By: Yonatan Kurz  | 

YU Hosts Inaugural Wexner Kollel Elyon Conference on Shemittah Values in Modern World

The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) hosted the inaugural Bella and Harry Wexner Kollel Elyon Conference in conjunction with Mizrachi America on the Wilf Campus on Sunday, May 1. 

The conference, titled “Beyond Agriculture: The Values of Shemittah in the Modern World,” included both an introduction from President Ari Berman and opening remarks from Susan Wexner, followed by keynote addresses from Rabbi Mordechai Willig, the rosh yeshiva and rosh kollel of the Wexner Kollel Elyon, and Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon, rosh kollel at Yeshivat Har Etzion and chief rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. 

Following the keynote addresses were presentations in breakout rooms from the members of the kollel, who provided Torah perspectives on modern topics. Some examples included “The Moral Implications of Debt Transfer” by Rabbi Shimmie Steinmetz; “Bankruptcy in Halacha, Morality, and the Ideal Jewish Society” by Rabbi Tzvi Benoff; and “Capitalism vs. Socialism: The Torah's View of Private Ownership” by Rabbi Meir Finkelstein. Rabbis Shua Katz, Robbie Schrier, Ben Zion Feld, Tyler Pere and Shai Kaminetzky also presented during the breakout sessions.

This conference comes on the heels of a trip organized by YC Jewish Studies Adjunct Professor Rabbi Ari Bergmann featuring nine undergraduate students as well as three RIETS semikha and Kollel Elyon members to Israel in January to advocate for the concept of an Otzar Beit Din for the Shemittah year. Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Elchanan Adler, Daniel Feldman, Tanchum Cohen, UTS Dean Yosef Kalinsky and RIETS Dean Rabbi Menachem Penner also joined the trip. 
Wexner Kollel Elyon Member and participant of the Shemittah trip Rabbi Tzvi Benoff was grateful for the occasion to present. “It was an incredible opportunity to explore and share how the timeless precepts of Yiddishkeit address the contemporary issues of our rapidly changing world,” he remarked. “We don’t live in a laboratory under controlled conditions. Oftentimes, there are crossroads of conflicting values that must be balanced through the discerning, immutable light of the Torah as refracted through the fractaled lens of our revered mesorah. It takes rigorous Torah scholarship, yiras shamayim, and ahavas Yisrael to approach the issue in our nation’s eternal quest to triangulate the ratzon hatorah.”

Photo Caption: Members of the Wexner Kollel Elyon pose with President Ari Berman, rosh kollel Rabbi Mordechai Willig and other roshei yeshiva

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University