Making Strides Towards a Stronger Beit Midrash on Beren
When I chose to attend Yeshiva University, the main reason behind it was to qualitatively and quantitatively continue my Torah learning. On the eve of my college graduation, I can testify that I got to do that through a beautiful beit midrash, a plethora of courses that enhanced and complemented my learning, and countless opportunities for shiurim. I am changed, and I have a tremendous hakarat hatov for what I’ve gained.
Every day, I came into contact with women who were eager to learn — and the range of learning materials was wide — in pursuit of a stronger and more meaningful religious experience. My fellow students were taking it seriously, my professors and Rabbis added the appropriate gravitas to it and the campus couples warmly provided — and continue to provide — so much Torah.
Yet, it does not seem to me that the university as a whole gives women’s Torah learning the full attention that it deserves. Our institution offers a curriculum of Torah study, and the attitude toward it needs to change: We need a stronger presence of constant religious mentors inhabiting Beren’s beit midrash.
The Wilf campus, home to the men of YU, nestles the famed Glueck Beis Medrash, the pillar of Yeshiva. As such, the uptown, or Wilf, campus, is a physical yeshiva. The downtown Beren, or women’s campus, is not.
I would like to suggest that a serious place of Torah study — such as Glueck — consists of three essential elements: students dedicated to religious growth through Torah study, religious authority figures that inhabit the physical space of the yeshiva, and a whole lot of books.
Having religious mentors in this specific, physical space is a pillar of the yeshiva world, a factor that is critical to its relevance and its success. By not providing its Stern College for Women (SCW) beit midrash with enough people like that, Yeshiva University is effectively demoting its importance as a yeshiva, as it denies us the full exposure to, and respect for, religious authorities; this can be detrimental to our religious growth. It is a slap in the face to Yeshiva University’s women.
“There’s no other time in which Jewish women have the opportunities and the access that they have today,” President Berman told the Commentator in December 2018. “And we want to strengthen, encourage, support and grow that as much as possible.” Do more. Access is not just filling a room with books and planting it on the Beren campus; that’s not equal access. We need more of our religious mentors inhabiting this area.
The beit midrash on Beren sometimes seems to me like a symbolic space, in that it symbolizes a perfected place of Torah study; it’s quite incredible and has women studying in there almost all of the time. It is so close to becoming that, to becoming a place that treats its Torah learning as seriously as it should by having more mentors there, but it’s not there yet.
It is slow and steady strides that will get our Torah to a place of proper attention and authority, and, though I won’t be here to see it, I look forward to Mrs. Shoshana Schechter’s appointment as the Associate Dean for Torah Studies at SCW. I hope to see more religious authorities inside this space, to see those who are already in the building spend more time in the beit midrash establish a presence there. I hope that she will continue to advance the institution on the path it’s already started going on, and take it to a place where our Torah study gets the proper attention and the proper kavod that it deserves.
Photo Caption: Students study on the Beren and Wilf campuses.
Photo Credit: The Commentator