Yeshiva University administration has finally responded to the controversy caused by their decision to forbid women from giving divrei Torah at the Klein@9 student minyan.
After Stern Student Lilly Gelman gave a dvar Torah at the minyan on Shabbat of December 16th, at the request of the minyan’s organizers, the administration responded by prohibiting women from speaking at the minyan, or any minyan on the YU campus. Gelman’s article about her experience gained massive attention on campus and across social media and led to a wider conversation about the way YU views the women of its undergraduate school. After over a month of silence, which Stern student Miriam Pearl Klahr criticized in The Observer’s March editorial, the administration has finally responded the backlash to its Klein@9 decision.
Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel told The Observer that “In light of student feedback, we have decided to review our policies with respect to the Klein@9 minyan and Shabbat services at YU. Klein@9 has been conceptualized as one of the yeshiva minyanim, and so had followed the typical practice of minyanim in batei midrash at men’s yeshivot in which presenters of divrei torah in the sanctuary are men. Starting next semester, we will add a student-run YU community minyan in a new, soon to be determined venue in which–like minyanim in YU communities across the world–women and men alike may deliver divrei torah after services.”
With this response the administration hopes to meet the nuanced needs of the community, giving a space for an all-male, “yeshiva-like” environment while also making room for female students who would like to be part of the YU community in Washington Heights. Nissel ended his statement by noting optimistically that “We look forward to continuing to work with students to formulate meaningful programming at Yeshiva University.”
Gelman shared her reflections on the administration’s response with The Observer. “The announcement of the new minyan on the Wilf campus welcoming female speakers reflects a step towards a YU community that is truly welcoming to its female members,” she said. “I’m thankful for the decision and for any members of the YU staff and administration who worked towards making this a reality. Since the publication of the article, I have received endless encouragement from friends, peers, and even complete strangers; this change would never have happened without this support from the greater Jewish community. While this may have started as my battle, the victory belongs to anyone looking to make YU a place which nurtures the religious and spiritual lives of all its students.”
On the administration’s plan for a new community minyan that will welcome female speakers, Gelman said that she “look[s] forward to seeing the university’s plans for this new initiative come to fruition, and hope[s] that this can be the momentum we need to create a tolerant space within the already existing minyanim on campus.”