By: Rivka Bennun  | 

In Retrospect: A Tumultuous Year and a Farewell

I’ve been thinking about my final editorial since the moment I assumed this role. 

An avid Commentator reader since high school, I’ve always loved the final editorials because they are filled with emotion and a genuine love of the paper and the school. My predecessors, who taught me the ropes of this job, managed to convey their love of YU without shying away from criticism. Despite the immense challenges that come with leading The Commentator — you sometimes learn things about YU you wish you hadn’t — it is a labor of love, one which I will miss deeply. 

I thought long and hard about what my farewell address would look like. This year, however, a typically dramatic editorial reflecting on our accomplishments at the Commie feels hollow. This year was different. As a nation, and as a community, we suffered more than we have in decades. Oct. 7 changed the trajectory of our year, and in many ways, it changed the blueprint of our lives. 

So how does one reflect on such a year? Is there room to celebrate our accomplishments without diminishing our pain? 

My thoughts immediately jumped to the students in our school, and the many ways they rose to the occasion. I wrote this in January, and it still rings true in May: I continue to be amazed and inspired by my peers in their efforts to support Israel in whatever ways they can. 

A mere two days after the brutal attacks, a group of students came together to plan a mission to Israel which later came to be known as Operation Torah Shield. Over forty students joined a mission led by the Sacks Center in January. Ben Adam, a tutoring service independently launched and run by one of my closest friends at Stern, has been running the entire semester. In the past seven months, students have attended countless solidarity events, rallied in DC on multiple occasions and launched a variety of campaigns to show our support

It has been a difficult year for the Jewish people, but I’ve never felt prouder to call myself a YU student. In today’s climate, I do not take for granted that I attend an institution that is not just openly supportive of Israel, but in which Zionism and love of the land are embedded in its values. 

I’m proud of The Commentator for consistently reporting on the incredible student initiatives that kept emerging throughout the year, and for serving as a platform for students to comfortably express their thoughts and emotions during this tumultuous time. It speaks to the heart of one of the many roles The Commentator serves — at its core, it is a place for student life to be highlighted and for students to express themselves. 

Like any other year, we reported on all sorts of happenings at our beloved university, full of its complexities and occasional paradoxes. We exposed deeply problematic dissatisfaction amongst faculty, continued to closely follow the various lawsuits and covered the launching of exciting new undergrad and graduate programs, among other news stories. 

We wouldn’t have gotten through this year without our incredibly talented team of editors and writers. I was paired up with Yekusiel as my co and Elishama as our managing editor — two brilliant people I feel privileged to call my friends (even though we get on each other’s nerves sometimes). Together, our trio learned the delicate balance of complementing one another’s skills without overstepping, and their dedication and commitment got me through the most challenging moments in this role. 

While I am not one for dramatic flair, a few thank yous are in order, owed to people without whom I would not have gotten through this year, and who, during my time at YU, impacted me in ways I cannot fully describe. 

I would not be who I am without my teachers and rebbeim. Rav Moshe Kahn zt”l quite literally taught me how to learn Torah, but more importantly, he taught me what it means to be moser nefesh for Talmud Torah. I miss my rebbe every day. Stern is not the same without him.

Filling Rav Kahn’s shoes was not an easy task. Rabbi Shlomo Zuckier, filled with a sense of obligation and commitment, assumed the role of maggid shiur for the undergrad Gemara classes following Rav Kahn’s passing, even though it was in every way inconvenient for him. Rabbi David Nachbar, whom I had the tremendous privilege of learning from this year, exposed me to the beautifully deep world of Brisker lomdus, and is one of the kindest people I have ever met. 

I introduced myself to Rabbi Yosef Blau in the beginning of my first semester here, and for the past three years I have met with him once a week, every week. Rebbe, thank you for always being a listening ear, and for modeling what it means to be a tzaddik. The Commentator is indebted to you for everything you do for us, but I am personally grateful for your continued guidance and for our close relationship. 

Within Stern, our community is blessed with incredible role models such as Dr. Nechama Price and Dean Shoshana Schechter. Thank you also to the Fines and Schonbruns, who make the campus culture what it is; I am grateful for your Torah and your presence. 

I feel especially thankful for my parents, who still don’t really understand why I took this job, but are proud of me nonetheless. Thank you for the love and support. I love you both. 

I also owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to my friends, who were there for me through the thick and thin of my experiences at YU. Special shoutout to Meira, who lived with me this year and regularly observed my stress levels, and to Gaby, who has been there for me more than anyone else. I am blessed to have a lot of people who love me and look out for me; it is no small matter. 

Acharon acharon chaviv: At this point, Ty knows more about this university than most, which is impressive for someone who doesn’t go here. Thank you for becoming my best friend this year, and for occupying way too much of my time that could’ve been spent on The Commentator. To recycle something you once wrote to me: My world is a better place with you in it. 

I’ll miss The Commentator, but I’m not particularly worried about its future. We’ve left it in good hands, and I look forward to seeing where Sruli, Hannah and their talented team take the paper next year. Goodbyes are never easy for me, but I bid farewell to this paper and this community that I have grown to love.