By: Benjamin Koslowe | Editorials  | 

In Retrospect

I find my mind zooming through a hyperloop of memories of late. At moments my consciousness swings back to my first day on campus, unloading furniture from yellow basket trucks and scrolling through my undergraduate emails for the first time. At other instances, I am in the packed library on a dark winter night, hunched over a pile of assignments, all too aware of the unforgiving clock ticking away on the wall. I relive the nerves and wide eyes that accompanied my first investigative journalism assignment in August 2015, as well as my profound sense of pride only two weeks ago as I watched this newspaper’s new editor-in-chief address his staff for the first time while I leaned back from the realm of contemporary into the realm of history.

As I reflect in particular on the eighty-fourth volume of The Commentator, I am glad to say that I have almost no regrets. Our news coverage was relentless, digging deep into every corner of Yeshiva University, from administrative offices down to student clubs and organizations, to provide the community with an informative, interesting and timely window into the institution. We successfully offered a platform for scores of well-articulated, relevant opinions from the undergraduate student body. My editorials did not praise much, but the critiques were carefully argued and written with a measured tone to provoke thoughts without causing needless offense. Despite significant pushback, I challenged the miserable state of YU’s academic integrity, which I believe contributed to recent heightened efforts to institute sensible anti-cheating policies. I was less successful in convincing the Deans to invest in adequate pre-law advising, or in generating a fully head-covered Wilf Campus, but I believe that simply raising these and other uncomfortable issues was positive for our extended readership’s self-awareness. On the whole, our publication has been a strong check on those with power at Yeshiva University, and I believe that the community is a better place because of our hard work.

Three of my professors — Thomas Otway, Sondra Solomon and Sherwood Goffin — have passed away while I was a student here. In reminiscing about these since-deceased professors and the impacts that they had on me, I think as well about other countless individuals who helped me along the way in my general YU experience and in my specific involvement with the newspaper. I recognize that I owe much gratitude to many different people.

With the permission of The Commentator’s new editor-in-chief and layout staff, I intend to dedicate what remains of my final editorial to thank several special people without whose presence my academic, social and journalistic successes over the past four years would have been much diminished. I hope that using the editorial platform for this endeavor will serve both as a tribute to specific individuals whom I believe deserve praise, and to arouse expressions of gratitude from other students whose YU experiences I suspect were similarly enhanced by various cohorts of individuals, some of whom may be included in this editorial, but most of whom may not.

The Commentator

It is almost impossible to quantify just how much I have learned from The Commentator. Writing and editing these past four years has taught me edifying lessons in penmanship, leadership, collaboration, deadline management and confidence. Though many editors helped me along the way, I owe particular thanks to Doron Levine and Avi Strauss, my editor-in-chief predecessors who trained me, believed in me and taught me by their impressive examples of unflinching courage, healthy doses of competitiveness, endless wit and indefatigable dedication.

This year, we ran a tight operation that was highly professional and unusually prolific. I was continuously amazed by and proud of the entire editorial board, but Shoshy Ciment and Sam Gelman merit unique recognition. Both of them served The Commentator for three full years, and both of them, with their organization, responsibility and responsiveness made my job qualitatively easier than it would have been without them. I am especially thankful to Shoshy and Sam for serving as sanity checks at various points, for example, when I was plagued by doubts about whether to expose Rabbi Shulman’s pre-Shabbaton announcement, or whether to report on YU’s Admissions Office rejecting a Model UN topic paper on sexual minorities, among several other tough decisions that arose this year.

I would also be remiss without thanking Avi Hirsch. Avi proved his keen sense for good journalism many times over. He is capable and resourceful, both of which were clear from the manner in which he carefully laid out 15 print issues. He is dedicated, which was evident to me on the myriad occasions this year when he offered insightful comments to articles, closed the library lights with me after staying up late to finish a rush story or simply participated diligently by showing up to all of our meetings ready to discuss our upcoming issues. Six years ago, when I graduated Torah Academy of Bergen County, I left Avi in charge of our high school’s weekly periodical. I am thrilled to pass on a publication to his competent hands once again.


Unrelated to this newspaper’s publication, my time at Yeshiva University was largely influenced by the 39 professors and rebbeim from whom I learned as an undergraduate. Three people in particular who uniquely and profoundly contributed to my growth were Rabbi Hayyim Angel and Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, who taught me Torah for my full third and fourth years here, respectively, and Professor David Johnson, whose philosophy courses I was fortunate enough to take seven times. All of these men, beyond their brilliant pedagogies, were paragons of menschlichkeit, modesty, patience and good discipline. I owe a great deal to these role models, whose examples I anticipate will keep me forever slightly guilty for not entering the world of academia for my own professional career.

VP Doron Stern

I have made my feelings about the current YU administration clear on many occasions this year. Aside from ideological concerns that I raised in editorials, my journalistic efforts this year time and again ran into conflict with Vice President of Communications Doron Stern. Mr. Stern knows the field of marketing and is well-suited to run YU’s Office of Marketing and Communication. Many of his projects are excellent, and he cares deeply about the success of Yeshiva University.

Nevertheless, Mr. Stern and I had difficulties. Mr. Stern reacted with thin skin to our legitimately skeptical news coverage of his newspaper and billboard advertising campaigns early last fall, after which he regularly accused me and my editors, following almost every one of our critiques and exposés this year, of harboring “snark” or malicious ill will towards the university, all the while conveniently neglecting to acknowledge our news coverage and many op-eds that cast YU in a favorable light. On several occasions — notably, when we wrote about President Berman’s house — Mr. Stern refused to share any information or to meet us halfway on rather benign investigations into the university’s decisions. I found Mr. Stern’s perspective naïve (I encourage him to read through Commentator volumes that were significantly more critical of YU than we were this year), his attitude frustrating and his policies unproductive.

At the same time, I understand that Mr. Stern is charged with the nearly impossible task of keeping YU’s image clean at all costs, and that my articles this year probably caused him to lose many hours of sleep. Despite it all, Mr. Stern always kept his office door open, he never raised his voice at me and he always offered a sincere hello when we crossed paths.

Doron — you hold the distinction of being my first nemesis, which I say with the warmest of intentions. You once offered to treat me to a dinner outing “after it’s all over,” and I hope that we can make such an occasion work (I believe you have my email address, right?). Until that time, I look forward to hearing you cheer very loudly for me at graduation next week.

Other Administrators

One of the most enjoyable parts of running The Commentator has been interacting closely with the many administrators who help run this complex, dialectical place that is Yeshiva University. Several figures were particularly helpful to me this year.

Rabbi Yosef Blau, a YU rosh yeshiva and senior mashgiach ruchani, offered his listening ears and his sage advice on many occasions. Rabbi Blau brims with wisdom that stems from his long institutional memory and his unique ability to be a peacemaker in many different capacities. I benefited tremendously from having Rabbi Blau as a mentor and confidant.

“I’m sure we’ll get to know each other well this year,” Senior Director of Communications Mechal Haas told me back in August, and I can say now that her prophecy was half correct — we got to know each other extremely well. On a close to daily basis, my editors and I bugged Mechal for important quotes, contacts and other resources, and she was always responsive. Mechal is a true professional and YU is lucky to have her. I thoroughly enjoyed our biweekly news briefings and her candid insider’s perspective, and I hope that our friendship will persist.

Dean Karen Bacon often came across to me as a larger-than-life leader. In a bureaucracy plagued with inefficiencies and opaqueness, Dean Bacon makes regular efforts to reach out to students and professors, and she knows how to make tough decisions when necessary. I have disagreed with many of her decisions — vehemently, at times — as well as her staunch tendency to see matters only her way. Fundamentally, though, I have great respect for Dean Bacon’s sincerity and hard work. Dean Bacon has been a legendary powerhouse at Yeshiva University for over 40 years, and I wish her many more productive years to come.

There are many unsung heroes who are crucial pillars holding up Yeshiva University, and Linda Stone, the Director of Student Events, is one such person. Linda is a classy, unassuming, highly thoughtful individual who manages many different student life responsibilities behind the scenes, and who I’m sure manages yet a dozen more facets of which I’m not even aware. I am especially thankful to Linda for her help this past February when The Commentator faced a certain serious existential threat, and, when my request for help was turned away by several YU administrators, Linda alone offered her assistance.

Makers and Shakers

Yeshiva University is a demanding place where efficiency is a necessity for success. Many people contribute to efficiency in many different ways, and I would like to call attention to three such groups that elevated my personal undergraduate experience.

Over the past two years, I have spent hundreds of hours reading through Commentator archives, which are primarily located in the Gottesman Library’s reference section. Never once did any of the reference librarians roll their eyes when I came to request old newspaper archives, and they always seemed happy to help. Similarly, YU’s archivists and special collections librarians offered many hours of their time retrieving archives and conducting research for me. I will not name any particular librarian, since at least ten come to mind, but I hope that they all realize that they are much appreciated.

If the librarians nourished my intellect, then the Office of Admissions desk nourished my stomach. I don’t know how that little desk in Furst Hall is always stacked with snacks, but I can only assume that some serious magical powers are involved. I lost count years ago of how many Laffy Taffy candies, Twizzlers and pretzels I have taken from that desk to power me through long class-filled afternoons.

If the Office of Admissions desk possesses magical powers, then Carlton Cabey must be a wizard. I have been obsessed with Cabey since he first snapped at me to cut to the chase and just tell him which piece of salmon I preferred, and to stop holding up the cafeteria line. Cabey’s delicious half chicken pales in warmness only to his big heart. That I wrote a profile of Cabey is a testament to my admiration and thanks for the simple daily greetings that I was lucky to share with this wonderful person.

I would also be remiss to not mention the four (and counting) “Free Pizza” WhatsApp groups, in which hundreds of hungry YU students regularly share postings about where to find delicious leftovers around campus. These groups have been a helpful, ridiculous source of food and nonsense that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to these groups. They offered great food and hock. I wish them the best.

Friends and Family

Academics aside, my favorite feature that Yeshiva University offered has undoubtedly been the community. I have been fortunate to grow close with so many different friends over the past few years, and I hope that they know that much of my happiness as an undergraduate was a result of their mere presence. In the context of Commentator reflections, I feel compelled to offer special thanks to my friends Yair Lichtman and Akiva Schiff. A wise man once said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” Aside from being excellent roommates and quality friends, Yair and Akiva both read almost every single article that I published over the past four years, and they regularly shared their bluntest, often critical reactions. Their feedback helped me become a better writer and a more aware person. I owe a lot to Yair and Akiva, probably more than they even realize.

Only three other people of whom I am aware consistently read all of my pieces and regularly offered reactions. I am thankful to my father, whose career on The Commentator was an inspiration for me, and whose measured critiques of my articles helped sharpen my writing and my judgment. And I am thankful to my mother, whose near-unequivocal praise of my writing was helpful in other, perhaps equally crucial ways.

Finally, thank you to my great-grandmother, Grandma Marly Koslowe, who has been reading Commentator articles written by Koslowes since the 1940s. Her advice is as wise as it ever was, and I am thankful to have been able to read the newspaper with her this year and hear her perspective on everything. To Grandma, who I know will read her hard copy of this issue very soon — Happy 99th birthday!

Last Thoughts

I am truly appreciative to Yeshiva University and all associated individuals for offering me a most amazing, growth-oriented four years. I conclude with two verses, both of which have moved me deeply on many occasions, and both of which seem pertinent at this moment of reflection and passing leadership:

-She’al avikha veyageidkha, zikeinekha veyomru lakh.

-Don’t say, we have come now to the end; White shores are calling, you and I will meet again.


Photo Caption: The Governing Board of The Commentator Volume 84
Photo Credit: The Commentator