Wilf Campus Student Body Petitions for Virtual School Days Between High Holidays

By: Shira Kramer  |  June 19, 2024

By Shira Kramer, Managing Editor

When picking a college, one of the major benefits of choosing Yeshiva University is its off days during the chaggim and the flexibility the university provides surrounding them. A common misconception amongst people who know about YU but do not attend the university as a student is that students have the whole high holiday season free from school. While the workload may be lighter, students still have classes, which in the past have been virtual, in between holidays. With this, students from all over the world have had the privilege of attending YU while still knowing that they can go home during the chaggim to be with their families. 

Recently, the Yeshiva University Undergraduate Academic Calendar for the fall 2024 – spring 2025 year was published and sent out to students. A notable difference between this calendar and that of fall 2023 – spring 2024 was the in person school days for all undergraduate students between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This coming year, Rosh Hashanah falls from Wednesday, Oct. 2 to Friday, Oct. 4. Then, the following week, Yom Kippur falls on the Shabbat of Oct. 11. Therefore, excluding the travel day before Yom Kippur that YU gives students every year, there are three school days scheduled in between these two major holidays. 

Following the publication of this calendar, students on the Beren campus quickly organized a petition to move the school days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to remote classes. This request was granted and an updated undergraduate academic calendar was sent to students on April 22, 2024 to reflect this change. Now, students on the Wilf campus, spearheaded by Yeshiva Student Union President Sam Weinberg (YC ‘25), have started collecting signatures for their own petition to move those three school days to remote class for them as well.

“I ran for YSU President to be receptive and proactive toward the concerns of students,” Weinberg told the YU Observer. “The petition serves as a clear indicator that hundreds of students on the Wilf campus, including but not limited to those who live outside [New York and New Jersey], are frustrated by the current policy.”

As many out-of-town Wilf students scramble to figure out how to make it home for the holidays, they feel that their needs are not being considered in the decision to hold in person class on these days. 

“For my past two years at YU there has always been online classes between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur [which] has worked incredibly well by allowing students, especially those that don’t live near campus, to spend… time with family without sacrificing class attendance,” Aden Lyons (YC ‘26) told the YU Observer. “Classes in person just don’t seem practical during this time as it forces students that live out of town to choose between spending time with family during Rosh Hashanah or attending just three days of class in person.”

It seems as though a particular concern from the administration as to why Wilf students should have in person class on these days is so that Undergraduate Torah Studies learning on the Wilf campus can be held in person. In their petition, the Wilf student body acknowledges the importance of in-person learning and recognizes the differences in the Torah learning structures between the Wilf campus and Beren campus. 

“While the structure of the Judaic learning programs on the Wilf Campus is certainly different from that on Beren, the broader distinctions between the two don’t indicate a necessary distinction for in-person versus online learning,” the petition stated. 

Fortunately, both the Beren and Wilf student governments are no strangers to challenging the administration’s decisions. When an issue negatively impacts a group of students, both student governments are ready to step in and work together. While the Beren campus has already resolved this particular issue, Beren Campus Student Government President Shalhevet Cohen (SSSB ‘25) is concerned for all Yeshiva University students. 

“It is critical for the YU administration to carefully consider the needs of all of its students, specifically concerning the decision of whether to have class in person or on Zoom over the Eseret Yemei Teshuva,” Cohen told the YU Observer. “International and out-of-town students deserve to have the opportunity to spend the entire Tishrei chagim period — from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot — with their families.”

In fact, YU students from both campuses are proud of the example the Beren campus has set for Wilf. “Thank G-d the Beren [students] already stepped up, took the lead, and did the right thing as leaders of YU,” Caleb Gitlitz (YC ‘25) told the YU Observer. “I say this with all seriousness — they are ‘building tomorrow, today.’”

The Wilf student body concedes that if a fully remote option isn’t possible, they would accept a remote choice where students who cannot reach campus during the holidays will not be penalized for their virtual attendance. This would be especially important for students who live out of the Tri-state area to be able to spend more time with their families during these holidays without having to choose between that and their academics. 

With this option included in the petition, students wonder if it is even worth it. “While this sounds like the best option, once the zoom option exists, I don’t think many people will want to go to an in person class,” Judah Berman (YC ‘26) told the YU Observer. “It feels like everyone will be happy with zoom.”

Another point that the petition considers is the dates that the proposed virtual school days fall on: Oct. 7, 8, and 9. “The particular October 7th date will inevitably evoke a tremendous communal response, and we would hardly advocate for a policy that deters students from coming together as a university community to mark that horrific day,” the petition stated.

As the petition closes on Thursday, June 20, the YSU is excited to work with the administration on this issue. “I look forward to engaging with those who make the final decisions in thoughtful, respectful, and constructive dialogue to ensure the voices of our students are well-represented in administrative policy,” Weinberg said.