Op-Ed: A Tale Of Two Cities; Yeshiva University & Lakewood

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yweThis is a tale of two cities. It is a tale of two cities, or rather two communities – that are both in very big trouble. But the first community can learn a lot from the second community in how it addresses that trouble.

This week it was revealed that Yeshiva University is undergoing some very serious monetary woes having taken on, in recent years, more than a half a billion dollars in debt. The financial losses of investing with Madoff was only responsible for ten percent of the financial crisis. In the meantime, Yeshiva University has spun off Einstein – its medical school, and tens of properties for 72 million dollars. And nothing is helping, as seen from the fact that Moody’s has downgraded YU’s debt to junk status. Investigations have revealed that the crisis was because the leadership had taken YU’s investments from low risk Treasury bonds and into the high risk world of hedge-fund investments.

This is the first community.

The second community of which we speak are those that are in the more right wing Yeshiva community. They too face a fire, in that the Kollelim in Israel are facing huge financial cuts from the government. Thinkers and leaders in this community, however, have developed an innovative approach to this problem with the Adopt-A-Kollel initiative. Somehow, some way, this organization based in Lakewood, New Jersey has managed to get over 130 synagogues across the country and spectrum of Jewish orthodoxy to adopt a like number of Kollelim in Israel. They have done this in just a few months.

They have somehow managed to create a grassroots funding campaign made up of synagogue communities from New York to California, and from Chicago to Florida. And the synagogues who have adopted the Kollels are growing at a fast pace. The program began with one adoption, then ten, and is growing exponentially.

The Modern Orthodox world should take note of this initiative, and should travel to the offices of this organization in Lakewood, New Jersey and learn how it is done.

It would be a tragic loss to American Jewry if Yeshiva University were to fail.

Yeshiva University should take the time and effort to develop just such a relationship with synagogues across America. The leadership should take responsibility for what it has done, admit the tragic error of its “hare versus tortoise” approach of high risk investing and learn from its more right wing cousins in Lakewood, that slow and easy is the way to go, while developing strong and broad-based grassroot support.

Dovid Kates – Brooklyn, NY

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Once they are in lakewood maybe they can come and see what a real yeshiva once looked like as well, and what real genuine torah is and take that home as well, if not maybe it’s better that they fail then turn into reform Jews in a few years.

  2. I disagree, it would not be unfortunate at all if YU were to fail. It is a discredited organization in which greed for funds always trumps religion and values. How, fitting that notwithstanding all their greed they find themselves in such
    financial woes.They will not be missed by any body who is a true jew with firm morales ethics and values.

  3. This is completely redicilous, the adopt a Kollel program gets it’s funding from these ” modern orthodox ” shuls, classic example of lack of hakaras hatov, and attempting to divide the frum world even more.

  4. If YU wants to be successful in this effort, they should first examine if they have a product worth saving.

    They have become very secularized. They have strayed very far from their original mission of Torah education for the American Rabbinate.

    Today, they are just another American secular university, so why bother sacrificing critically-needed Jewish tzedaka funds for a secular school that has no identifiable Jewish character.

    (REITS should be spun off as a stand-alone Bais Midrash.)

  5. The REITS graduate rabbonim from recent years are quite impressive. It is a far different REITS than it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The University serves an important element of the orthodox community and is necessary if there are to be orthodox communities in the far flung regions of this country.

  6. It seems none of the commenters are at all familiar with YU, otherwise they would not make such statements. It is still very much a Torah institution, with thousands of people over the years becoming frum or remaining frum because of the fact that it existed and offered both Torah and secular educxation. The “tale” real does not justify the comparison. YU is a large, multidivisional institution, while the kollels are small independent entities. It’s like a small-town mayor touting a successful program and extrapolating that it would work in New York. Speaking la’az about YU is wrong, no matter what you think about it. There are many chashuva rabbonim still affiliated with it, and it is offensive to read some of the above comments.

  7. Lakewood institutions are broke since they know they are in a hopeless task, trying to support Torah learning with out visible means of support – which is so common as to be a hazakah rather than someone newsworthy, so they build ties with Baal ha-battim over a wide area. This is as it has always been for Torah institutions.

    YU started off as a yeshiva but had not only the idea of being a “college” but a rich “college” and tried to build up to compete with schools that have spent the last few centuries building up rich endowments. It was a fool’s errand. And in accordance with their desired status, they build building and paid salaries that tried to match what rich universities did, and from a yeshivish perspective were outlandish. The school denies that stupid and corrupt investment practices are responsible, but that suggest financial mismanagement and the “dumb idea” of trying to compete financially with schools with rich endowmments serving a richer constituency (and while the modern orthodox are rich compared to hareidim, they are just second rate “new money” compared to the old money that supports the major universities).

  8. Besides rabbinical scholars, YU produces balabatim who have become some of the Torah world’s big contributors to yeshiva education in the US and Eretz Yisrael.

    So don’t call the kettle black.

  9. This article presupposes that the Modern Orthodox world will care if YU fails. It doesnt explain how or why it comes to such a conclusion. It is nice to assume, but, as the great felix ungar once said, when you assume, you make a donkey out of U and ME.

  10. These comments are completely inappropriate. It’s nothing but a bunch of sinah and lack of achdus amongst Torah Jews.. I personally don’t subscribe to the YU approach either. However, putting down other Jews who pasken differently than you do, is not what H’ wants. It only hinders the coming of moshiach. Do we need more korbonos like the three teenage captives to unite with each other. The fact is that people are trying with their frumkeit, and just might not be at the same madraiga as others. That’s still no reason to put them on an inferior level. Unfortunately, there’re plenty of problems in the more right wing community as well. we need to get along to end this galus.These degrading, elitist remarks will definitely not accomplish that. That’s for sure.

  11. While in Lakewood, check out how to snuggle close to NJ POLITICIANS, obtain grants, government programs and siphon funds into neighborhood Mosdos.

  12. Modern orthodox shuls have adopted many of these kollellim, and there are hundreds of YU fathers-in-law supporting yungerleit in Lakewood. What disgraceful lack of achdus and hakaras hatov! Next time BMG does a “Shabbos of Chizuk” (read $$) in a MO kehillah, let’s leave the checkbooks at home, since they do so well on their own.
    I also note that BMG’s medical school, law school, and other professional schools need a bigger profile, because I have never heard of them!
    Finally, how is Mir Yerushalayim doing?

  13. This is a nice idea but YU’s budget is way too big. Lakewood services and pays for so many more people because they are not dishing out dozens of salaries over 100k. The MO communities with members who can afford to donate the kind of money YU would need to bail itself out (or even run operations for a short amount of time) are very few. Your average target audience for a donor is saving money to send his kids to the school which costs $40,000+ per year.

    For all the commentators – I don’t think badmouthing YU in this forum is appropriate. The thousands of students who go there would be lost without it. Walk into the beis medrash there and you see hundreds of guys seriously learning for 7+ hours per day and doing a well-recognized degree without cutting corners. Where would these guys be without the support and shiurim and schedule? If you care about harbotzas Torah and avodas H’ and you understand the world we live in, you cannot deny that YU is a good thing for all the people who go. And even the less-yeshiva students in other programs would not even be in a Jewish environment at all. They would do no learning, have no minyanim… you all know what a college campus is like. If it’s not for you or your kids – that’s fine, but it is important to acknowledge the good work it does. You can bash the bad parts – but don’t say the whole thing should go.
    Also think of all the good, solid frum doctors, lawyers, dentists, businessmen who come from there. YU outputs way more than the yeshivishe velt and are generally helping klal yisroel monetarily… and of course spiritually as well.

  14. A) The leadership will never take responsibility. Realise you are dealing with people whom will use whatever position and money that can to rub shoulders with the even more corrupt.

    B) The modern orthodox Synagogues do not have the giving mentality that we inherently have. The more ‘right’ you go (e.g. Lawrence to Flatbush to Lakewood to Geulah) the more money per-capita per-income-ratio is given. Fact. Speak to the local collectors.

    C) IF Rabbi Schechter wants to split off from the YU bureaucracy I am positive he will find the funds to support his Yehsiva.

  15. They should also learn how to better cover up certain crimes. They have not done as good a job as Lakewood has with cover-ups.

  16. #1 -Last time I checked, the Gemara Shabbos that YU learned this year was the same one in BMG’s Beis Medrash.

    #2,3&5 -Have you guys ever even been to YU to know what it’s like?

  17. While many of us don’t agree with YU’s religious views, they do a tremendous amount of good for a certain segment of klal Yisrael. YU attracts many baalei teshuva who were turned onto Yiddishkeit by NCSY and other kiruv groups and would normally have ended up on secular college campuses where, C”V, they can easily backslide. Many of them want to go to yeshiva, but their parents want them to get a “real” education. YU offers a solution that satisfies both sides.
    That said, isn’t it possible that YU is going bankrupt not because of Bernie Madoff and bad investments, but because one of their roshei yeshiva started the whole metzitza b’peh kerfuffle by maasering on an innocent mohel?

  18. Most of YU’S alumni are treated nice by the modern orthodox community once they graduate. Once you leave a yeshivishe institution nobody really cares about you unless you make it big! If you can’t afford to pay tuition you need to grovel to get your kid into a yeshiva. It’s pretty ironic that in every shul that has an adopt a kollel many of the shul members are personally struggling but nobody cares. My message to YU stay away from us we certainly do not have it right!!!

  19. Clearly a lot of the commentators here have no clue as to what YU really is about. I come from a YU family, a strong rabbinic family. My uncle is a rosh kollel at YU.
    What is it exactly that u have against it anyway? Is it the fact that the guys graduating have a REAL degree? Is it maybe the fact that they are pro Israel? I don’t know…I’m trying to figure out the reason for such שנאת חינם, especially now that we’re going through such difficult times.
    אהבת ישראל is what we all need to focus on, and not what u ppl are doing.
    Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim
    Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel
    Eyal ben Iris Teshura

  20. This editorial lacks any common sense. The adopt a kollel just started. Give it a year and when people can’t afford to pay their own kids tuitions very quickly there will be no money left to support outsiders. The article doesn’t mention the cause of YU’s problems. First executive compensations, the deans, chancelor, president are getting in excess of 800K a piece. Second the major medical schools are not accepting YU students anymore like they used to. Third it is just simply too expensive for anyone who wants to pursue a professional degree like law or medicine to pay close to 100K for undergrad and then another 200K for law or med school. Fourth it used to be if you wnated to learn in the morning and go to college you needed to go to YU. Now there are many options like going to yeshiva by day and going to Queens College or Touro at night. Fifth Lander College is a more frumer option for many people and seems to be growing every year.

  21. I respect and admire all the talmidim at YU.

    Read my comment again, the institution is becoming more and more secular and more and more liberal, many of my family members are in YU, some work there, they all agree it’s not the same as it used to be.

    Let’s look at history, once u change to the worse, downhill is very quick…. The bottem of the hill is reform chas vesholom.

  22. “The REITS graduate rabbonim from recent years are quite impressive.”

    True.

    ” It is a far different REITS than it was in the 1960′s and 1970′s.”

    The 1960s and 1970s RIETS produced Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Mordechai Willig. I find them quite impressive as well.