Helen Chernikoff’s description of Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools prior to Richard Joel’s arrival as a top-notch yeshiva and second-class college seems foreign to me (“Stuck In The Middle With YU,” March 30). I am used to hearing the opposite. However, as a close observer of the school for over 20 years, I have long learned to discount partisan complaints that one aspect of the university overshadows another.
The school provides a unique, overlapping experience that is simply the richest education a Jew can achieve anywhere in the world. Every school, including the Ivies, has room to improve and YU is certainly no exception. Blaming its lack of perfection on misplaced administrative or overeager rabbinic priorities is simply politics. For example, Yeshiva rabbis may criticize the college, such as for the teaching of Chaucer or the New Testament, which they may deem religiously improper, but they exert no influence over it whatsoever and those subjects are still taught.
From what I have seen, President Richard Joel has succeeded wildly in improving each arm of the university — college, yeshiva, physical environment, community outreach and more — even if falling short of perfection. While some people choose to focus on only some of his efforts and not others, I believe that when they do so they miss important advances the school has made. The yeshiva offers a broad array of classes from a wide variety of religious perspectives, not just right-wing Orthodoxy, as some blindly suggest. And the college prepares students for top graduate schools and careers. Most importantly, the unique YU experience enables students to grow, in school and beyond, as traditional Jews stationed firmly in the modern world.
The economic collapse, and YU’s oversized experience of it, has seriously dampened progress but, from what I understand from friends (and YU was happy to confirm), tuition assistance for middle-class families renders the actual tuition paid to about one-third the $40,000 estimate in the article. Our community’s success has allowed for other schools to grow and compete, and I wish
them all the best because YU is not the right school for everyone. However, once the economy turns in the other direction, YU is poised to return to its trajectory of growth and improvement, serving its students and the community in a way that no other institution can.