11 August 2010

Shepping Nahas for Rabbi Weiss: Musing on "Kiddush Open Orthodoxy" at the Hillel Institute

This week, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is holding its inaugural Hillel Institute, along with a Pre-Hillel Institute for new Hillel hirees that took place prior to the conference, which I am attending. One thing that has struck me is that a few people to whom I've introduced myself have remarked, once I identify which rabbinical school I attended, "I've not met a YCT guy I didn't like" or something along those lines. Although at first I caught myself wanting to facetiously say "You haven't met many have you?", I realized YCT does graduate good guys (which I like to call a 'kiddush Open Orthodoxy'). But it's not simply that, but also specifically within a Hillel context: that YCT graduates are excellent for enriching the lives of Jewish college students.
Moreover, there has recently been an explosion of YCT rabbis going into the campus rabbinate: there have been more graduates in the last two classes in the field than there were in the previous four. If you want numbers, out of the total 62 guys who have gone through the program and graduated, of the 20 graduates in the last two years, 7.5 of them have gone into the campus rabbinate (one of them is splitting his time between working in a shul and on campus), while six of the first 42 graduates went into it (and four remain in it at present).
And those numbers have been showing a little bit this week: the YCT guys are bringing a robust Judaism to the table. Interestingly, the primary theme for guided discussions this week has been balancing breadth and depth and, although Hillel has been working on the breadth aspect for years,
the latter of which is something to where YCT graduates are poised to bring Jewish knowledge, wisdom, and tradition. What's fascinating to me is that, while a YCT student, I thought many times while in the course of discussions being held at school, speakers talking to us, or certain topics being tackled, we were at the forefront of rabbinic education and poised to lead the Jewish world to greater heights - but, at the time, it also seemed like mere pie-in-the-sky musings. However, seeing the YCT graduates here is definitely starting to make it seem a little bit more realistic.

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