It was a calm morning on Thursday, March 6th in the Stern College 7th floor Beit Midrash. Morning seder was about to begin, and the women of Stern were taking their seats in the Beit Midrash.
Then something unusual happened. Suddenly, completely unannounced and with no forewarning, a man walked into the Beit Midrash! The hum of learning ceased, and all eyes turned to the man in question. Dean Bacon, who was just about to begin giving shiur, approached the man and asked him to leave promptly, in as polite a manner as possible.
His curt reply: “I prefer not to.” He then proceeded to walk across the room, pick up a gemara from the shelf, take a seat, and begin to learn.
Dean Orlian next tried to reason with the trespasser. Her attempts, however, like those of Dean Bacon, were unsuccessful, and were met with the same response: “I prefer not to.”
The scene repeated itself time and time again. Professors Nechama Price, Yael Leibowitz, and Rebbetzin Rosensweig all tried to show the man reason. This is a women’s Beit Midrash, after all, and men simply do not belong here. Why not go uptown, where you can learn undisturbed in the men’s Beit Midrash? For a man to be learning in a women’s Beit Midrash is simply un-tsnius!
His response, again: “I prefer not to leave.”
Finally, security was called, and the man was forcibly removed from the Beit Midrash.
Though there have been isolated incidences of men walking into the Stern Beit Midrash, the impropriety of this occurrence is what makes the situation so unique. Wealthy donors, and occasionally the husband of a GPATS student, have been known to stand outside the Beit Midrash, and perhaps one or two have ventured so far as to stand in the doorway of the Beit Midrash and look inside. For a man to walk into the Beit Midrash and learn (gemara, no less!), however, is utterly unprecedented.
When questioned by reporters, the man, who asked to be called by his last name only, Yentylman, said the following:
“The fact that men are not allowed in the Stern Beit Midrash is outright discrimination! The Stern Beit Midrash is by far the largest Beit Midrash to be found in Yeshiva University, far greater than the uptown Beit Midrash both in size and volume of sefarim.”
“In fact Stern’s Beit Midrash has many amenities which are lacking in the uptown Batei Midrash and are unfairly withheld from undergraduates on the Wilf campus,” he continued. “What is a guy supposed to do if he wants to learn in a place decorated with umbrellas on the walls? After all, the Torah is commonly compared to water, so shouldn’t men have the same access to umbrellas that women have while learning? The Stern Beit Midrash also hosts weekly shiurim given by Yeshiva University’s esteemed roshei yeshivah. If men continue to be barred from Stern’s Beit Midrash, where else will they have access to these important talmidei hakhamim?”
He continued on for some minutes about the injustice of the situation, and was heard mumbling something about the unfairness of recent attempts to segregate the Brookdale Lounge, where men often wait for the intercampus shuttle.
He then added: “And if it really is so immodest for men and women to be together in the same Beit Midrash, why is it that women have no problem learning in the men’s Beit Midrash uptown? We even have women giving shiur uptown to male students! The policy banning men from the Stern Beit Midrash is inconsistent with the overall policy of the university and is unjust.”
When Kol Hamevaser asked President Joel to respond to this last point of Yentylman, he replied that Yeshiva University is and always has been an equal opportunity institution.
Kol Hamevaser is following this story, and will continue to update its readers as new developments unfold.