By: Rivka Bennun  | 

Rebecca Cypess Named New Dean of YC and SCW, Set to Replace Karen Bacon

Yeshiva University announced the appointment of Professor Rebecca Cypess as the new dean of Yeshiva College (YC) and Stern College for Women (SCW) on May 1. She will assume the position on July 1.  

Cypess currently serves as associate dean for academic affairs at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and is a professor of musicology. She holds several degrees, including a BA in music from Cornell University, an MA in Jewish studies from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and a PhD in music history from Yale University. 

“The decision to accept the offer was an easy one, since it presented an opportunity to use my knowledge of higher education to serve an institution that I care about deeply,” Cypess shared with The Commentator. “I value and share Yeshiva University’s commitment to the pursuit of knowledge of Hashem's world — both through serious Torah study and through deep, open-ended inquiry in the sciences, social and behavioral sciences, arts, and humanities.”

Cypess is “mission aligned, deeply committed to excellence, and filled with dynamism,” Provost Selma Botman told YUNews, Yeshiva University’s blog. “She has a winning personality that will fit right into the culture of YU.”

Cypess was one of two finalists for the position and signed her contract with the university on April 19, according to people familiar with the matter.

Cypess is set to replace Karon Bacon, who has held the position of dean of SCW, and recently also of YC, for nearly five decades and, as announced in September, will join the Provost’s Office as associate vice president for academic affairs. 

“We are all deeply indebted to Dean Karen Bacon for her illustrious tenure as dean and the immeasurable impact that she has had on undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences at YU,” Cypess commented. “I have much to learn from her.”

“We are deeply indebted to and beneficiaries of Dean Bacon’s tireless and committed leadership over all these years and are now looking forward to welcoming Dr. Rebecca Cypess into the YU community,” Associate Dean of Torah Studies Shoshana Schechter told The Commentator. “I am personally excited to partner with her and for her to bring her passion, experience and vision into the vibrant tradition and life of Stern College. Her dedication to academic excellence and sincere commitment to Torah, its values and learning, especially for the women at Stern College, will surely be a hallmark of her leadership and success.”

Following the announcement of Bacon’s departure as long-standing dean of the two colleges, YU began a months-long “national search” for her replacement. The final two candidates listed for the position were Cypess and Professor Aviva Taubenfeld, director of the School of Humanities at Purchase College. Both Cypess and Taubenfeld visited the Beren and Wilf Campuses this spring and met with various students, faculty and administrators. 

The search committee for the new dean, which was chaired by Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, consisted of various university faculty, administrators and board members. YU also hired the search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in the search for a new dean. 

“The firm searched for qualified candidates with an international search process, offered recommendations to the university, and played a key role in the process,” Rabbi Kalinsky told The Commentator. 

While faculty were invited to listen to presentations from the candidates, Botman, who is ultimately responsible for dean appointments, selected Cypess for the position. 

“When I was on campus for my interview in March, I was deeply impressed by the brilliance and commitment of the students whom I met and by the dedication of their wonderful faculty and staff,” Cypess said. “I look forward sincerely to getting to know you all and working alongside you to foster shared learning and growth.”

Cypess recently made headlines after writing a “scathing letter” to the Rutgers administration, the New York Post reported on Saturday, criticizing the university for allowing the Rutgers campus to become a “hotbed of bigotry” in recent months following the attacks on Oct. 7. 

“All I do is confront antisemitism,” Cypess wrote in the letter to the president and chancellor of Rutgers.

“I would have been excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity under any circumstances, but the fact that it arose at such a critical turning point in history gives it extra gravity,” Cypess told The Commentator when asked about her decision to join YU. “Higher education across the U.S. is in crisis, with an alarming wave of antisemitism and anti-Israel bias washing over so many university campuses, as I have seen first-hand.” 

“I am eager to join an institution where Torah values — including a commitment to humanity and the pursuit of truth — are our guiding light. I have been inspired by Rabbi Berman’s public leadership on this issue, and I am confident that Yeshiva University has a role to play in repairing higher education nationwide.”

Editor's Note: This article was corrected on May 12 to remove an inaccuracy originally included based on a report from the New York Post, which had reported that Dr. Cypess was forced to leave Rutgers due to increasing antisemitism. Dr. Cypess confirmed with The Commentator that she joined YU because she wanted to, and would have stayed at Rutgers had she not been offered the dean position at YU.


Photo Caption: Incoming Dean Rebecca Cypess

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University