive Analysis of Trends in MYP Shiurim Sizes

This article, continuing in the footsteps of Commentator data-driven analytic articles from this semester, tracks changes in Mazer Yeshiva Program (MYP) shiurim sizes over the past several years. The scope covers the shiurim of MYP roshei yeshiva and ramim. The data begins with the Fall 2013 semester.

All male Yeshiva University undergraduates are registered in one of four Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) programs, one of which is MYP. Students enrolled in MYP typically learn Gemara together as chavrutot in one of YU’s batei midrash — Glueck, Fishel and Klein — in the mornings, and then attend a shiur delivered by their rosh yeshiva or ram in the early afternoon.

The data indicates there have been 28 different MYP shiurim since Fall 2013. Most of the shiurim are taught by YU roshei yeshiva, although some are taught by ramim. According to Rabbi Menachem Penner, the Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Undergraduate Torah Studies, the title of “rosh yeshiva” is “a title of kavod.” He added, “In theory, the roshei yeshiva should have even more weight [than ramim] with regard to existential questions facing the yeshiva. In practice, few of those issues arise.”

As far as education is concerned, MYP roshei yeshiva and ramim have essentially identical formal roles. “The differences between roshei yeshiva [and ramim] are minimal,” explained Rabbi Penner, “as all of the rabbeim have a say in the future of the yeshiva.”

Of the 28 rabbis who have taught MYP shiurim since Fall 2013, the only ramim are Rabbis Mordechai Benhaim, Avraham Sarfaty, Netanel Wiederblank, Yehuda Willig and Ari Zahtz. As for the 23 roshei yeshiva who teach MYP shiurim, whose last names all appear in the charts below, 21 still currently teach in MYP. Rabbi David Horwitz has not taught an MYP shiur since Spring 2017, and Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz passed away in August 2014.

Besides for Rabbi Yankelewitz, the other roshei yeshiva who have passed away since Fall 2013 are Rabbi Ozer Glickman, who died in March 2018, Rabbi Yosef Weiss, who died in December 2015 and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, who died in April 2015.

Besides for the roshei yeshiva who appear in the charts below, there are also currently nine others who serve YU in capacities that do not include MYP shiurim. These are Rabbis Assaf Bednarsh, Yosef Blau, J. David Bleich, Zevulun Charlop, Menachem Genack, Norman Lamm, Dovid Miller, Yona Reiss and Ezra Schwartz.

The only rosh yeshiva to be hired since Fall 2013 has been Rabbi Michael Taubes, who was named rosh yeshiva in Fall 2016 after having served as rosh yeshiva of Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA). According to Rabbi Penner, “We do not yet have a set plan for the future of rosh yeshiva appointments.”

All of the data comes from MYYU listings. Since all MYP shiurim are cross-listed with RIETS, the numbers below include not only Yeshiva College (YC) and Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB) undergraduates, but also graduate semikhah students.

Empty boxes indicate that the corresponding rosh yeshiva or ram did not deliver an MYP shiur during the indicated semester. A bolded number indicates that a shiur studied a halakhic masekhet rather than the standard MYP masekhet, and an italicized number indicates that a shiur studied a non-halakhic masekhet rather than the standard MYP masekhet. The standard MYP masekhtot which were studied by the vast majority of MYP shiurim in recent years have been: Shabbat (‘13-’14), Ketubot (‘14-15), Sanhedrin (‘15-’16), Kiddushin (‘16-’17), Sukkah (‘17-’18) and Baba Kamma (‘18-’19).

Though the charts largely speak for themselves, some trends are worth pointing out.

Most shiurim have not varied much from their average sizes from year to year. Exceptions include Rabbis Ben-Haim, Goldwicht and Kahn, whose shiurim have seen mostly steady declines in size in recent years, and Rabbi Sarfaty, whose shiur has seen mostly steady growth in size in recent years.

Some shiurim’s sizes differ markedly from their averages during years in which they do not study the standard MYP masekhet. For example, whereas Rabbi Mordechai Willig’s shiur averages just over 13 students, during the 2016-2017 academic year, when he taught a unique masekhet (Niddah), his shiur averaged 20 students. Conversely, whereas Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger’s shiur averages just over 26 students, during the 2017-2018 academic year, when he taught a unique masekhet (Hullin), his shiur averaged 14.5 students.

Besides for Rabbi Sobolofsky’s shiur averaging the largest at almost 56 students per semester, his shiur has also boasted the largest shiur size for individual semesters, numbering 101 students in Fall 2013 and 82 students in Spring 2014. The only shiurim to ever number under 5 students for a semester are those of Rabbis Yitzchak Cohen, David Horwitz, Hershel Reichman, Michael Taubes, Moshe Tendler and Gershon Yankelewitz.

Though most shiurim stay roughly the same size during the two semesters of each academic year, several do not. For example, Rabbi Goldwicht’s shiur is almost always larger in the spring compared to the fall, whereas Rabbi Rosensweig’s shiur is almost always larger in the fall compared to the spring.

The chart below indicates the total number of students registered in MYP shiurim for each semester since Fall 2013 (again, this data includes YC and SSSB undergraduates as well as RIETS semikhah students):

During every academic year besides for 2015-2016, the aggregate number of students in MYP shiurim has shrunk after the fall semester. This trend is most likely due to a combination of the fact that many YU students graduate in January after completing three and a half years of college, as well as the fact that students often switch morning programs from semester to semester. From Fall 2013 to Fall 2018, the total number of students in MYP shiurim has dropped by 99 students, from 637 to 538.

As with other data-driven Commentator pieces, explanations for shiurim sizes are beyond the scope of this article.


Some notes on methodology:

  • MYP data from (MYYU) was copied into Excel and organized by shiurim.
  • The numbers of registered students might differ slightly from the numbers of individuals who are present in any given shiur, since some shiurim include alumni or other non-registered students, and some shiurim include many registered students who sometimes are not present for shiur.
  • Since the median sizes for shiurim were typically very close to the average sizes for shiurim, the medians were not included in this article.
  • The total number of MYP and RIETS students produced by MYYU data differs slightly from the total number provided by Office of Institutional Research & Assessment (OIR). This is most likely due to the fact that every semester, several MYP students choose to do independent studies and therefore do not register for any MYP shiur.

Photo Caption: Glueck Beit Midrash
Photo Credit: The Commentator