Thursday, October 29, 2015
While the selection for the next president of the United States is on many people’s minds, there is an additional presidency that many in the Jewish community have been discussing. With the recent announcement by Richard Joel that he will not continue as president of Yeshiva University, once his current contract ends, the Jewish world is abuzz with suggestions and speculation of who will fill this important role. What hasn’t been discussed is the process that will be used to find the right candidate. While one writer suggested the criteria through which the new president should be chosen (albeit with such specificity that all but one or two people in the world have been eliminated from the discussion), he gives no reason why he should be the arbiter of this decision.
I strongly believe that the future of YU matters for the American Jewish community in general, and specifically for the future of Modern Orthodoxy. If I am correct, the decision of how to choose the next president and who will do the choosing, is too important to be done behind closed doors. While it is obviously not possible for the whole process to be open, the process leading up to the search needs to be public.
I strongly believe that a committee should be put together consisting of a broad swath of the different constituencies in the Modern Orthodox world; men and women, Jewish professionals, rabbis and laymen, YU graduates and even students, should be chosen to decide which qualities and qualifications the next president should have. Additionally, at least some of these same type of people should be on the search committee once an open process has led to a public discussion of what YU should be as it moves into the future. A secret and closed process made by the Board of Trustees and/or unpublicized members risks too much.
In essence, I am arguing that the future of YU, much of which will be shaped by its next president, will not just affect future students, it will affect all of us who identify so strongly with Modern Orthodoxy. On some level, YU belongs to all of us, and as the flagship of Centrist orthodoxy, is too important to fail. With the economic situation of the school in peril, and with many possible paths that YU might take, our voices need to be heard and seriously considered. Anything less than this risks too much.