Like many, I read The Forward’s “guide to the best colleges for Jewish students” with curiosity. The Forward considered “college acceptance rate, student-to-faculty ratio, Israel activity, Jewish life on campus, and affordability” when ranking multiple universities throughout the United States (http://forward.com/series/jewish-college-guide/). Yeshiva University received an overall ranking of #21, which is not surprising considering the cost of tuition. No one has ever claimed YU to be the most affordable option out there. The one area where Yeshiva University excelled, though, was the “Jewish Life” category with a score of 33/40. As a campus dedicated entirely towards Jewish life, I believe that score could and should be higher.
Yeshiva University is more than a college. In many ways, it represents Modern Orthodoxy and supports countless communities around the world. With so much focus on the “larger Jewish community”, however, I cannot help but feel that the university has placed its own community on the back burner. This past May, as I sat through my sixth Torah Tours orientation, I was told once again of the importance of representing my university outside of my campus. I have sat through many speeches like this, most recently at this past year’s graduation. However, the first and last time I heard a speech about the importance of participation in Yeshiva University’s own community, was at freshman orientation. The impression that I have unwittingly received is that the undergraduate community at Yeshiva University is something that must be fought for.
During my time on the Beren campus, members of the Office of Student Life, TAC, SCWSC, and the Shabbat Enhancement Committee have worked tirelessly to enhance the Beren community. And there has been a noticeable improvement over the years. More students choose to stay on campus for Shabbat, and this past year, student government organized countless events and distributed Yeshiva University apparel to help foster school pride. When administrators only emphasize the community outside its halls, though, they leave the impression that their own student body is secondary.
Every Thursday afternoon, there is a mass exodus of Stern students who leave, suitcases in hand, heading to parents, friends, or even other college campuses for the weekend. And the administrators do little to encourage them otherwise.
Why do administrators symbolically show their support by marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade, or by “popping” in at Torah Tours orientation, but do not come show their support at the bi-annual club fairs run on campus? Individual students work tireless all year to help transform the Beren campus into a community, but there is only so much the students can do on their own.
I am proud of everything that my university does for the Jewish community. Some might say Yeshiva University is in my blood: my grandfather is a long-time Rosh Yeshiva and professor, my father and mother are proud graduates of RIETS/YC and Stern College respectively. I attended Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central). But should not the sense of pride felt through helping the larger Jewish community reflect Yeshiva University’s own undergraduate community?
With all its faults, The Forward’s overall ranking of YU can serve as an impetus of change. That is, a change in attitude, so that the accomplishments of students on campus are celebrated and emphasized as much as the accomplishments off campus. Fortunately, this change is already in the works. I was personally touched by President Berman’s attendance at this past year’s athletic dinner. He addressed the student athletes, expressing his support and admiration for our athletic community. He thanked us for our hard work and dedication, and encouraged our continual participation. President Berman let us know that our efforts were admired and appreciated by the university whose jerseys we wore on the field, track, and court. I am reassured and filled with hope by his attitude: that our university cares about us, as much as we care about our university.