Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yeshiva University and the Move to the Right

The move to the right is a pretty well accepted fact of life in the Torah world. The fact is that this phenomenon has infected even the hallowed halls of Yeshiva University. Charedi artifacts such as black hats that have become quite common there certainly indicate a trend.

While the school’s official policies are Centrist, the fact is that many students within that bastion of modern orthodoxy have abandoned or even disdain that tradition and have adopted some of the modalities, attitudes, and Chumros of the right. Based on conversations I have had with students, I suspect that part of it can be blamed on the existence of a sort of fifth column there in the form of a few Rabbeim who freely albeit clandestinely preach against the school. In my view this should not be over-looked by the administration and should be dealt with through disciplinary measures.

This does not mean that I think there shouldn’t be independent voices there. The spirit of academic freedom should extend to the Roshei Yeshiva as well as university professors and if they disagree with policy they should have the freedom to say so. But encouraging students to leave crosses a line. I can’t say it exists there for a certainty, but if it does, it requires corrective action, in my view.

It is distressing to talk to YU students and hear them apologize for attending YU. In some cases, as I said, they are motivated to transfer to Charedi Yeshivos ranging anywhere from Ner Israel to Lakewood.

This phenomenon didn’t start yesterday. It has been on going for quite some time now. I know several YU Musmachim in their 50s and 60’s who actually hide the fact that they went to YU. Why are they so ashamed of it? They are as much to blame for YU being perceived as second rate as its worst detractors. Instead of hiding their YU connection they should be wearing the label proudly. These people learned from the likes of RYBS, Rav Dovid Lipshitz and many other Gedolim. Instead they hide it. That is shameful. Certainly they can and eve should speak out about things which distress them in YU but to hide the fact they attended says more about them than it does about YU.

But of course the most shameful of all is the way some current or recently deceased Charedi Roshei Yeshiva who attended YU so easily and so loudly condemn YU whenever they get the chance. The best known of these “reformed” YU students is Rabbi Chaim D. Keller, the Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Chicago. He does not waste an opportunity to bash his alma Mater. But he isn’t the only one. He is only the most vocal and the most openly proud of his anti YU position. There is no zealot like a reformed one. They keep trying to prove themselves. I guess Rabbi Keller is no exception.

It is time for those YU students who care about Centrism, whether currently attending or alumni to stand up, speak out, and take it back from the right.