Fifth President Unveils Vision for University’s Future as New Era Dawns at YU
In a historic ceremony on its Wilf Campus on Sunday, September 10, Yeshiva University celebrated the investiture of its fifth president, Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman.
Before a crowd of more than 2,000—including guests such as New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan, former Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Israeli Ambassador Danny Ayalon, and Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon—Dr. Berman unveiled his vision for the future of the University.
“Most new presidents of universities need to learn the story of their institutions to understand their narrative and its purpose, but I do not need to read a history book to understand Yeshiva University—it is in my heart and it is in my soul,” said Dr. Berman, a graduate of four YU schools. “In an era in which there is a breakdown of civic and civil conversation, Yeshiva University is uniquely positioned to address the most pressing moral issues of the day. Moving forward, we will continue to be steadfast in bringing to bear our vast, interdisciplinary resources on these fundamental issues both for the general public and also internally for our students. We stand proud as educators, thought leaders and moral voices for our generation.”
The day began at 10 a.m. with public lectures from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Roshei Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Michael Rosensweig in the Fischel Beit Midrash. Across the globe at a special Investiture viewing event in Jerusalem, Michael Oren, deputy minister of public policy in Israel, delivered a lecture on the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people.
YU’s Wilf Campus was adorned with festive balloons and decorations to mark the occasion as thousands of students, alumni and community members flooded the campus to inaugurate their new president. Following a performance of the national anthem by a capella group the Y-Studs, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis delivered the ceremony’s invocation. Mark Wilf, honorary chair of the Investiture Committee and member of the YU Board of Trustees, welcomed the audience to the momentous event.
“In a university like ours, the Investiture of only the fifth president in more than a century is also a sacred rite of passage,” said Wilf. “We are not only conferring academic authority upon him. We are also placing a deep trust in a man uniquely qualified to protect and promote our cherished values as he leads this institution into the world of tomorrow.”
He added, “Rabbi Dr. Berman, I hope the presence of our many honored guests and the support of the YU family signals to you today, and for many years to come, our belief in your ability to lead our institution to great success and achievements, and to project the mission and the soul of Yeshiva University into an ever-brighter future for its students and community members.”
On behalf of the United States Congress, Senator Schumer expressed his excitement to partner with Dr. Berman in his new role as president. “I can think of no better person for the job of Yeshiva University president than Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman. As a graduate of four schools at YU, distinguished lecturer, widely recognized rabbi and staple of the Jewish community in New York City, I am confident that Dr. Berman will make tremendous contributions to this fine institution and lead in its future successes,” he said. “Mazal tov to Dr. Berman on being sworn in as Yeshiva University’s fifth president. I am proud to play a part in his investiture and look forward to working together.”
Myriam Gilles, vice dean and Paul R. Verkuil Professor of Public Law at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, extended her greetings to the president on behalf of the University’s faculty. “It is an honor to be with you on this most significant day in the life of Yeshiva University, and to offer well wishes for President Berman on behalf of our distinguished faculty,” said Gilles. “Each member of this outstanding academic community has followed a distinct path to Yeshiva. I have discovered and have come to love this University, an institution of great tradition and great promise, both of which we celebrate today as President Berman leads us in a new chapter for our institution.”
On behalf of the student body, Stern College for Women student and Sophomore Class President Gesela Levin welcomed Dr. Berman to YU, calling it “a warm and accepting community that treasures every person’s individuality and respects each person’s voice…On behalf of all of my fellow students, I thank all of you for making this an institution fueled by a mission that invites all of us to step out of our comfort zones to learn and to grow,” Levin said.
Yeshiva University Board of Trustees Chairman Moshael Straus then asked the audience to join him for a moment of solidarity with the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, before he and RIETS Board of Trustees Chairman Rabbi Joel Schreiber presented Dr. Berman with the charters of the University and RIETS, respectively. Board of Trustees Chairman Emeriti Dr. Henry Kressel and Morry Weiss, as well as past YU presidents Dr. Norman Lamm and Richard M. Joel, joined Dr. Berman on stage, where they conferred the Presidential Medallion upon him.
In his emotional introduction of the new president, Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, lauded him as “a student leader at our institution who was chosen to represent his peers at their Chag HaSemikha; a teacher of Talmud at our great institution; the spiritual leader of one of the most prestigious congregations in our country; and a highly respected intellectual whose scholarship utilizes the most rigorous academic methodologies to uncover the meanings in ancient medieval and modern Jewish texts.”
“Today we celebrate a new chapter in the history of our extraordinary University and we welcome to its roster of great, transformative leaders a man of great learning, great depth, great thoughtfulness, great passion and great sensitivity, a president whose greatness has been forged in the libraries and in the batei midrash of this very institution,” said Rabbi Schacter. “Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman has himself already written beautiful chapters in his own book of life. He is poised to write another chapter, an incredibly thoughtful and meaningful contribution not only to his own book of life, but a chapter from which will shine his radiance on this University and on the Jewish people.”
Dr. Berman’s Investiture address focused on five Torot, core values, that shape the mission of the University and, according to Dr. Berman, “position YU to be the educational and intellectual epicenter of a large global movement.”
He described these values as Torat emet, the pursuit of truth; Torat chayim, the responsibility to be guided by those truths as we actively engage with the world; Torat adam, the drive to actualize our potential as individuals; Torat chessed, the moral and ethical imperative of compassion and kindness; and Torat Tziyon, the charge to move history forward toward redemption and a better world.
“These five Torot differentiate us and our identity, rooting us deeply within a structured value system while providing moral guidance and direction in living our lives,” said Dr. Berman. “They propel us to develop our talents and skills while directing us to reach outwards and connect to others in kindness. And they inspire us with a grand, historic purpose to make a difference, and impact the world. This is what we believe Judaism represents and what God wants from all of us.”
To propel YU toward this vision, Dr. Berman outlined three areas in which YU will expand its focus during his tenure. First, he noted that while the University already has a celebrated reputation in fields such as law, medicine, accounting, finance, psychology and education, the University will create new opportunities to match growing global demand for graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the health industries. The University will also take advantage of technological innovations to reach out to new markets of students with ever more diverse offerings, particularly by creating programming that allows high school students to earn college credit for online courses during their senior year or over the summer, which will defray costs while giving students a head start on their college education.
Finally, YU will focus on creating innovative educational pathways between existing programs to create a richer experience for its students. “We conceptualize Yeshiva University as a single, interconnected network, instead of a collection of separate schools,” said Dr. Berman. “This might take the form of a JD/MBA program between Cardozo and Sy Syms School of Business or a joint program providing future rabbis of RIETS with an advance degree in psychology from Ferkauf, and certainly new advanced offerings for our undergraduates for whom we will seek to arrange new connections and opportunities with all of our graduate schools, including the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Cardozo School of Law and the newly developed Katz School. In addition, our tens of thousands of alumni and friends are a crucial part of our network and will play an important role in our new educational models as connectors who will help place our students at summer positions or advanced internships and jobs between their college and graduate school years.”
Students can also expect to see even more partnerships between YU and institutions in Israel and around the globe, in addition to more international students enrolled in the University’s brick and mortar programs as well as its online offerings.
Dr. Berman concluded his remarks by reaching out to the thousands of YU supporters viewing the ceremony both in person or in overflow rooms on the Wilf Campus, or as it was broadcast live around the globe: “Now is the time to come together,” he said. “Join us in our journey. Be a part of history as we maximize our potential, write a new chapter in the Jewish story and work to make a lasting impact on the history of all of humanity.”
Following the Investiture, the Wilf Campus was transformed into a colorful street fair for InvestFest, a communal celebration that featured live music, carnival games and kosher food trucks. Investiture guests mingled with local community members as together they marked a new era in YU history.
“For over a century, Yeshiva University has been a pillar of higher learning for the Jewish community, fostering the next generation of leaders and academics,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a congratulatory statement to Dr. Berman. “Rabbi Dr. Berman is a distinguished scholar and proven leader with the experience and knowledge to lead Yeshiva into an even brighter future. I congratulate Dr. Berman and Yeshiva on this momentous accomplishment and look forward to working together to strengthen our communities.”
“I wish Dr. Berman a lot of luck—we’re all rooting for him to make YU a great place,” said Stern College for Women junior Rachel Zak, of Brooklyn, New York, who felt Dr. Berman’s vision for YU was powerful. “He really resonates with the student body. He came over and introduced himself to us in the cafeteria last year, and spent Shabbat with us at the beginning of the semester as well. It was great to get to know him on a personal level.”
Throughout Dr. Berman’s inaugural year, YU will host a series of thought-provoking events exploring critical issues facing the Jewish community, higher education and beyond. For more information, visit yu.edu/tomorrow.