The Dean of Students recently put out a statement alleging that 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 … Starting next semester, we will add a student-run YU community minyan.”
This statement is counterproductive and indicative of a larger issue.
The founders of the minyan explicitly envisioned for Klein@9 to be a student minyan which would provide a different experience than the existing Glueck yeshiva minyan and efficient Rubin minyan. We billed ourselves as a “Student-run, Undergrad, Community minyan,” which would serve both the population of the yeshiva and larger community, and we still envision Klein@9 along those lines today. As a student-created minyan, the students have always been and will continue to be solely responsible for the practices and programming of the minyan in shaping the religious experience that they desire. We categorically reject the implication that Klein@9 is merely another yeshiva minyan run by the institution, and are distraught by the announcement of a second “student-run YU community minyan” that did not consider any student input or consensus. This decision will further divide our community and is not a solution that the student body desires.
We believe that, within the framework of halakhah, our community needs to decide what our norms and practices should be. This requires conversation between all of our community members, from both sides of the mechitzah. Every community has its disagreements regarding how the spirit of halakhah and Jewish values are expressed in practice. It is vital that these struggles are dealt with communally, by those who are involved with our community day to day, Shabbat to Shabbat. We invite those voices involved and dedicated to our community to share their desires and needs so that we can shape our shared religious experience. We believe that together, we can chart our Jewish practice with inspiration from our teachers and with the values that have been imparted to us throughout our Jewish education. To us, having students take a leadership role in building a community is a value—not an inconvenience.
In practice, what this means is that the students should be the primary decision-makers in student policy and programming, with guidance from YU institutional officers, Student Life staff, and religious leadership. This is a far cry from the current state where the administration rarely engages in dialogue with students or even elected student representatives when making policy decisions. Instead, as is the case with the newly announced “student-run YU community minyan,” policy is handed down to students in a top-down system that does not reflect the will of the student body or the spirit of what student government should be. It is not only the women who have been silenced, it is the entire student body’s collective voice that has gone unheard.
While we certainly appreciate the importance of established halakhic parameters set by our authorities, the chosen path within those parameters must be left to the students. We, the students, must have the freedom to grapple with and chart our own communal norms. If YU institutional officers, Student Life staff, and religious leadership will not trust inter-student dialogue and community building, then for what reason should our future communities invest the very same trust in YU? While we regret that we did not speak out before about administrative interference in the instance of the Klein@9 minyan, we are speaking out now, and we apologize to those that were angered and disappointed by our silence. It is for this reason that we are releasing the following statement.
We call upon the Yeshiva University administration, from RIETS and the Office of the President to the Office of Student Life, to support our student-run minyan’s right to determine its own communal practices, and to support YU students aiming to become the future leaders of the Jewish community. Rather than usurp and diminish its student leaders’ authority, the administration should act as a guiding affiliate to student programming and decisions across the University, engaging in dialogue with the student body. For Yeshiva University to be relevant to the Jewish community, it must start by supporting its current students. If we are to be leaders, or at least engaged members of our Jewish communities, then we must start grappling with these issues within our own YU community and be responsible for our own actions.
The Klein@9 Board
Aryeh Laufer, Co-Founder, Klein@9
Dovid Simpser, Co-Founder, Klein@9
Samuel Gelman, Board Member, Klein@9 & SOY IBC Representative
Noah Marlowe, Board Member, Klein@9 & SOY Vice President
Dovid Simpser, SOY President
Zach Sterman, YSU President
Eitan Lipsky, YCSA President
Joshua Zirman, Syms President
Klein@9 Mission Statement:
Klein@9 was created in December 2016 by elected student SOY representatives for the student body as a means to build a warm Shabbos community on campus, create more space for student leadership, and create a meaningful religious shabbos experience. We are deeply grateful to the many students who have invested in our community since Klein@9’s inception, and have helped make some of these goals a reality. We are committed to these three pillars, and hope that future student leaders will uphold this vision through the continuation and creation of new initiatives to further these goals.