By: Yonatan Kurz  | 

YU Launches New Siyum Initiative for Beren and Wilf Students

Yeshiva University is launching a new initiative for male and female undergraduate students to commit to and complete their own Torah learning projects, which will be celebrated during the annual May commencement ceremony.

“This year, we have a unique opportunity to start a new tradition in Yeshiva,” Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, dean of the Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) program and overseer of the program for Wilf Campus, told The Commentator. “We will be celebrating not only the academic accomplishments of our talmidim at graduation, but also their learning accomplishments in a major way.” 

For personal siyumim and other learning accomplishments, students have the ability to commit and sign up to learn anything through the program’s website, which will send monthly reminders to help complete their goals, such as any amount of dafim or perakim of Gemara, shenayim mikra with Rashi, Tanach, or an English sefer, among other options.

This new program will be celebrated in addition to the collective siyum by the entire university, which will take place over the week of commencement. YU’s communal siyumim will consist of shas Bavli, shas mishnayos, and Tanach, with individuals selecting to learn perek of Tanach, a masechta of Mishnah, or a daf of Gemara that collectively complete the project.

“We’d like this to be a community-wide siyum; just as graduation is a celebration of one’s academic accomplishments over their time in university, so too, the Torah learned throughout one’s time in YU is a major part of their college experience and is something major that should be reflected upon and celebrated at graduation,” said Associate Dean of Torah Studies Shoshana Schechter, noting that this was President Ari Berman’s initiative. Schechter is overseeing the program on Beren Campus.

“Traditionally, commencement has been about academic accomplishments, celebrating graduates but not necessarily always highlighting their accomplishments in learning,” Rabbi Kalinsky explained. “This isn’t to change the pomp and circumstance of the academic aspects of graduation, but to add a greater ruchani element and ‘up our game,’ adding the spiritual element.”

Rabbi Kalinsky said that he felt this new initiative was a necessary complement to the communal siyumim. “You can always have a communal siyum, but it’s not always inclusive, and it doesn’t necessarily change us as people or grow,” he explained. “To me, the most exciting part is the personal goals which could be any limmud or even a personal goal that a person may be working on.”

Student leaders are excited about this program. “As so much of the YU experience is founded in academic and religious growth specifically in group/classroom settings, it's exciting to see an opportunity for students that allows them to make strides as an individual, with support from YU at the same time,” commented Torah Activities Council President Suzanne Rabinovich (SSSB ‘22). “To come together as a community all growing as individuals, together, is something very special that I can't wait for the student body to take advantage of.”

Yoni Laub (YC ‘22), president of Student Organization of Yeshiva, felt similarly. “It’s exciting to see a special emphasis on growth in Torah learning become a part of YU graduation, as religious growth is part and parcel to the YU experience,” he said.

Rabbi Kalinsky spoke about the importance of these Torah learning goals in a Sichas Mussar earlier this month in the Glueck Beit Midrash on Wilf Campus. “To me, the most exciting part is the personal goals, which can be any limmud, or even a personal goal that a person may be working on, such as not checking their phone during davening, starting a nach yomi program, or committing to learn a set amount of time before Shacharis every morning,” he shared. “Part of the goal of this initiative is about encouraging talmidim to ‘set goals in their learning’ in order to assist our talmidim to be in the habit of setting goals so that it will im yirtzah Hashem continue after they graduate.” He added, “We want the talmidim to not only have a connection and learn a great deal with their rebbeim and mashgichim, while on campus, but also to establish a foundation of life-long learning.”

Photo Caption: The siyumim will be celebrated during the commencement ceremony in May. 

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University