By: Jerome Blau  | 

From The Commie Archives: (April 2, 1959; Volume 49, Issue 4) — The Professor Exposed: Dr. Tendler, Holding Many Posts at Yeshiva, Comments on Y.U. Policies 

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, a renowned professor and rosh yeshiva  of Yeshiva University for many decades, passed away over Simchat Torah. Below is an interview with Rabbi Tendler conducted by Rabbi Yosef Blau, who at the time went by his English name, Jerome.   

“It is not synthesis but symbiosis that is the goal of Yeshiva University,” spoke Rabbi Dr. Moses D. Tendler, assistant dean of Yeshiva College. During symbiosis both organisms retail their identities while benefiting from each other. The values of Torah and secular education must complement each other.

Rabbi Tendler himself personifies symbiosis being both a Rosh Hayeshitva in RIETS and a biology professor at Yeshiva College. Yeshiva’s goals are feasible, so he declared. In fact they are the traditional goals of Judaism, which always stressed living within this world. Secular education is like knowing the house that we as Torah Jews still live in. 

Rabbi Tendler, who, while attending RIETS completed His secular education at N.Y.U. and Columbia, studying in the evenings and summers for his BA. and Ph.D., considers Yeshiva’s program a better path for achieving a well rounded college education. He recommends a five-year college program as the best method for many to successfully combine secular and Jewish studies. 

The curriculum in the Yeshiva for students studying for the Rabbinate, and pre-professional students whose formal Jewish education will end at the close of their four year stay at Yeshiva College should not be the same. Rabbi Tendler suggested a new program for the pre-professional majors that would stress halacha limaaseh, tracing the Halacha back to its Talmudic sources, and the moral and ethical aspects of Torah. Choice of faculty for this new program is crucial because the students’ religious survival depends on it. 

Dr. Tendler stated that he had attempted to start a pilot program but the students who played lip service to the idea were not willing to take the program because of the work involved. This student attitude makes any new programs unworkable.

Discussing his functions as assistant dean, Rabbi Tendler stressed the counseling guidance aspect of his work. He also expects to expand his work on acquainting the Yeshiva student with scholarships and research grants available. As far as student activities the assistant dean’s office will handle routine administration, but policy decisions will be made by the new policy committee as organized by Dr. Belkin. 

In general Dr. Tendler finds Yeshiva’s student-administration relationship basically a healthy one, and the informal approach here potentially better than the formal one of other universities. The absence of professional administrators at Yeshiva makes the student-faculty-administration relationship a closer and friendlier one. 

“I think there is a need for an innovation wherein students would evaluate courses at their completion. A formal evaluation sheet should be given each student which he may or may not sign. The department should meet and discuss these evaluations. One advantage of this is that teachers will be made more aware of the interests of the students.” 

Rabbi Tendler declared, “the direction of Yeshiva’s expansion is healthy from a Torah standpoint.” Yeshiva’s basic goal is the training of orthodox baalebatim, doctors and lawyers. All these expanded facilities, he continued, must have the unique stamp of Yeshiva. This would be one exemplified by a voluntary course In the medical school on the halachic attitudes to the moral questions in medicine. Expansion should not hurt existing conditions.

However, if new divisions will not have the unique stamp of Yeshiva, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, expansion of this type is still justified. Yeshiva has certain responsibilities to the general community which it must meet. These divisions also serve as good public relations which help the financial needs of the Yeshiva proper. 

I thanked Rabbi Tendler for his time and my exercise as I chased him from his Shiur on the second floor, to his office on the third, to the cafeteria to check the food, to the bacteriology lab. So I ended my marathon interview.  

Photo Caption: The Commentator Archives

Photo Credit: The Commentator