In contrast to the wintery weather outside, we were greeted with elegance and cordiality by the President Richard and Dr. Esther Joel, who made every visitor feel at home. Parents were encouraged to ask questions freely about the President’s vision for the future of Yeshiva University.

 

Rabbi Michael Taubes introduced the program with the timeless words of the Mesilat Yesharim’s maxim, “There is newfound knowledge in review of what is already known”. Though the YU community might think all is known about YU, there may be some surprises!

President Joel and Dr. Selma Botman, Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs, had many new things to add to the roster of courses and opportunities at YU. Dr. Botman spoke of YU Global, an online instruction initiative that would spread the reach of the university to other continents and cultures, offering college courses to both genders since classrooms would not be required, and the number of instructors could be reduced for economy. They also described plans for a more robust computer science program, in response to the growing global need for STEM students.

 

President Joel discussed his philosophical vision, positing that Torah and Madda are not in competition, rather, that the goal is to grow along a route that unifies both perspectives. In a conversation with then-President George Bush, President Joel had commented that the goal of a university is not merely to graduate students that would compete in the world market, but to ‘ennoble and enable’ the student. Articulating his view at the parlor meeting, President Joel said, “we must teach that things ‘matter’; we must foster values and teach ‘to value those values.” Nodding to his guests, President Joel added, “we must study our history with a focus on our destiny, while always looking forward.”

 

He added that students must also offer hands-on experience such as serving in Haiti, or in Ethiopian communities in Southern Israel that not only impacted the recipient of assistance, but also positively affected the student. It is these experiences — inside and outside the classroom — that truly shape Yeshiva University, and empower its graduates to make a difference in the world, and in Jewish life. “Yeshiva University is,” President Joel asserted, “a place where a Jew can truly thrive.”

 

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