Editors’ Thoughts: A Remarkable Student Body
Four years of involvement with Kol Hamevaser, including two years with its editorial board, leave me feeling sentimental. I have tremendous appreciation for the staff writers, the larger community of event participants, and the readers, especially those among them who confront us with their severe grievances to help collectively make Kol Hamevaser the best Jewish Thought magazine it can be. I feel pride in what we have accomplished together and confidence that it only gets better from here. I encourage YU students and others to become involved in Kol Hamevaser under its incoming leadership, to take part in the valuable exercise of open discussion and serious engagement with Torah ideas.
Readers of this introduction have likely encountered Kol Hamevaser articles in the past. They may have read Elana Raskas’ scrutiny of Modern Orthodoxy’s role as an “other” in American Jewry,[i] or Davida Kollmar’s open letter about the experience of tefillah on the women’s side of the mehitsah,[ii] or Roni Zemelman’s illumination of Hanukkah’s importance for Secular Zionism,[iii] or the exchange of Ariel Caplan and Ilana Gadish concerning women in Orthodox clergy,[iv] or the sparring of Elliot Resnick and his many responders over the religious value of the YC Bible Department.[v] In fact, they very likely read all of the above articles, because these articles all went viral. Kol Hamevaser articles like these and many others have attracted widespread attention and engendered dynamic conversation, and they did so despite addressing ideas rather than scandals and rumors.
With pride, I can report that Kol Hamevaser has made a name for itself, but this name actually has a long and storied history. The original mevaser of the mesorah was the mevaser tov (good herald)[vi] of the prophetic vision of Isaiah 52:7, coming portentously over the hills to announce the arrival of peace and salvation. He makes his second appearance in a well-known eschatological piyyut of R. El’azar ha-Kalir in the Hoshana Rabbah liturgy, announced in the piyyut’s refrain with the declaration, “kol mevaser mevaser ve-omer” (“the voice of the herald heralds and proclaims!”).[vii] Subsequently, the Kol Mevaser title was borrowed for a late-nineteenth-century Yiddish news periodical and literary magazine, affiliated with the early Hebrew weekly ha-Melits.[viii] Nearly a century later, R. Meshullam Rath, an influential Galician rabbi and religious Zionist oleh residing in Jerusalem, published a work of halakhic responsa by the same title.[ix] Another decade later, Hamevaser was born in Washington Heights as the official student publication of RIETS and YU’s other “religious divisions,” the old term for the men’s morning Torah Studies programs.[x] Hamevaser, which later included women from Stern and became YU’s first co-ed publication in 1979, rivaled The Commentator for four decades, at times as a religious oriented newspaper and at times as a Jewish Thought magazine, until its ultimate demise in 2002. In the fall of 2007, the staff of The Commentator re-launched the Hamevaser project but was prevented from reinstituting the same title by a copyright dispute. Instead, Kol Hamevaser (“voice of the herald,” or perhaps better rendered here as “echo of Hamevaser”) was born as a fully gender-integrated, independent student Jewish Thought magazine.[xi]
Other institutions continue to bear a similar name, including a Yiddish broadcasting hotline (try 212-444-1100), a French online Jewish music service (www.kolmevasser.com), and a boys’ yeshivah high-school in Mevasseret Tsion, Israel (www.kol-mevaser.com), but this publication is, to this writer’s knowledge, the only English-language bearer of the name as well as the most recognized of the lot in Google searches.
Our own Kol Hamevaser has thrived over the last six years, earning its place in the aforementioned onomastical (study of proper names) tradition, thanks primarily to its committed, passionate readership among the remarkable students of Yeshiva University. I have no doubt that this institution’s single greatest asset is its student body, full of talented and socially-concerned young adults poised to impact the Jewish world and larger society in profound ways. These students can be the heralds of YU’s future, the ones who continue the conversation and never stop confronting the challenges of our community. And I fervently believe that it is incumbent upon YU students to take greater initiative in doing so in order for the community to continue to thrive and remain relevant.
It is all too clear to me where this initiative should be directed. We need to decry racism in the rabbinate, no matter whom it comes from. We need to protest loudly that no more Orthodox couples marry without signing a halakhic prenup. We need to stress the importance of aliyah and active concern for Israel’s future in our shuls and schools. We need to make our voices heard in the struggle for religious tolerance at Jewish holy places in Israel. We need to acknowledge more publicly that the majority of us are fully aware of homosexuality and perturbed by the continued state of alienation experienced by gay Jews in Orthodox communities.
We need to speak more loudly and with greater unity to decry the university’s apparent complacency in investigating decades-old charges of sexual abuse in its boys’ high school. This problem will not go away on its own; YU must show that abuse will not be tolerated on these campuses, that the administration cares more for the victims than for the legacies of its own faculty members, and the students are in the greatest position of all to make this happen. We have a great deal at stake in this scandal as well; the value of a YU education may even depend upon it, as The Jewish Daily Forward consistently labors to ensure that Yeshiva University is never mentioned in the public media without an accompanying reminder of the sex abuse history (and of The Forward’s role in bringing that history to light).[xii]
YU students have demonstrated how productive a forum like Kol Hamevaser can be. I am confident that they will continue to do so in issues to come. This issue, the last for me and for fellow editors Gabrielle Hiller and Chumie Yagod, concludes the academic year by engaging questions of morality and responsibility in the life of the Jew. I would also like to use this opportunity to welcome the new editors for the coming academic year: Adam Friedmann, currently the associate editor on the Wilf Campus, will become editor-in-chief along with Atara Siegel, and Kimberly Hay and Dovi Nadel will take over as associate editors.
Kol Hamevaser extends best wishes for the summer. Thank you for reading.
Chesky Kopel is a senior at YC majoring in History, and is an editor-in-chief for Kol Hamevaser.
[i] Elana Raskas, “Modern Orthodoxy: The ‘Other’ within American Jewry,” Kol Hamevaser 5,5 (2012): 10-11, available at: www.kolhamevaser.com.
[ii] Davida Kollmar, “Our Side of the Mehitsah: An Open Letter,” Kol Hamevaser 6,3 (2013): 3-4, available at: www.kolhamevaser.com.
[iii] Roni Zemelman, “Agnon’s ‘Whirlwind of Voices’: Secular Zionism, Hanukkah, and Contemporary Jewish Identity,” Kol Hamevaser 6,3 (2012): 16-17, available at: www.kolhamevaser.com.
[iv] Ariel Caplan, “Rav Lakhen Benot Yisrael: Humility and Rabba-nut,” Kol Hamevaser 5,1 (2011): 10-12; Ilana Gadish, “A Response to Ariel Caplan,” Kol Hamevaser 5,3 (2012): 14-15; and Ariel Caplan, “Motivations, Populations, and the Essence of Humility: Ariel Caplan Responds,” Ibid. 16-18, all available at: www.kolhamevaser.com.
[v] Elliot Resnick, “Shut Down the Bible Department,” Kol Hamevaser 6,5 (2013): 4; Simcha Gross, “How Long Will You Limp Between Opinions?: On the Difference Between the Academy and the Yeshivah,” Kol Hamevaser 6,6 (2013): 3-4; Nathan Hyman, “In Defense of the ‘Shocking’ and ‘Anti-Traditional’: A Response to Elliot Resnick, Ibid. 4-5; and Judah Diament, “Yeshiva College, Please Tolerate Benei Torah,” Ibid. 5, all available at: www.kolhamevaser.com.
[vi] All translations in this article are my own.
[vii] Hoshanot service for Hoshana Rabbah.
[viii] See Sol Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature (Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1985), 41-42.
[ix] R. Meshullam Rath, Shu”t Kol Mevaser (Jerusalem: Mossad ha-Rav Kuk, 1956, Hebrew).
[x] This phrase appeared on Hamevaser’s masthead for over a decade. All Hamevaser history above derives from the author’s own investigation with the resources of the Mendel Gottesman Library. The Hamevaser microfilm is glaringly incomplete and the definitive history of the publication has yet to be written.
[xi] All Kol Hamevaser history above derives from the author’s own investigation of correspondence with the individuals involved in the founding of the publication.
[xii] See, for instance, Jane Eisner, “What David Brooks Didn’t Say About the Orthodox,” The Jewish Daily Forward, Forward Thinking blog, 8 March, 2013; and Paul Berger, “Yeshiva Alumni Angry Over Award for Jimmy Carter – Not Hershel Schachter,” The Jewish Daily Forward, 14 April, 2013, both available at: www.forward.com.