By Fruma Landa, Editor in Chief
* This article has been edited to reflect that the YU Observer is aware of five additional students who were interested in auditing (either officially of unofficially) the Advanced Talmud course.
On the Beren campus, the Advanced Talmud course, taught during evenings by Rosh Yeshiva and Assistant Director of RIETS Rabbi Ezra Schwartz, and the Introduction to the Talmud course, taught by Rabbi David A. Pahmer, have been canceled for the Fall 2020 semester due to a lack of course registration. Previously, four Talmud courses were offered: Into to Talmud, Intermediate Talmud, and two Advanced Talmud courses. Currently, two Talmud courses remain — both taught by Rabbi Moshe Kahn: Intermediate Talmud and Advanced Talmud (taught in the morning, unlike the Advanced Talmud course taught by Rabbi Schwartz which is taught in the evening).
Dean Bacon explained to the YU Observer that the “Introduction to Talmud and Advanced Talmud (afternoon section) were cancelled because of very low registration. […] Historically, the morning Advanced Talmud attracted greater registration than the afternoon class. For this fall the afternoon class had only 2 students registered.” However, the YU Observer is aware of five additional students who were interested in auditing this course, either officially or unofficially.
Rabbi Schwartz shared his disappointment with the YU Observer. He expressed: “I really love teaching at Stern and I am saddened that I will not be able to deliver my [G]emara shiur [Talmud course] at SCW this coming semester. I hope that in the very near future Stern will reinstitute a high level, analytical [G]emara shiur.”
Abigail Rochlin (SCW ‘22), one of the two students who had registered for the cancelled Advanced Talmud course, explained that “[a]side from being an interesting, insightful, inspiring, and overall enjoyable class, having an advanced Gemara shiur (one of only two) is fundamental for Stern’s mission of helping its students grow in their Avodat Hashem [service to G-d].”
Prior to the addition of this second advanced Talmud course for the Fall 2017 semester, there was one advanced Talmud class taught every morning by Rabbi Kahn. The second course provided women who could not register for the morning advanced shiur due to scheduling conflicts an opportunity to register for another advanced Talmud shiur.
Rochlin shares: “Personally I am very disappointed that this class will not be available to me this coming semester, but I am also discouraged by what it means for Stern at large. Offering an advanced Gemara shiur is an inherent and core value, and it is sad to see that no longer being the case. I hope that in the future the shiur will come back and the option for a second advanced Gemara shiur for women seeking to advance not only their skills but their Avodat Hashem can be offered.”
“Some Advanced Talmud students,” continued Bacon, “who are in their senior year, take advantage of the shiurim offered through GPATS, [the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies for Women]. This [program] gives them another robust learning opportunity beyond the SCW class offering.”
Mrs. Shoshana Schechter, associate dean of Torah Studies at Stern College for Women, assured the YU Observer that these courses were not canceled because they weren’t deemed valuable. Rather, the cancellation was due to the lack of registered students for these courses. As women’s learning is still a value, Schechter assured that she hopes to create a “night seder [evening Torah learning] program” on campus, which includes shiurim from Rabbi Schwartz, and to reinstate these cancelled courses for the Spring 2021 semester — assuming there is more interest.
“To my mind,” Schwartz concluded, “advanced level [G]emara is part of the core identity of Stern. This sort of shiur does more than serve the needs of students who desire studying devar Hashem [the word of God] at the highest level. It also advances Klal Yisrael [the Jewish people] who desperately need a core of educated, skilled and sophisticated women to better serve them.”