President Joel Addresses Stern Students at Town Hall Meeting

By: Ruthie Klein  |  December 1, 2016
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At the beginning of Club Hour on Wednesday, November 2nd, President Joel entered Yagoda Commons with a smile on his face and friendly greetings to students and administration, who had gathered to attend a Town Hall meeting. He began his remarks with a congenial, “I hope you all had wonderful chagim.”

President Joel proceeded to discuss a few topics that he found noteworthy. He began by speaking about Torah Tours, a program in its fourth decade that sends Yeshiva University students to smaller Jewish communities to reinvigorate their synagogues over Simchat Torah, calling it the “ultimate win-win” because of the profound impact it has on students participating, as well as the “stunning experience for the shuls.” He then spoke about the rescue mission of YU students to Baton Rouge after its destructive flooding, and told the students who had attended that they were “advancing the world in critical ways.”

As the Town Hall meeting was only days before the election, President Joel expressed that he hoped students would vote. He said, “I don’t care who you vote for, but we have a say. This is a representative democracy. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.” After these words, he added, “Actually we should never complain; we must make the best out of it.”

President Joel did, however, give some of his opinions on the election. He said that the “level of vitriol” in the country had “never existed before” and called it a “critical point for what America stands for.” President Joel stressed that the reason Stern College, Sy Syms School of Business, and Yeshiva College exist are to develop people who would not stand for an election this malicious. The divisiveness and behavior over the past year and a half, he said, “can’t seep into how we do things and treat people.”

President Joel then spoke about the parsha and called his whole legacy a “series of aphorisms,” and quoted both Albert Einstein (“Strive not to be a success, but a value”) and Rav Lichtenstein (“We were mandated by the Creator to put a spiritual imprint on the world”). He praised the recent “Swag Day—an event that allowed YU students to acquire free sweaters, hats, and headbands—and encouraged female students to continue attending the new Night Seder program on Tuesday nights. Additionally, he thanked students for their efforts in the “#IAmYU” fundraiser, which allowed Yeshiva University to raise its goal of five million dollars. He acknowledged protests from Stern students who were disappointed at the less spirited “#IAmYU” fundraiser on the Beren Campus, when compared with the fundraiser that took place on the Wilf Campus.

Students then were given an opportunity to ask questions. Some highlights from President Joel’s remarks include:

On more opportunities for Jewish learning on Beren Campus: “You want classes, gatherings, roshei yeshiva? I promise I’ll get them. I promise.”

On the disparity between the number of events hosted on the Wilf and Beren Campuses: “It’s harder to promote big student events with men, here, and we should try to do it more.”

On financial aid for summer school: “Ideally, take your academic courses during academic semesters. But we don’t want people to ‘major in summer school.’ The summer fee is $500/credit. Most summer schools aren’t less than that.”

On the new potential president (as this was prior to Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman’s confirmation by the board on November 16th): “There’s candidates being vetted; there’s no president yet. If he’s elected he won’t become the president until June and in the meantime will get to know students. We will have a student-centric president; I’m absolutely certain.”

Lastly, on why he is glad these Town Hall Meetings exist: “These questions are good for my continuing education.”

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