Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Angry Reaction

One of the more surprising elements of that YUBeacon article about the sexcapade of one of YU’s (Stern) female students is the reaction by Alumni. These are the alumni that I always point to as the true representatives of the Yeshiva University Hashkafa of Torah U’Mada. They are the ones who I think of most when I use the term RWMO. Their reaction was anger! Anger and outrage at both the author and the publishers.

My reaction was more along the lines of the student council who immediately and calmly took steps to remedy the situation. The YU Beacon has severed its relationship with the student council who until now provided some of its funding. It is no longer one of YU’s official student newspapers.

I think an analysis of the anger is warranted here. Why are they so outraged? If one reads the writing of one of Stern’s brighter products, one will see just how outraged they are. Last night I spoke to another one of YU’s finer products at a banquet I attended and he felt the same way.

After thinking about it, I realized that they are angry because they take pride in their alma mater. They have in the past extolled their school for the type of religious and secular education they received. While admitting that their school has flaws- they nonetheless take pride in their school because the good far outwieghs the bad. YU's faculty and resources helped them understand and live the values promoted at the school. When in the past someone would put down the school as not religious enough they knew that it was just a distortion. That YU has the same religious and moral values as any right wing school.

So when they see a student writing a sex story like this in such a matter of fact way in an official student publication – it embarrasses the school they take so much pride in. It makes a mockery of the values they say the school promotes. They are made to feel like laughing stocks by their frequent critics who smirk with an ‘I told you so’ attitude about their school. All the talk in the world about the lofty principles of a YU fall by the wayside.

It besmirches the administration, the students and the faculty; it even taints some of the great rabbinic figures of the past who names are associated with YU. The home of ‘Halakhic Man’ is now also the home of Smut. I can just hear all the snickering now of YU’s critics! Jokes about the institution abound. All the old canards about YU being the home of Teffilin dates are regurgitated. All the arguments about YU being a Makom Torah just like other Yeshivos are laughed at. You want sex in the city? Try YU.

So of course they are upset… and embarrassed. Rightfully so. I do not blame any student or alumnus for all their anger. In some ways I am actually proud of that anger!

But Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has an excellent perspective on this which should make all students and alumni feel much better about themselves and their school:

Does it prove that YU and Stern are morally bankrupt? Not at all. All it proves is that YU and Stern are willing to open their doors to provide a Jewish undergraduate education to a far more religiously diverse group than other schools. That may be wise or unwise, depending on the impact that the less religiously engaged have upon the others. One could believe that it is the wrong way to go, and still admit that the decision is defensible.

This is really the heart of the matter and it ought to silence all those who scoff at YU. Of course it probably won’t. But then again, nothing will silence them. They will just add this episode to their repertoire of anecdotes to show just how evil YU is.