UTS Updates: Undergraduate Chaburah, Masmidim Honors Program
The Undergraduate Chaburah — formally known as the BA/Semicha Program — and the Masmidim Honors Program have undergone several changes recently in order to cater to the needs of students and create a vibrant afternoon seder atmosphere for those who wish to learn at that time.
The undergraduate chaburah is a four-year program with an optional additional two years that allows students to maximize their learning sedarim during the Yeshiva University experience. Students enlisted in the program spread 96 course credits — standard for three years — into a four-year period which alleviates time for a daily afternoon seder focused on halakhic topics. After four years, an undergraduate chaburah student has the opportunity of pursuing semikhah by learning an additional two years in the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). Chaburah students may also begin Jewish educational coursework as an undergraduate, simultaneous with semikhah to complete a master’s degree in Jewish education from YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration by the end of the six year period.
Several changes have been made to the Chaburah in order to improve the experience for its students. Two years ago, realizing that many students in the undergraduate chaburah chose psychology as their major, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky and the UTS faculty developed the Psychology and the Community Major that focuses on preparing future rabbinic students for the intricate psychological topics that educators and community leaders frequently encounter. In addition to the electives unique to the Psychology and the Community major, the course also broadens participating students’ undergraduate experience by permitting students to take two graduate level courses as part of their undergraduate degree.
Additionally, last year, the chaburah added Rabbi Tanchum Cohen to improve the growth-based environment that the Chaburah seeks to cultivate. “The undergraduate Chaburah has allowed me to grow in YU in ways I didn't see possible before joining,” said Ariel Brudoley, a Chaburah participant. “Each week I am presented with opportunities to make [connections] with great Rebbeim like Rav Cohen and Rav Sobolofsky who give shiur. This Chaburah allows me to take full advantage of the Torah that YU has to offer. [The undergraduate Chaburah] almost makes me feel like I never left Yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael.”
This year, the Masmidim created a “web of connections” for its students by splitting its participants into three groups depending on class standing, which are assigned one of three roshei yeshiva — Rabbi Schachter, Rabbi Willig or Rabbi Twersky — to meet weekly over dinner. This opportunity permeates a unique connection between student and rabbi, as Masmid Matan Friedman related, “Dinner with Rav Schechter affords us the opportunity to fulfill Chazal's dictum that even the mundane conversation of talmidei chachamim needs to be studied. Being in a smaller environment enables us the ability to ask the rosh yeshiva all of our questions on a wide variety of issues. I am very grateful that I can have this connection with one of the gedolei Torah of our generation.” Additionally, each group has a Kollel Elyon fellow who serves as a mentor for the students.
Students participating in the undergraduate chaburah and masmidim honors program are benefiting greatly from each programs respective improvements. However, in order to help the general afternoon learning experience, Rabbi Kalinsky encourages other YU students to join them in afternoon learning. “Even people who aren’t part of the chaburah are welcomed and encouraged to join with the seder halimud at whatever points they are free during the afternoon,” he said. “By making the chaburah an inclusive group, the hope is that more undergraduates will take the opportunity to carve out time in the afternoons to learn in our beis medrash, in addition to the many semikhah students participating in the Kollel Seder.”
Photo Caption: The Glueck Beit Midrash on the Wilf Campus
Photo Credit: YU News