By: Benji Halpern | Features  | 

What’s President Joel Up To?

Mr. Richard Joel served as the president of Yeshiva University from 2003 until he stepped down from the position in 2017. He has consequently swapped the hectic schedule of a university president for that of a professor.

Joel is currently the Bravmann Family University Professor and teaches the popular class titled “Management in a Non-Profit World.” He believes it’s an important topic to teach and expressed his love of building relationships with his students.

“President Joel’s class is one of the highlights of my week,” said Yehuda Rosenberg (SSSB ‘20). “Learning from someone who has played and continues to play such a pivotal role in the Jewish community is truly a privilege.”

Joel has previously taught at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and looks forward to remaining involved in teaching in the future.

Joel occasionally speaks with his successor, President Ari Berman, although Joel doesn’t “presume to give him advice, other than to stay healthy.”

In addition to his present role on campus, Joel is currently writing a book about his world view and the effect it had on YU over his tenure. “It is honestly a daunting task to try to encapsulate how and why one has lived,” said Joel in reference to his work, “but I’m having at it.”

Now that he is not hindered by the long schedule of a university president, Joel has been able to find more time for his self described “eclectic” style of learning Torah. Every week before Shabbos, he makes sure to read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s various works. Iturei Torah, an anthology on the weekly parsha is another mainstay in President Joel’s learning. He also regularly learns Pirkei Avot with his youngest daughter. In addition, Joel plans on setting up a regular chavrusa on the Wilf Campus.

Joel serves on the Board of Directors of the Gesher Foundation, an Israeli organization dedicated to “bridging the gaps between different segments of Israeli society.” Whenever he is in Israel, Joel visits his daughter Penny, the Director of Experiential Education at the Pardes Institute, and makes sure to spend time interacting with her students.

After years of busy Shabbosim, the Joels have been enjoying the new phenomenon of a quiet Shabbos. They have also been hosting several students in their home for Shabbos. Joel has also been trying his hand at cooking, almost mastering potato kugel and sweet and sour meatballs.

While he no longer has to go on fundraising and recruiting trips, Joel is still keeping himself busy. His days are “unstructured, but not empty,” allowing him to explore avenues he’s wanted to for a long time.

Joel can also be frequently found working out at the Riverdale Y, where his wife Esther recently stepped down after years of service on the Board of Directors.

Incentivized by senior citizen ticket prices, President Joel has enjoyed his time at the theater. He particularly loves the philharmonic, as well as the films “Green Book” and “Darkest Hour” (Joel saw the latter three times).

Joel’s flexible schedule has allowed him to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. He regularly visits the “holy city of Cleveland.” Joel loves the vibrant and growing Cleveland community and even boldly claims that “Mitchell’s is the best ice cream in the Midwest.”

The Joels are planning a wedding this June for their youngest child and are very excited about the upcoming simcha. Reflecting on his past and present experiences, President Joel could only say, “my life has been, and continues to be, a special gift.”


Photo Caption: President Richard Joel

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University