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75 Years of Yeshiva College

75 Years of Yeshiva College

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Published by: Yeshiva University on Jan 04, 2011
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UntilthefoundingofYeshivaCollege,
observant Jews who planned to pursue undergraduate studies had two
choices: suffer the slings and arrows of unfriendly academia—a world thatopenlydisdainedJewishtraditionsandmores—orforegocollegealtogether.
CELEBRATING
   Y   E   A   R   S    O   F    Y   E   S   H   I   V   A    C   O   L   L   E   G   E
75
YESHIVA COLLEGE’S CLASS OF 1932, ITS FIRST GRADUATES, WITH DR. REVEL (BOTTOM ROW, SIXTH FROM RIGHT).
12
 
Until 1928, Orthodox high-school students whodreamed of continuing their secular education hadto reckon with the fact that most colleges—thosenot off-limits to Jews—offered an intolerant, evenhostile, environment where unsympathetic teach-ers and administrators often challenged and rid-iculed religious traditions, and where students’loy-alty to Orthodoxy was sorely tested. Graduates of elementary and high-school yeshivas had fewchoices for advanced academic studies that wouldextend the protective canopy of Jewish education.For Dr. Bernard Revel, rosh hayeshiva and pres-ident of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Semi-nary since 1915, a solution was to fashion a collegeas part of RIETS, where students might pursueadvanced training in an environment respectful of  Jewish tradition. Some decried the idea as promot-ing separatism. Others hailed it as a natural pro-gression in Jewish education and as a check againstthe assimilation that “college” fostered.As Dr. Revel saw it, the experiences of RIETSstudents who supplemented their education withinconvenient night classes, and of those who optedto leave the yeshiva for secular education, gave hisidea both merit and urgency. His challenge was toconvince them and others that, by enrolling in the yeshiva’s own liberal arts college, they would gainnot only convenience and an embracing environ-ment but also the quality academic education they were seeking elsewhere.In 1928, Dr. Revel’s idea came to fruition withthe opening of Yeshiva College, which he called theHouse of God on the Hilltop.This year it is marking it’s 75th anniversary, andwhile Yeshiva College has developed and expandedover the years, its
raison d’etre
has remained con-stant:“[The school] aims to foster this harmoniousgrowth, in which the bases of modern knowledgeand culture in the fields of art, science, and serviceare blended with the bases of Jewish culture, sothat its students may be trained in the spirit of intelligent and high-minded enthusiasm, and devel-op as informed and devoted sons in the spirit andfaith of Israel, able to recognize the essential har-mony of life.”
—YESHIVA COLLEGE’S FIRST CATALOGUE, 1928–29
YESHIVA UNIVERSITY REVIEW SUMMER 200413
 
From the YU Archives
The following is excerpted from an articlewritten in 1979 by Roy Campbell, then directorof publicity for YU’s public relations depart-ment, to help commemorate Yeshiva College’s50th anniversary.
t was a small college then, sufferingthrough America’s Great Depression at thetop of Manhattan in what one early studentremembers as “the middle of nowhere.” In June 1932, in the one building that housedall the college’s facilities, 19 young men receiveddegrees. Eight graduated either
 magna
or
 summacum laude,
and that achievement prompted onefaculty member to rise from his chair and ex-claim, “Never has better collegiate work beendone anywhere or at any time.”Those 19 young men were the first graduatesof Yeshiva College—the small institution thatlater grew into Yeshiva University…. Many hadpredicted that Yeshiva College was doomed—even before those first students enrolled. In theearly 1920s, Dr. Bernard Revel, president [of thefaculty] of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan TheologicalSeminary, first talked about such a college whenhe saw many of his best students graduating hishigh school and going on to traditional collegesand universities.…The early years of the College coincidedwith the Great Depression, and one former stu-dent recalled that “from year to year there wasno assurance that the College would reopen.”As the Depression ravaged the economy,money dried up. In addition, some Orthodoxleaders withdrew their support because of theCollege’s secular nature. Many who had pledgedmoney were unable to meet those pledges be-cause of their own financial problems. Profes-sors went unpaid, yet no one resigned. Dr.Revel, who, during the worst of times, rode thesubway to work and refused to take a salary,would look out his window and see his dreamsfor a large university being undermined as anapartment complex went up on land he hadonce planned to use for the campus….The 1940s brought new prosperity to Amer-ica and Yeshiva College…. When Americaentered World War II, many Yeshiva Collegestudents and recent graduates signed up andserved as officers, chaplains, and common sol-diers. When the war ended…veterans appliedfor admission to the College…. [It] started aprogram for those students with little Judaicbackground, and that program grew into the pio-neering James Striar School of General JewishStudies.In 1945, Yeshiva College became YeshivaUniversity…. Dr. Revel did not live to see thegrowth of the university. He died in December1940, a few days after collapsing in a classroomwhere he was teaching.
Voices from the Past
o Harry Steinberg and Judah Washer,the history of Yeshiva College repre-sents a personal journey of achieve-ment and continuity. Among the lastsurviving members of Yeshiva College’sfirst graduating class, their recent reminiscesform a time capsule into early 20th-century ad- vances in Jewish higher education.Harry Steinberg ’32Y, a public relations pro-fessional who helped devise and implement
Theodore Gross ’40Y, then a sophomorestudent in Yeshiva College, addresseshis class in public speaking.
IT
14SUMMER 2004 YESHIVA UNIVERSITY REVIEW

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