By: Avi Hirsch  | 

Rynhold Appointed Dean of Revel as Berger Steps Down

Dr. David Berger will be stepping down from his position as dean of YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, effective June 30, to be replaced by Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Director of Yeshiva College’s (YC) Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program Dr. Daniel Rynhold. Berger will continue teaching as a professor of Jewish History at Revel.

According to Dean of the Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon, Dr. Eliezer Schnall, clinical professor of psychology at YC, will be replacing Rynhold as the new director of the Honors Program. “We anticipate appointing an Associate Director as well,” explained Dean Bacon in an email to The Commentator. “Our goal is to continue to make the program as robust and engaging as it has been in the past.”

The news that Revel would soon have a new dean was first publicized in an email from Berger two months ago informing Revel students that he would be stepping down. In the email, Berger announced his successor, adding, “Those of you who know Prof. Rynhold will understand why I am pleased by this, and those who do not will soon share that pleasure.”

In a statement to The Commentator, Berger elaborated that although he had “resisted major administrative positions” in the past, when he assumed a professorial Chair at YU 13 years ago, he found himself in “an institution that [he] cared about deeply for reasons that transcended the fact that it was [his] employer.”

“I accepted the vigorous argument by the Provost at the time [Dr. Morton Lowengrub] that it was my obligation to undertake this position,” explained Berger. “After a dozen years, and well past the normal age of retirement, I told the current Provost [Dr. Selma Botman] that it was time to return to the simple status of Professor. I hope that I am leaving Revel in a position to build on its stellar status in the academic world through its extraordinary constellation of world class professors and students who are conversant with the texts and teachings of the millennial Jewish tradition.”

When Rynhold was called into Berger’s office in late January, he was not expecting to find himself offered the position of dean of Revel. But ever since that meeting, he has been working closely with Revel’s associate dean, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Cohen, to prepare for the upcoming year. “Ever since the first day in January, he’s been very helpful and supportive,” said Rynhold about Cohen. “I think between the two of us as a team, we can take Revel from strength to strength.”

Rynhold previously served as a lecturer in Judaism at King’s College London from 2001 to 2007, before moving to the United States to begin teaching Jewish Philosophy at Revel. He was appointed to serve as director of YC’s Honors Program in 2018, after its previous director Dr. Shalom Holtz was appointed to the position of YC Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. Rynhold also currently serves as the director of Revel’s doctoral program and has simultaneously been serving as the Shoshana Shier Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto for the spring semester.

Rynhold sketched out his three main goals for the school as he assumes the position. First, Revel had already been on a trajectory to expand its online degrees and prioritize remote learning to increase enrollment and attract students from around the globe. Revel’s Jewish Philosophy Master of Arts (MA) degree has been available to take remotely for over a year, and with the coronavirus pandemic driving schools across the world online, Rynhold hopes to further expand the online offerings at Revel, beginning with a fully online summer session. Citing Dean Berger’s success with expanding Revel’s Ph.D. program over his tenure as dean, Rynhold expressed a desire to further build on Dean Berger’s achievements in this area by making the Ph.D. program more accessible as Revel transitions online. 

Another priority in the coming year will be further expanding the Chinese-Jewish Conversation (CJC), a program spearheaded by Cohen. According to Rynhold, one avenue being considered for expanding the program would be the development of a track in Revel for Chinese students.

Finally, Rynhold explained that he plans to explore the possibility of launching new collaborative programs with centers and schools at YU such as the new Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, to expand Revel’s reach. A dual degree program already exists with Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, and moving forward, Rynhold will be looking to form similar collaborations with other YU-affiliated institutions.

Overall, Rynhold is expecting the adjustment to a new form of learning necessitated by the coronavirus to be a challenge, and there is no word yet on whether classes at Revel will resume in-person in the fall. But he is nonetheless excited — and humbled — to be taking on the challenges of his new position. “I’m looking forward to building on the platform that Dean Berger has set, and hoping for exciting times ahead for us,” he said.

“During my years as a student at Revel, Dean Berger’s exacting standards of scholarship and menschlichkeit defined Revel during his tenure,” said David Selis (YC ‘19), who is studying Medieval Jewish History at Revel and hoping to graduate this year. “I look forward to seeing Dr. Rynhold guide the institution in its coming decade.”

Editor’s Note: The Commentator spoke with Dr. Berger regarding his time as dean of Revel. The conversation can be read here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Berger started as a professor at YU 13 years ago; in fact, he was a visiting professor at Revel from 1975 until 2007, when he assumed a professorial Chair.

Photo Caption: Dr. Daniel Rynhold will be assuming the position of Dean of School at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies beginning July 1.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University