By: Jacob Rosenfeld | News  | 

Einstein Granted Independent Degree-Granting Abilities, Will Maintain Jewish Identity

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM) has been officially awarded degree-granting abilities from the New York Board of Regents. This is a major milestone in the transitionary period of AECOM as they finalize their spin off from Yeshiva University and become a jointly owned entity of both Yeshiva University and Montefiore Health Services.

In Sept. 2015, Einstein was spun into a newly formed corporation named “AECOM, Inc.” which has been jointly owned by Montefiore and YU. This has enabled Montefiore and Einstein to maintain certain systems during the transition period and, most importantly, their degree-granting ability which has continued to be from Yeshiva University. On March 4, Einstein, along with YU and Montefiore, announced that Einstein had been awarded an absolute charter and degree-granting abilities from the New York Board of Regents.

President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman said regarding the advancement of the transitions that “Einstein continues to be an important affiliate of Yeshiva University and a shining example of our commitment to preparing students with the knowledge and tools to have a meaningful and positive impact on the world. We look forward to building upon our joint collaboration with Montefiore to create and nurture opportunities that foster new standards of academic excellence.”

When asked what the collaboration between Yeshiva and Montefiore will entail, a university spokesperson said, “Under the collaboration, Einstein is an affiliate of both Yeshiva University and Montefiore, with Yeshiva University serving as Einstein’s academic affiliate and Montefiore serving as Einstein’s clinical and research affiliate.”

In regards to student life that affects many Yeshiva alumni and Einstein students, the Yeshiva University spokesperson assured, “Under the joint collaboration agreement, Einstein continues to maintain a Jewish mission and will continue to have such practices that are consistent with orthodox Jewish law and practices. In addition, Yeshiva University continues to have oversight over Einstein’s continuation and implementation of such Jewish mission and practices including orthodox Jewish observance of kashrus and Shabbat/Yom Tov. Therefore we do not expect any change in Jewish life on campus.”

In addition to no changes regarding the Jewish life on campus, Yeshiva University also informed The Commentator that Yeshiva students will receive the same treatment they have in the past. The Yeshiva University spokesperson said, “Einstein remains the affiliated medical school of Yeshiva University. We do not anticipate any change to the historic relationship and admissions process that has benefited our students for decades. Yeshiva University is one of the top feeder schools to Einstein and Einstein has always shown a special affinity toward our students. Einstein is expected to continue its current practices pertaining to the acceptance of graduates of Yeshiva University. Our student admission numbers into Einstein have remained extremely strong and we expect that will continue.”

Other changes that affect students is concerning Einstein’s degree-granting ability. In an April 9 email, Brenda Loewy, Director of Pre-Health Advisement at Stern College for Women, informed students that Einstein will not be accepting students without American citizenship during the 2019, 2020 and possibly 2021 admissions cycles. The Yeshiva spokesperson said, “Albert Einstein College of Medicine is now an independent academic institution, with the authority to confer its own medical and graduate degrees. Einstein’s academic independence is the result of a vote by the Board of Regents of New York State’s Department of Education, which awarded Einstein an absolute charter, establishing it as an autonomous educational institution… Einstein has not received approval to sponsor foreign students — existing foreign students have remained students of Yeshiva University under a separate agreement — and YU continues to sponsor them.”

The idea of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECOM) was first brought in the mid-40s by President Samuel Belkin. In 1951 he received approval from the state of New York for the care of patients at the Bronx Municipal Hospital and his pet project was becoming a reality. The goal of Einstein was to “welcome students of all creeds and races” during a time when many medical school admissions were discriminatory against Jews, blacks and Catholics. Two years later, on March 15, 1953, Albert Einstein agreed to allow his name to be used as the name for Yeshiva’s to-be medical school to help achieve this mantra of fair admissions. In Oct. 1953, the first building of the newly formed Albert Einstein College of Medicine began construction on their main building in the Bronx. That building is still in use today and is known as the Leo Forchheimer Medical Sciences Building. On Sept. 15, 1955, the first class at Einstein began with a total of 56 students and 75 faculty members.

Einstein quickly became “the crown jewel” of Yeshiva’s graduate schools as it gained national recognition. Einstein quickly expanded its research programs and in 1964 opened the first Department of Genetics in the United States. Over time, Einstein’s accomplishments and contributions have had endless repercussions for the field of medicine.

Being a graduate school of Yeshiva, students of the undergraduate schools often found it easier to be accepted to Einstein compared to other medical schools of the same tier. In addition, the Orthodox Jewish identity of the school, including adherence to the Jewish calendar and its holidays and maintaining a kosher dining hall, made it a further top choice of Yeshiva students.

Over the years, AECOM began to become a monetary burden on Yeshiva as the financial state of AECOM, and the University as a whole began to come into question. The Commentator has previously detailed how such financial woes came about at Yeshiva University and Einstein and the details are a familiar storyline of heightened spending before a financial downturn and overall mismanagement of funds and programming.

In June 2014, a memorandum of understanding was issued between Montefiore Health System and Yeshiva University. Memoranda of understanding are a standard business procedure that are not legally binding, but state that a deal or contract is imminent. As the faculty senate of Einstein issued a vote of no confidence in former President Richard Joel in Jan. 2015, a deal was being finalized between Montefiore and Yeshiva.Several weeks later, on Feb. 3, 2015, Montefiore Health System and Yeshiva University issued a joint statement announced an agreement to terms of a deal, essentially a sale, that would grant Montefiore greater control over Einstein. The deal stipulated that Yeshiva would maintain a 49 percent equity stake in AECOM and all of the real estate owned by the school but all decisions and planning would be up to Montefiore. This was clearly a financially motivated moved, as The Commentator reported, given that Einstein accounted for nearly two-thirds of Yeshiva University’s 2014 budget deficit. The transaction allows Montefiore Health System to take over operations of Einstein and be further in sync with operations at Montefiore Medical Center, Einstein’s teaching hospital. They hope these changes will allow for more efficient and cost-effective management of both institutions allowing Einstein to maintain a connection with Yeshiva while being run by a health-focused organization.


Photo Caption: Professor Albert Einstein and President Samuel Belkin look at an architect’s model of the medical college.