Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
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Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), or Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, is the rabbinical seminary of Yeshiva University, located in Washington Heights, New York. It is named after Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor, who died the year it was founded, 1896. The acting dean since July 1, 2013 is Rabbi Menachem Penner.
A structured four-year program, the RIETS curriculum is primarily focused on instruction in advanced Talmudic and halachic methodology. Additionally, there are a variety of required courses intended to train students for careers as practicing rabbis. These additional courses, in fields such as homiletics and pastoral counseling, are ordered into three tracks, geared to those who will pursue careers as congregational rabbis, chaplains, and teachers. In reality, many RIETS students enter the program without ever intending to graduate, and of those who do receive semicha ("ordination") few actually serve as congregational rabbis.
Supplementing their yeshiva studies, many RIETS students are concurrently enrolled in a variety of other graduate degree granting programs, including those in law, education, academic Jewish studies, psychology, and the sciences.
In January 2013, RIETS opened a subsidized lunch program for students. This program greatly enhances the camaraderie of the student body as well as provides a forum for discussions of current issues relevant to RIETS, the Jewish world, and the world at large. In March 2014, Rabbi Yitzchok Cohen began giving musar talks to the students at the beginning of each meal.
Prior to the founding of Yeshiva College in 1928, RIETS, or Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan (the institutional name in its Hebrew version, and as it appears on the seals of all affiliates of Yeshiva University) referred to both the Talmudical Academy (MTA) and the post-High School yeshiva and semicha program. Historically, the head of Yeshiva University served in a dual capacity as both president of Yeshiva University as an academic institution and also as the rosh yeshiva ("dean") of RIETS. RIETS and Yeshiva University were a single entity for most of the first half of the twentieth century. However, their second president, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, legally separated the two institutions in order to obtain United States government funding and research grants for a variety of YU's secular departments. In Rabbi Belkin's view, the modern understanding of the separation of church and state in the United States would have otherwise forced YU to either forgo federal grants (a major source of funding for all universities) and stagnate, or alternatively to unacceptably alter the religious character of RIETS. The split was strongly opposed by RIETS's leading scholar Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, who saw it as the antithesis of Yeshiva University's guiding philosophy. Rabbi Belkin prevailed and, following the split, he remained both the official rosh yeshiva of RIETS and president of Yeshiva University. Nevertheless, the undergraduate Talmud department of Yeshiva College is also referred to as Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, is administered by the same dean, is taught by the RIETS Roshei Yeshiva, and most of its shiurim are populated by both undergraduate and graduate students without any distinctions. MTA, now also called Yeshiva University High School for Boys, while under a different administration and taught by a separate faculty, is referred to as the Mesivta of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan.
Earlier, it was Rabbi Bernard Revel who was the official rosh yeshiva and College president even though many other great Talmudic scholars taught at RIETS, notably Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, who served as co-head of RIETS. With the recent appointment of Richard Joel, a layman, as president of Yeshiva University, his predecessor Rabbi Norman Lamm has continued on as the official rosh yeshiva of RIETS, with Richard Joel being the "Chief Executive", basically responsible for fund-raising and administrative issues.
Rabbi Menachem Penner is the Acting Dean of RIETS, a position he began July 1, 2013, after Rabbi Yona Reiss's resignation. Before taking over as dean in 2013, Penner had been the assistant dean of RIETS.
At the time of Rabbi Yona Reiss' appointment, RIETS absorbed the academic administration of the Undergraduate Torah Studies programs affiliated with Yeshiva College and Sy Syms School of Business on the Wilf Campus (Mazer Yeshiva Program, Stone Beit Midrash Program, Isaac Breuer College, and the James Striar School).
Many great rabbis have taught at RIETS. Scions of the Brisker dynasty, Rabbis Moshe Soloveichik and Joseph B. Soloveitchik spent the majority of their active lives at RIETS, and Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein lectured there for significant portions of their respective careers. In earlier generations, Rabbi Shimon Shkop taught at RIETS for a short period around 1930, as did the Meischeter Illui Rabbi Shlomo Polachek, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Zaks (son in law of the Chofetz Chayim), the great baal mussar Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lessin, Rabbi Nisson Alpert, and Rav Dovid Lifshitz, to name just a few. Current roshei yeshiva include Rabbis Hershel Schachter, Mordechai Willig, Michael Rosensweig, Mayer Twersky, Jeremy Wieder, Yaakov Neuburger, Baruch Simon, and Yitzchok Cohen. The yeshiva also has two direct links to halakhic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein: his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe David Tendler, and his jurisprudentially ordained (see yadin yadin) disciple, Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich.
- Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary
- Yeshiva University High School for Boys (The Mesivta of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan)
- YU Torah Online