Yeshiva U. head Richard Joel boosts ‘values-driven’ learning

Rabbi Richard Joel addresses “The Calling of Faith-based Universities,” at the National Press Club.  Photo courtesy Baylor University

Rabbi Richard Joel addresses “The Calling of Faith-based Universities,” at the National Press Club.
Photo courtesy Baylor University

Yeshiva University is not selling its medical school to Montefiore Health System, Richard Joel, the modern Orthodox university’s president, said during a visit to Washington.

The goal of the “transaction” is to form “a joint venture” between Montefiore and Yeshiva’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he said Feb. 5, two days after the institutions announced a tentative agreement.

“Montefiore and Einstein have been deep partners for years,” Joel said.  “Einstein is a serious research institution. It needs a strong relationship with a hospital to do serious research.”
What the two institutions are doing is formalizing their relationship, he said. The agreement includes the transfer of Einstein’s operations and finances from Yeshiva to Montefiore, JTA reported.

The arrangement will help Yeshiva, whose operating deficit was reportedly $100 million in two of the past three years, balance its books. “Two-thirds of it is due to the medical center,” Joel said.

The boards of both institutions have agreed to the framework, he said. “As soon as possible, agreements will be signed.”

Yeshiva’s financial problems can be traced back to 2008, when it was hit by both the economic recession and the crash of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme in which Yeshiva had invested. In December, Moody’s warned that the collapse of a deal with Montefiore could lead Yeshiva to run out of money before it addressed its deficits.

“All private universities that don’t have mega-billion dollar endowments – often it is not a sustainable model,” Joel said.

Joel was in Washington to participate in a forum on “The Calling of Faith-based Universities” with Ken Starr, president of Baylor University, and John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America.

Although Orthodox Jewish, Protestant and Roman Catholic universities respectively, they all exist to address “issues of purpose in higher education,“ Joel said.

By contrast, students today evaluate a university education by asking, “Where do I go that will give me the credentials I need at the lowest price?”

“What seems to be missing today is that the university is not just a place to learn how to make a living, but how to learn how to live a life.”

He said “values-driven” universities can provide an education that this generation needs.

“Young people today, more than the last generation, really want to matter. The world is so small today – and yet you’re powerless to affect it.”

So people have to understand the value of the university education, he said. “To me, the key is messaging.”

dholzel@washingtonjewishweek.com Twitter: @davidholzel

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