“If I Am Only For Myself, What Am I?” The YU Observer

By: Fruma Landa  |  August 30, 2020

By Fruma Landa, Editor in Chief

Founded by the women of Yeshiva University’s Stern College in 1958, the YU Observer is one of two student-run publications of Yeshiva University. Writers on the YU Observer staff are YU undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds.

Views expressed in the YU Observer are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial board or the student body, faculty, and administration of Yeshiva University.”

I am often approached with questions surrounding the role of the YU Observer and the students we serve. As there are currently two undergraduate, student-run YU newspapers, it is understandable that there are those who mistakenly assume that since there are two newspapers and two campuses, the YU Observer serves the Beren Campus students while The Commentator serves the Wilf Campus students. However, although the newspapers began gender-segregated and campus-segregated, the YU Observer is a coed newspaper, boasting a diverse staff, dedicated to serving both the Beren and Wilf Campuses.

The YU Observer has a goal of representing our entire student body, and it is my mission, as well as the mission of the larger YU Observer 2020-2021 staff, to further this goal. I noticed throughout my experience at YU that, sadly, student newspapers do not always reflect the diverse array of perspectives found on our campuses. Newspapers often become polarized and relevant nuances are lost; however, these nuances are not absent from the conversations occurring on our campuses. Conversations on our campuses are far from limited in perspective. In fact, I have found quite the opposite to be true — they often highlight overlooked facets, feature insight, and offer a viewpoint unique to the student sharing. These nuanced perspectives, so often glaringly absent from our newspapers, deserve to be captured and shared. 

We are fortunate to have two different campuses, and three undergraduate schools, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva College, Sy Syms School of Business — Wilf Campus and Beren Campus — each full of thoughtful individuals. These students come from different backgrounds, have differences in theology, religious practice, and thought. There is power in our differences. We all can all bring someone into our world, broadening their horizons and painting the world through our unique perspectives. You have the power to influence and be influenced, to teach and to be taught. All of these differences deserve to be represented — it is the mission of the YU Observer to represent YOU. 

So why are these nuances not reflected in student newspapers? Oftentimes, when students read an article, they discuss it, share their opinions, and offer perspectives, contributing greatly to the nuance in verbal dialogue. Yet, how many of those conversers decide to take the initiative and share their thoughts in a newspaper? Reading an article from a singular perspective can make students feel like their dissenting voice is not a wanted or valued contribution. In response, I would like to say to the greater YU community that the YU Observer is YOUR newspaper and YOUR opinion is welcome, wanted, and valued. It is useless to operate a newspaper run by students to serve our peers without representing them.

 I want to bring out a line in the YU Observer’s mission statement. “Views expressed in the YU Observer are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial board or the student body, faculty, and administration of Yeshiva University.” Regardless of your agreement with the opinions published in the YU Observer, your perspective is not only welcome but necessary to further the dialogue. If you don’t agree with an article published, don’t let that argument dominate the dialogue. The space is not full and the dialogue is not complete without your voice. I encourage you to view it as a chance to share your thoughts and stake your claim in the dialogue.

Your voice deserves to be heard. Sharing your view in a newspaper gives you your chance to make a change. Your voice has the power to influence many — students, administrators and other readers. If you do not add your voice to the wider discussion, you lose all possibilities of changes your voice can make, leaving the influence up to voices you disagree with. That is just not fair. You deserve better.

There is a phrase from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) 1:14 that has imprinted itself on me. “He [Hillel] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” As a newspaper and as a community, we are here to learn from each other. We all have something to offer and something we can learn. I need your help sharing that. I can not create a newspaper serving you, representing your thoughts, if you don’t contribute your voice to the choir. Only together, each doing our part, can we form a harmonious dialogue representing us all. In the words of Hillel, “if not now, when?”