Friday, August 24, 2007

A Wise Choice

Yeshiva University has a new dean. He is Rabbi Yona Reiss, a 41 year old Musmach of the Yeshiva. The department he will head is Yeshivas Rabbenu Itzhak Elchanan Theological Seminary (REITS) the actual Yeshiva portion of Yeshiva University.

I’m not exactly sure what that being dean of REITS entails. Rabbi Zevulun Charlop has held the position until now and though I understand him to be a very Chashuva and worthy individual, I know little else about him or what his duties were at the Yeshiva.
I did not attend YU. But usually when one speaks about the Torah personalities of Yeshiva University over the past several decades… from the early days of Rav Soloveitchik’s tenure to the present… the names you usually hear in addition to his are Rav Dovid Lisphitz, Rav Nissin Alpert, Rav Yerucham Gorelick and more recently Rav Mordechai Willig, Rav Meir Twersky, Rav Yosef Blau, and of course Rav Hershel Shachter. And perhaps Rav Moshe Tendler. (I’m sure I left out some very important names but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.)

Rav Charlop is rarely mentioned in that context. I’m not sure why… if it’s me or the fact that he was not an active Magid Shiur at least of late as far as I know.

I don’t really know anything about the incoming dean. But he sounds pretty exciting. According to this article in the Jewish Week, his credentials to this point in his relatively young life are impressive. He must be quite a Talmid Chacham. From the article here is a partial list of his credentials:

He has an advanced Smicha of Yadin Yadin, which qualifies him as a Dayan, a religious court judge.

Rabbi Reiss is currently director of the Beth Din of America, the largest rabbinical court in the in the country. His Beth Din handles about 600 cases a year, including some 350 divorces.

He also has a law agree from Yale and practiced international law for a short period of time. But... He said he left international law because he preferred the practice of Jewish law, “the most ideal and divine system of law that exists.”

Importantly he seems to have what I consider to be 'the right stuff, he is obviously very bright, and has exactly the right Hashkafa for the school:

He defines Torah U’Madah as “the notion of developing the full awareness and reverence for God’s presence in the universe by learning and understanding as much as possible about the universe as a whole; to excel in Torah learning while being mindful of general learning in all the sciences and in all the disciplines.”

As I said. I don’t know Rabbi Yona Reiss. But he truly sounds like the right man for the right job at the right time. And significantly, he has been warmly embraced by the rabbinic faculty

Congratulations to Yeshiva University and to President Richard Joel. From my admittedly very limited perspective here in Chicago, it seems to be a very wise selection.