|A follow-up regarding "Shut Down Stern"
||[Jan. 24th, 2007|08:09 pm]
I neglected to point to two other responses in the recent discussion about a theoretical coed YU. Josh Weinberg wrote Shutting Down Stern at the Cost of our 'Yeshiva'?, elaborating upon the standard religious objections to the proposition. Zev Aeder echoed this sentiment more eloquently in For G-d's Sake.|
My feelings are mixed about the entire discussion, and similar discussions that have graced the pages (real and virtual) of the student newspapers over the years I've read them. On the one hand, many of the suggestions are silly. Some 20-year old students might think it's a grand idea to make YU coed, but the 50-year-old teachers and administrators, who have gained perspective about our university's mission that we don't yet have, know that such a proposal is preposterous, and know not to take it seriously. On the other hand, YU is far from perfect, and the discussion about how to improve it needs to start somewhere. There are several private forums for such discussions as well, but free expression in the newspaper, in the spirit of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, can only help promote ideas for positive change. If 9/10s of the opinions in the Commentator are not worth anyone's time, the remaining 1/10 fraction of insight justifies its existence and the many hours of writing and editing that make its publication successful.
A final note on this subject: People seem to write about this subject from their own perspective. Eitan Kastner, the gung-ho proponent of academic standards and academic reform at YU, wrote about the academic benefits of campus unification. Adinah Wieder, the co-editor in chief of the Stern Observer, and a student at all-female schools since her early childhood (as I recall from her editorial), wrote about the unique opportunities available for the women at Stern, which they would lose if they became merged into YU.
(I think everyone agrees that Stern is the minor partner to YU, and is shortchanged in some ways. The size of the respective campus libraries is a typical example of the problem. The question is what to think of the discrepancy. Ms. Wieder doesn't mind, since from her perspective, it's good for the Stern women to live on their own turf. Sarah Rindner, who wrote a letter to the editor for the recent Commentator, felt frustrated because she had to travel uptown to do research in the main library. Both points of view have merit.)
Finally, Josh Weinberg and Zev Aeder, who are faithful members of the core constituency of MYP yeshiva talmidim, wrote about the irrevocable damage that the presence of women would wreak on the yeshiva environment. In my last post, I wrote about the practical disaster of coeducation and the inherent ideality of the current arrangement. I chose that point of view because I don't feel very strongly that coeducation is wrong - I have lived with it myself for twelve years in Maimonides School and three months in Camp Moshava of Wild Rose, Wisconsin. (Readers, please remind me to tell stories about Moshava later on.) I even think coeducation is consistent with Torah Umadda and Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik's philosophy, since he founded Maimonides as a coed school. However, I give a tremendous weight toward institutional precedent. If YC and Stern have been separate for this long, and have developed independent identities, that really is a reason to keep them separate, contrary to Mr. Kastner's view. Also, I really do care about practical details, because I try to look at all the consequences of any idea - the obvious ones and the hidden ones. Adding bathrooms to Furst Hall is a hidden consequence, for sure, and is not to be discussed unless coeducation in general is up for serious consideration. However, for me, no detail is too small to factor in to a wide-ranging decision.
It works that way in life too: sometimes I may make a major decision based on relatively insignificant factors. I wound up in Camp Moshava for summer 2003 and '04 because Rabbi Yehuda Susman of Efrat, Israel, was recruiting students like me at the Yeshiva in Alon Shevut, a nearby village in Gush Etzion, to join him on a summer kollel in Moshava. He spoke for maybe half an hour about who he was, what the camp was about, and what we would do if we joined the kollel (a group dedicated to learning Torah and teaching it to the campers and staff). I took an application from him and eventually filled it out in the following two weeks. I remember that on the day of this meeting, I was feeling ill and spent most of the day in bed, but I managed to make it to the recruitment meeting. Normally, the yeshiva lifestyle is so hectic that there's never much time to think about anything else. (The notion of a yeshiva as a peaceful paradise for spiritual meditation is a myth. My yeshiva, like most others, is a very active place, high on sleep deprivation and low on privacy.) However, as fate would have it, I had all afternoon to lie in bed, nursing my fever and thinking about the prospect of spending a month or two in central Wisconsin, under the gracious auspices of Bnei Akiva. Since my mother had gone there during her high school days at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago during the early 1960s, and since Rabbi Susman seemed like a genuinely kind and knowledgeable man (which indeed he is), I decided to take my chance. I hope to describe on these pages how I traveled to Moshava the day I arrived there. That story will have to wait for later.