Crowds View Impressive New Structure; Hailed by Speakers as Distinct Contribution to Metropolitan Public Edifices
A new dawn for Jewish learning in the United States and a strengthening of Orthodox Judaism which is to result from the blending of religious and secular education in the training of Orthodox rabbis and teachers as well as lay students were seen by many prominent rabbis, educators and New York officials, who participated in the dedication of the first group of Yeshiva College buildings at 186th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, New York, on Sunday afternoon.
The structure, the cornerstone for which was laid May 1, 1927, was hailed as a distinct contribution to architecture in New York City. Situated on a hill overlooking the Harlem River, the buildings were designed along the line of ancient Jewish architectural style, reconstructed on the basis of recent archaeological finds. Ornamental sculpture has been carried out in Benedict stone. The bases of the seven facades are of Milford granite, seamed faced granite in vari-colored blocks having been used in the walls. Color has been used lavishly in the buildings. Interior effects were obtained in many places by the use of rare colored marble.
A crowd of twenty thousand passed through the building to inspect the interior during the afternoon. Two thousand crowded the auditorium to listen to the dedication exercises, which were presided over successively by Harry Fischel, Chairman of the Building Committee, and Samuel Levy, Chairman of the Yeshiva College Campaign Committee. The erection of two additional groups of buildings on the opposite blocks on Amsterdam Avenue is a part of the plan. The first group was completed at a cost of $2,500,000.
Orthodox rabbis, in East European garb, mingled with professors and representatives of American colleges on the platform. English, Yiddish and Hebrew were the tongues heard during the exercises, which were enlivened by the rendition of religious hymns by Cantors Josef Rosenblatt, P. Jassinowsky and Jacobovitch, and the lighting of the Chanuka candles. Messages of goodwill and academic greetings were read from twenty-five leading American colleges and universities.
A particular feature was the message from Charles Curtis, Vice-President elect of the United States. “As an institution consecrated to the development of this spiritual attitude toward life, may the Yeshiva and its College find these, its new buildings, but the beginning of its extended service, and may forthcoming generations find in the new Yeshiva College their intellectual growth and their spiritual inspiration, and bear the torch of true manhood to their communities and to their country,” the Vice-President-elect wrote.
The exercises were divided into two parts. At 1:30 the opening of the gate ceremony took place outside the building, when Harry Fischel, who is Acting President of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, a component part of the Yeshiva College, presented the key to Dr. Bernard Revel, president of the faculty. In accepting the key, Dr. Revel declared that he will keep the institution and develop it “for the glory of America and the welfare of Israel,” Rabbi M. S. Margolies pronounced the dedication prayer.
The exercises were continued at four o’clock, when Mayor Walker, introduced by Mr. Fischel, delivered an address in which he lauded the Yeshiva College project and referred in particular to the architecture of the building. “The city is indeed indebted to you not only because you have brought to the skyline a new achievement in architectural beauty, but because your institution will work for a greater moral city and the maintenance of the highest standards of living and government.” Referring to the Chanukah celebration witnessed a moment before his address, Mayor Walker declared that the dedication of the Yeshiva College is a vindication of the Chanukah spirit.
“The devotion and self-sacrifice of the Jews in the past is vindicated today in this most splendid institution. With it begins another determined effort to carry on the glories of Jewry for ages. This is a city of decent, respectable and religious people, despite the reputation it has in some places. With the construction of each new religious temple, we become a better city,” the Mayor declared.
Dr. H. McCracken, president of Vassar College, declaring that out of the six hundred and fifty colleges in the United States, six hundred were established and are controlled by religious denominations, stated that the American academic world welcomes the addition of the Yeshiva College. There is a place for it, he said, adding that he was proud that the exponents of the peculiar Jewish learning and tradition are making a step toward the adoption of the American college methods.
Brother Gabriel, representative of the Manhattan College, a Catholic institution situated in the vicinity, welcomed the new institution in behalf of his college, declaring they will be good neighobrs.
“This memorable day, this sanctuary, heralds the dawn of a new era in our spiritual lives, of spiritual harmony and strength. It is a pledge and a promise of a creative Jewish life which will draw its inspiration from, and be guided by, the eternal teachings of Israel, as they reveal themselves in our age-old and world-wide traditions and institutions, and our imperishable literature,” Dr. Bernard Revel, President of the Yeshiva College Faculty, declared in his address.
“Today we commemorate that, crucial period in Israel’s history, when seductive alien influences undermined the faith, when life became Hellenized, when the sanctuary was desecrated. When its vials of oil were made impure, and spiritual darkness engulfed the House of Israel, one vial alone remained pure; it bore the seal of the High Priest. This small vial, in the hands of the God-inspired Maccabees and their heroic followers, illumined the House of Israel with the light of the Lord, with the spirit of Torah and, in defiance of all odds, Israel was restored to his God and to his faith. Today, do we not behold the rise of the same miracle?” Dr. Revel asked.
A great number of speakers participated, including Judge Otto A. Rosalsky, Dr. Frederick B. Robinson, president of the College of the City of New York; Rabbi Simon Shkop of Grodno, Poland; Rev. Z. H. Masliansky, Harris L. Selig, Dr. Herbert S. Goldstein, Borough President Julius Miller, Samuel Levy and Morris White.
“Many there are who doubted the success of our undertaking. Others who ought to have helped us have stood by indifferently or in watchful waiting for our failure. Small indeed was the number of our true friends who helped the executive committee, conducting the campaign, to go ahead with its plans and labors. Like the Maccabees of old, they were small in number but great in the spirit of devotion to an ideal and their efforts have been crowned with success,” Mr. Levy declared.
The long distance travelled by Orthodox Jews in their attitude to educational institutions was pointed to by Harry Fischel who in his address recalled how the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary was established thirty-three years ago in a little old private house at 85 Henry Street, on New York’s East Side. Today, he declared, he was privileged to present in behalf of the Building Committee the $2,500,000 structure for the use of the institution for higher Jewish learning. The difficulties encountered by the Building Committee were not only of a financial and material nature, but also those of construction.