Letter to the Editor: What YU Gains With Its Open Door Torah Policy
In the Dec. 16 issue of The Commentator, there was an editorial that asked how YU can continue to be a “crucial and necessary citadel of wisdom” within the Modern Orthodox community when so many students are able to take advantage of all the Torah being produced by YU without needing to officially enroll here.
In his piece, the author specifically mentioned two types of students who do this. One type of student sits in the Chabad or Hillel of their secular campus and listens to shiurim on YUTorah. Within this group, some will listen to just a few shiurim a week, and others will keep up with an MYP shiur every day, preparing morning seder along with the talmidim physically sitting in that very shiur.
The second type of student goes further than this and regularly commutes from their campus to YU so they can sit in on their chosen shiur in person. Either way, neither of these types of students is officially part of the YU community, as even the ones who travel in for shiur will immediately return to their secular campus and continue their regularly scheduled education.
However, these two types of “freeloading” secular college students are not the only ones who benefit from YU’s Torah outside the walls of Glueck. Without even mentioning the many older individuals, community lay leaders, YU graduates and women of all ages who benefit from YU’s Torah from the outside, there is a third type of secular college student that does the same. The author overlooked those non-YU students who benefit so much from YU’s Torah that they choose to become a part of the YU community themselves. They are the members of the YU family who are gained only as a result of YU’s Torah being disseminated as widely as it is. I am a prime example of this third category.
In May of 2018, I graduated from Rutgers University, a place that I had chosen to attend due to its strong Orthodox community (including a kosher meal plan, Jewish housing, multiple daily minyanim and JLIC) as well as the superior education that it offered in the fields that I wanted to specialize in. Throughout college, and especially during my last two years, I spent much of my free time sitting in the beit midrash of Hillel (and sometimes Chabad) preparing for and listening to shiurim on YUTorah and in chevrusa with our JLIC rabbi, a YU graduate. I then spent much of my senior year commuting from New Brunswick, New Jersey to Washington Heights so that I could sit in on shiurim in-person before beginning my time at RIETS. The Torah that I was able to learn as an undergraduate made me realize that I had a true love for learning within me, and taught me how to nurture that love while staying in a place that I could never have brought myself to leave. Without YUTorah, I would not be sitting in YU’s beit midrash today.
Looking around at my peers in RIETS, I know that I am far from the only person who had this experience. We may not be a particularly vocal group, but there are many men and women that would never have chosen to attend YU or any of its affiliate institutions (RIETS, GPATS, YC or Stern) if not for the access to YU’s Torah that we received during our undergraduate careers elsewhere. Some of us chose to transfer to YU while in college, while others, like myself, joined after graduating. All of us, however, share one very important thing in common: a love for YU and a desire to give back to this community that was generated by the positive experiences we had from its Torah which touched our neshamos from so many miles away. Without the “Open Door Torah Policy” of YU, we would not be at YU right now. Without an “Open Door Torah Policy,” YU would have lost us.
Steven Gotlib (Rutgers ‘18; RIETS ‘22)