The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) at Yeshiva University celebrated their largest class of rabbinic students at this year’s March 23rd Chag HaSemikhah Convocation. The record 230 new musmachim from the classes of 2011-2014 included 10 rabbis originally from Los Angeles.
The Chag HaSemikhah ceremony, which welcomed over 3,000 attendees, took place at Yeshiva University in New York. Daniel Korda, one of the new musmachim from LA, made the trip to New York to be there for the event. “It was very nice,” he says. “The newly installed Dean of RIETS, Rabbi Penner, was particularly impressive. He is an authentic individual truly invested in the future of every graduate of RIETS.” Motti Klein took a red eye to New York, went to the ceremony, and then went straight back to the airport for an evening flight back to LA. But it was worth it. “The ceremony itself represented a singularly unique and amazing event in which the musmachim, their families, and the Roshei Yeshiva all shared in their appreciation and celebration of RIETS and the extent to which the musmachim have impacted the greater Jewish community,” he says. “In particular, hearing Rav Gedalia Dov Shwartz reminisce about his time in the original semicha kollel in the 1940s like it was yesterday was moving and heartwarming. In addition, four families were celebrating three sequential generations of YU Rabbanim, an accomplishment that cannot be underscored considering the history of Jews in America.”
In addition to the record new graduates, this class also included the largest number of rabbinic alumni to receive yadin yadin, a higher level of ordination. Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies at YU, was one of the alumni to receive yadin yadin. While Rabbi Kalisky plans on staying in the New York area, he still feels connected to LA. “I continue to connect to the Los Angeles community through my family and through undergraduate students that attend Yeshiva University – I feel a special connection with fellow Angelenos!”
For those who were unable to attend in person, there was also an online webcast. One of the 5,000 people who viewed the ceremony from this webcast was David Berger. “They were kind enough to display the pictures of the graduates not in attendance on the screen in the auditorium and in the video feed, so I felt that I was there in spirit,” he says. “The moment that most touched me was when they honored the graduates of the class from 50 years ago, asked them to stand, and made a note of their attendance at the event. Even as part of a graduating class of over 200 other young rabbis, I think it helped provide a greater sense of community, a feeling that we’re the latest link in the long and distinguished tradition of Yeshiva University rabbis.”
This class joins more than 3,000 rabbinic alumni who have gone on to build careers both in religious fields and in a variety of other fields. Rabbi Korda will be graduating from the UCLA School of Law in 2016 and plans to work as a Real Estate Lawyer. Rabbi Klein is currently teaching and tutoring both privately and at LINK Kollel while pursuing his doctorate in clinical psychology at Azusa Pacific University. Rabbi Berger, who lives in Israel, completed a doctorate in clinical psychology at St. John’s University alongside his rabbinic studies at YU and is now focusing on his private psychotherapy practice.
Founded in 1896, RIETS is the leading center for education and ordination of Orthodox rabbis in North America.