Yeshiva University’s challenges — financially and in competition with other institutions of higher learning, both secular and religious — are outlined in staff writer Helen Chernikoff’s thorough and sobering front-page report this week.
As she notes, the proud base of the Modern Orthodox community is seeking to increase flagging enrollment at a time of financial belt-tightening and when yeshivas to the right and secular colleges on YU’s left flank, are chipping away at the pool of possible students.
It is important not only to the Orthodox community but to the Jewish community at large that YU maintain and expand its brand of education, seeking to provide the balance of its Torah U’Maddah motto, blending Torah study and the pursuit of secular knowledge.
Being in the middle is always difficult. But in a society that has become increasingly divided along political, social and religious lines, young men and women who are committed not only to their faith but to engaging in and improving the world around them is a vital asset. Yeshiva University continues to produce not only rabbinic scholars and educators, but also leaders in the field of medicine, science, law, business and social work. Its Center for the Jewish Future has encouraged students to venture beyond the confines of the Orthodox community. By participating in projects that help those in need, from New Orleans to Third World countries, the students are deepening their understanding of social needs and broadening their definition of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Richard Joel, who took the reins of YU in 2003, is tasked with balancing the budget without sacrificing his vision of excellence for the university. As the percentage of Orthodox among American Jewry increases, it is in the community’s interest that he succeed in educating and training graduates who will contribute in multiple ways to enhancing Jewish life in all its facets.