By: Jared Scharf  | 

Senior VP Josh Joseph Leaving YU to Begin as EVP/COO at the OU

Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph will be stepping down from his post as Yeshiva University's senior vice president to become executive vice president (EVP) and chief operating officer (COO) at the Orthodox Union (OU) on Sept. 1, announced President Ari Berman via email to YU faculty and staff on July 1. 

As senior vice president,  Joseph had the “operating responsibility for the administrative and academic aspects of the University, ensuring strategic planning and implementation of restructuring initiatives.” At the OU,  Joseph will be “responsible for all aspects of OU programs and operations, other than OU Kosher,” according to the OU’s announcement.  

Remarking on this new transition, Joseph told the Commentator, “While I’m leaving the Yeshiva University family that I’ve been a part of for the last 16 years, I’m truly excited to be heading to a place that shares deeply rooted values for Jewish community and leadership.” 

“We could not be more pleased,” OU President Moshe Bane stated, commenting on Joseph’s hire. “Rabbi Dr. Joseph is one of North America’s foremost dynamic Jewish communal leaders who brings vision, leadership and a new energy to the role of chief [operating] officer. We are thrilled to have him on our team.”

Joseph received semikhah from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies in 1999. He began his 15-year career at YU in 2005 as the director of special projects for the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF); a year later, Joseph was appointed as vice president and chief of staff and began his role as senior vice president seven years later in 2013. He served under both President Emeritus Richard Joel and President Berman.  

“I was immediately taken by [Joseph’s] energy, ambition, his manner, and his seeming dedication. He is a very layered personality with endless facets,” Joel told The Commentator about his early years with Joseph.  “We became close, and I saw in him wonderful qualities. We would often travel together on business, and I was able to be myself with him.”

“I often said I could trust him with my life,” Joel added. “He was the one person, who would come into my office, close the door, and say ‘What the heck are you doing?’”

During those years, Joseph also worked under former vice president of YU Rabbi Kenneth Brander at CJF, developing leadership programming for students, and together with Moshe Bellows, created a series of leadership training courses. Additionally, Joseph led a program of presidential fellows, 15 recent graduates who would spend a year working and learning at YU, and  Joseph would offer weekly sessions developing their skills.  

“We saw Yeshiva as a movement and a university, and Josh was a key part of that evolution,” said Joel. "His commitment to Torah, G-d and the Jewish people has informed him, and has positioned him to continue making a great difference, by assuming professional leadership at the OU, a key institution central to our flourishing.”

When President Berman became YU’s fifth president in the fall of 2017, Joseph worked closely with him to address issues around campus.

“Throughout his 16-year tenure, Josh played an integral leadership role at YU, serving in a number of influential positions impacting the lives of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community at large,” President Berman wrote in the email.  

In September 2019, following prior efforts to address LGBTQ issues on campus and just before a protest by LGBTQ students and allies, President Berman appointed Joseph to form and lead a team of YU faculty to address “matters of inclusion on our undergraduate college campuses, which includes LGBTQ.” Joseph assembled multiple YU faculty members and roshei yeshiva to create initiatives that would raise “awareness and sensitivity, [helping] students develop a thoughtful, halakhic, value-driven approach to their interactions with the wide spectrum of people who are members of our community.”  

YU has not announced who, if anyone, will replace Joseph’s role and responsibilities on the team.  

In a statement sent to The Commentator on behalf of the unofficial YU Pride Alliance, Chana Weiss (SCW ‘21), vice president of the board, said that while the Pride Alliance board has “continuously met and worked” with Joseph, “there has been little to no significant change to the status quo.”

“[The] Pride Alliance is motivated to continue working with the administration and whoever is appointed to head the committee to create lasting and impactful change for the YU LGBTQ+ community,” Weiss added.

An avid YU Macs fan, Joseph was also involved in campus life, attending many of the sports teams’ home games.  “After every game he took the time to say ‘good game’ to every player and congratulate us on the win,” said Alon Jakubowitz (SSSB ‘22), a member of YU’s men's basketball team.  

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Joseph said to The Commentator.  “I feel like I have given a lot of myself to YU over my tenure here, but it doesn’t come close to what I have gained from YU — enriched with deeper skill sets, blessed by enduring relationships and more committed than ever before to improve the Jewish world around me.”

Joseph’s colleagues and fellow administrators spoke proudly of their time together. “It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Josh Joseph,” said Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dr. Karen Bacon. “As a strong advocate for students and for academic standards, he brought passion and wisdom to every policy discussion. This is a mighty combination in an administrator,  and I will miss his voice  at the table.”

Reflecting on his tenure at YU, Joseph said, “During my time at YU, I’ve learned so much from our professional and lay leaders, engaged with our faculty and rabbis, and partnered with professionals at every level and in every area of our broad ecosystem — and I will miss them all.” 

Joseph added, “Most of all, however, I will miss our students whether they are in student government or club leaders, athletes, students in my classes and lectures, or those of you who just stopped by for a cup of coffee or gave me a friendly nod in the elevator.” 

President Berman is currently working with Joseph on a transition plan; at present, Joseph’s replacement, if anyone, is unknown. 

Photo Caption: Josh Joseph will step down from his position as senior vice president of Yeshiva University. 
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University