This 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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