By: Rivka Bennun  | 

Two New Campus Couples Selected for Beren Campus, Set to Replace the Bernsteins

Rabbi Azi (YC ‘19) and Ellie (SCW ‘20) Fine and Rabbi Avrumi (YC ‘19) and Michal (SCW ‘19) Schonbrun have been selected as the new Beren Campus couples by Associate Dean of Torah Studies Shoshana Schechter and the Office of Student Life (OSL) after a year-long search. The Fines will join as campus rabbi and rebbetzin and the Schonbruns as scholars in residence this fall as part of the Office of Spiritual Life at Stern College for Women (SCW).

The Fines will replace Rabbi Jacob (YC ‘15) and Penina (SCW ‘14) Bernstein, who are departing SCW after four years of serving as campus rabbi and rebbetzin. 

This will be the first time there have ever been two rabbinic couples on Beren Campus. 

Schechter was primarily responsible for recruiting the Fines to replace the Bernsteins, with additional input from OSL and Vice Provost Chaim Nissel. Schechter explained that the process was not simple. “Filling the Bernsteins’ shoes is a big job, and they were here for four years,” Schechter told The Commentator. “They were the first couple that consistently stayed for a few years.” 

The Fines were recommended by Rabbi Dovid Miller, rosh kollel on YU’s Israel campus, where Fine studied last year, leading to their hiring. Miller previously recommended the Bernsteins in 2017, prior to their coming to YU. 

During the year-long search for a new couple, the Schonbruns were rabbinic interns on Beren Campus and showed an interest in joining the Office of Spiritual Life in some capacity, which led to their appointment as scholars in residence.

Schechter explained that during the Bernsteins’ four years on campus, they introduced many different innovations which changed campus life for students. Now, the Office of Spiritual Life hopes “to continue building on what they’ve been building.” 

During their four years at SCW, the Bernsteins added more shiurim, invited more speakers to come to Beren campus, introduced significant changes to campus Shabbat programming to encourage students to stay for Shabbat and helped create the Office of Spiritual Life. The Office of Spiritual Life comprises the campus couple, Director of Student Life Mrs. Rachel Ciment and Dean Schechter. The Bernsteins plan on moving to Israel this summer.

“The Bernsteins have completely changed what this position is,” Schechter remarked. “When they were hired four or five years ago, the job was very different than it is now, because they really developed this and created a community in a way that nobody did before.”

Schechter also commented that “One of the things our campus was always lacking was a community,” pointing out that Wilf Campus has several couples and families living on or near campus, who are involved in the informal Torah education and programming on campus. “Having two couples is an expansion of the Office of Spiritual Life and the building of an even stronger Torah community.”

Both couples will live on Beren Campus in Midtown, with housing provided by YU. Due to the recent departure of Dr. Elisheva and Rabbi Yisroel Meir Rosenzweig, the long-time av and eim bayit of Beren Campus, a second apartment became available, allowing for two rabbinic couples to join campus. 

The Fines are currently spending the year on YU’s Israel campus, with Rabbi Fine studying at the Gruss Institute kollel and Ellie studying at Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Studies. Rabbi Fine is in his third year of semicha, and is simultaneously studying at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration as well as the RIETS/Ferkauf Joint Graduate Program in Pastoral Counseling. Ellie is currently in both the Eshkolot and Lapidot programs at Matan, and plans to pursue a master’s in social work. 

“Ellie, Etiel [the Fines’ newborn child], and I are really looking forward to joining the Beren Campus Community and Beit Midrash,” Rabbi Fine shared with The Commentator. “We are really excited about working together with Dean Schechter, Mrs. Ciment, Rabbi Avrumi and Michal Schonbrun, and all of the student leaders to continue to build the feeling of community on campus.”

Rabbi Schonbrun is finishing semicha at RIETS and will be studying full time at the Beren Kollel Elyon next year, while Michal will continue to her third year of the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS). 

“Additionally we are really excited to continue and create new Torah programming to foster the students’ growth in their Avodas Hashem,” Rabbi Fine added. “We are already working hard on exciting learning opportunities and events for Elul, and cannot wait to meet everyone soon!”

Shlomit Ebbin contributed to this story.


Photo Caption: Rabbi Azi and Ellie Fine (left) and Rabbi Avrumi and Michal Schronbrun (right)

Photo Credit: Azi & Ellie Fine and Avrumi & Michal Scronbrun