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Humanities in Dialogue: Professor Shalom Holtz

November 19th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat
On the evening of November 5th, the Honors Lounge saw another edition of the Humanities in Dialogue series, in this case co-hosted by our Program.
The occasion was the launching of the book  Neo-Babylonian Trial Records, compiled by Professor Shalom Holtz, chair of the Department of Jewish Studies in Yeshiva College.   Professor Elizabeth Stewart from the English Department interviewed him, setting up a fascinating dialogue, which  demonstrated the validity and vibrancy of the humanities, and in particular how professors of different disciplines can have a productive dialogue across their fields.
Professor Holtz narrated some of the most interesting among the cases discussed in his book, and gave us a window on how he studies them, the questions they bring to him in terms of authorship, narrative voices, historical record, legal issues and more.  Numerous students and faculty enjoyed the conversation and engaged in an intense question and answer generalized conversation.
You can hear the recording of the event here: Humanities in Dialogue recording

Honors Luncheon: The Electoral Results and What They Mean

November 18th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Following the national elections on November 4th, Professor Jamie Aroosi from the Department of Political Science led a fascinating discussion on November 5th, at our weekly luncheon, to make sense of the election results of the day before and what they meant for the country, its political landscape, and for us.

Professor Aroosi Speaking

During this timely and highly relevant discussion, Professor Aroosi acknowledged that people often try to predict political events and results, but his goal was rather to interpret the circumstances that led to those results, and he framed those comments by using a quote from Karl Marx’s The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

Additionally, Professor Aroosi acknowledged that elections can provide insight into the current mindset of American voters, and politicians then try to manipulate that mindset to cater to what people want so that they can reach their goal of winning more votes.

Professor Aroosi presented his thoughtful analysis of the political climate by going beyond simply the raw data in explaining the effects these elections might have on our country.

If you missed the talk and are interested in reading more, here is a condensed version of Professor Aroosi’s talk: Read More

The Honors Program Visits the New York Philharmonic

November 11th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Honors students spent a lovely evening unwinding from midterms at Lincoln Center’s New York Philharmonic on Thursday, October 30th. Our first cultural event of the semester was a success, as students enjoyed a program of Copland, Rouse, and Ravel, directed by Leonard Slatkin. Slatkin’s liveliness on stage, especially his ability to speak informally to the audience, was a pleasure to watch.

New York Philharmonic

Aaron Copland’s El Salón México was the first work performed, inspired by the composer’s first trip to Mexico and the spirit of the country. It was followed by Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto, a more recent piece, composed in 1993 by Rouse, who is the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence.  The featured soloist was Robert Langevin, the orchestra’s principal flutist.

Following intermission, the concert resumed with the composer, Leonard Slatkin, addressing the audience and speaking briefly about the pieces that the orchestra was about to play: the French composer Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and the wildly famous Boléro. Slatkin explained the issues involved in orchestrating Gaspard de la Nuit and the different paths that could have been taken. The version heard at the concert was orchestrated by Marius Constant, who found a way to maximize Ravel’s composition, which was inspired by three of Aloysius Bertrand’s dark poems.

Boléro, however, was by far the most well-received work at the concert. The piece, which had originally been created for the Russian dancer Ida Rubinstein, is one of the most famous crescendo works and has only one movement, consisting of a single theme that is repeated numerous times without any major difference other than the orchestra being increased gradually until it reaches a rousing crescendo that brings the audience to its feet in wild applause. For most, this piece was probably the highlight of the night, judging by the deafening applause and cheers as it came to a close.

Summers with the Honors Program: St. Petersburg and Beyond!

November 3rd, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Spending a summer with the Honors Program abroad is generally an unforgettable experience. England, Spain, the Czech Republic and Russia are just a few of the countries students have been able to travel to in recent years.

On Wednesday, October 29, students gathered in the Honors Lounge to learn more about the Honors Program’s summer Honors course programming and to hear from participants in the 2014 St. Petersburg trip about their experience.

Members of the St. Petersburg trip reunited and caught up with each other while everyone watched a slideshow of some of the photos from the trip. Photos from the Honors Program’s trips to previous destinations were also shown, getting the students excited for future educational opportunities which might include travel components.

Keep your eyes open for information regarding next summer’s Honors courses and travel location, which we hope to announce before the end of the semester, and approach us if you have interesting ideas and suggestions that you want to discuss with us.

10/22 Luncheon: Dr. Selma Botman Addresses YC Honors

November 2nd, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On Wednesday, October 22nd, the Honors Program welcomed Dr. Selma Botman, the new Provost of Yeshiva University, to our Honors Lounge. Dr. Botman launched our series of conversations on World War I with a presentation on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the war’s influence in shaping the recent history of the Middle East, in front of a packed Honors Lounge with more than 50 students and faculty.


Both Honors students and faculty took advantage of this opportunity to hear our new Provost speak on a scholarly subject on the Wilf campus for the first time.

The talk was followed by a spirited question and answer session, which allowed students to learn even more from Dr. Botman, which extended until well after the end of the luncheon period. Students asked about current events in the Middle East, particularly the Arab spring, and its connection to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire by the great powers that defeated it during the Great War.
For those who were unable to join us, here is a recording of the entire lecture:  Dr. Selma Botman

YC Honors listening to Dr. Selma Botman

YC Honors listening to Dr. Selma Botman

Full Crowd for Jonathan Haidt Lecture

September 23rd, 2014 by hannahrozenblat
Jonathan Haidt speaking

Jonathan Haidt speaking

Last week’s joint event between the Honors Program and the Department of Psychology was quite a success! More than 140 students came to hear Professor Jonathan Haidt, a widely known social psychologist and professor of Ethical Leadership at the NYU’s Stern School of Business, present a lecture on “The Moral Psychology of Political Polarization and Paralysis.” In his lecture, Haidt explored how morality varies across cultures, religions, and political groups and spoke about the negative effect hyper-partisanship is having on the United States and how that has evolved over the past century.

After the lecture, Honors students had the opportunity to meet Haidt at a small reception in the Honors Lounge and speak to him in a more intimate setting about his lecture and his books.

You can read more about the event here.

The audience at Jonathan Haidt's lecture

The audience at Jonathan Haidt’s lecture

First Luncheons of the Year!

September 17th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

The fall semester is off to a busy start here in the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program!  We have already had two well-attended luncheons this month to kick off the year.

Welcome Luncheon on September 3rd

Welcome Luncheon on September 3rd

At our Welcome Back luncheon on September 3rd, students had a chance to sit down with members of the Honors staff and Honors Student Council, which gave them the opportunity to meet other students in the Honors program, get a sense of the program’s plans for the year, and make suggestions as to events and speakers they would like to see included in our schedule for the year.  While Professor Cwilich gave students a preview of the Honors Program’s plans for the semester and upcoming events, students enjoyed pizza and contributed their own suggestions.

At our September 10th luncheon the following week, Honors students learned about various competitive scholarships and fellowships open to them.  Dr. Stuart Halpern, a member of our Academic Advisement Center, and Prof. Norman Adler, University Professor of Psychology, discussed academic opportunities for Honors students, which enabled students to learn more about how these competitive scholarships and fellowships might benefit both their education and professional goals.  Many of our past Honors Program alumni have received prestigious scholarships, and we always encourage our students to apply.

Prof. Norman Adler discussing academic opportunities for Honors students

Prof. Norman Adler discussing academic opportunities for Honors students

We will be taking a break for the holidays and our next luncheon will be on Wednesday, October 22, when classes resume after Sukkot.  Dr. Selma Botman, the new Provost of Yeshiva University, will launch our series of conversations on World War I with a presentation on the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the war’s influence in shaping the present Middle East.

Orientation 2014

September 2nd, 2014 by bkatz3

IMG_0744On Sunday August 24th, as part of the orientation week, many new students in the Honors Program attended an event which, in the best tradition of the Program, launched the academic year with a discussion of a topic of general intellectual  interest. This year, through the use of several clips from both a recent (2010), feature-length German film and news programs, the subject of violence against children and adolescents in society was presented.  These clips spoke to the issues of physical violence against children in war, immigration policies in the US and Europe, and repressive pedagogy including corporal punishment.  Profs. Bernstein, Cwilich, Geyh and White and Dr. Gellens served as facilitators for small groups of students which discussed some of these as well as other related issues, and then a generalized conversation ensued in which the different groups reported to the whole room, through a very lively exchange of ideas.

One film clip came from “The White Ribbon”, (which will be shown in its entirety later in the semester) by Michael Haneke, a prominent German filmmaker who was awarded the Palme D’Or at Cannes for this movie and two years later, in 2012, won the Oscar for the best foreign film, “L’Amour”. “The White Ribbon” focuses on the lives of children in a repressive Lutheran German village in the year 1913, ends with the outbreak of WWI in August, 1914 and tries to establish links between the effects of repressive education and the future rise of the Nazi regime two decades later. Regarding WWI and the current centenary commemorations going on in many countries around the world, we will be exploring the significance of the conflict throughout the semester by means of several historical presentations by experts, the projection of classic films on the subject,  and its representation in the visual arts.

The Life of the Arts and Literature in St. Petersburg – Nathaniel Ribner

August 21st, 2014 by joshuafluss
The Church on Spilled Blood rising into the sky

The Church on Spilled Blood

A gloomy Monday kept us inside for virtually the entire day. However, it was still extremely educational and enjoyable. Around noon, those interested explored the interior of the Church on Spilled Blood. The interior was almost completely made up of colorful mosaics of scenes from the New Testament. The exterior was also unique and colorful with the towers featuring multiple onion-shaped green, turquoise, and gold domes.

We walked from there to Square of the Arts outside the main building of the Russian Museum and ate lunch in front of Vladimir Pushkin’s most famous statue.

Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky

Romeo and Juliet at the Mariinsky

We then headed into another palace – Mikhailov’s Palace, which was commemorated by Nikolai II, the last Czar, to his father. Although the palace was similar to the Hermitage in the way it too is a giant, impressive building containing unimaginable works of beautiful artistic creations, it differentiates from the Hermitage because it specifically contains Russian art. The group made an effort to see as many works as possible and kept an eye out for works painted by Jewish-Russian artist, Marc Chagall. I enjoyed taking in the paintings of scenes from the Old Testament such as Abraham’s sacrifice, Abraham’s hosting, Hagar’s plea, and Moses’ Brazen Serpent.

We finished the day with a showing of Prokofiev’s ballet -Romeo and Juliet – a performance that I will remember for a long time. The professionalism and the work that was put into the performance was evident to even younger and inexperienced audience members.


On Wednesday, after a late wakeup and feeling slightly depressed about Team U.S.A’s defeat in the World Cup the previous night, the group found their way to the Fyodor Dostoevsky Apartment/Museum. Having read Notes from the Underground as well as Crime and Punishment, this experience was certainly a highlight. Our tour/excursion guide was clear and concise as she told over the major events of Russia’s most famous author’s life as he bounced around from Saint Petersburg and back and married twice.

Kresty Prison, the view across the Neva River from the Akhmatova staue

Kresty Prison, the view across the Neva River from the Akhmatova staue

Many of us continued on the Tikhvin cemetery which contains the graves of Saint Petersburg’s most famous musical, scientific, and artistic icons in history. These included Dostoevsky, Lomonosov, and Tchaikovsky.

We also went to see the statue of the poet Anna Akmatova which faces the Neva River as well as the prison directly across the river. We learned that the famed author of The Requiem lost her family to arrests at the beginning of Stalin’s reign in the Soviet Union.

Petrograd/Leningrad/Petersburg – Eli Balsam

July 3rd, 2014 by joshuafluss

Pictures from Our Visit to the Museum of Political History

During our trip to Russia, there has been one question that has been continuously arising in my mind. How do Russians feel about their country’s checkered past? On the one hand the empire of Russia was grand, powerful, and the most beautiful empire in the world, yet during other periods of time, notably during the communistic period, the country was a repressed and dismal place. I asked numerous people about this, ranging from youIMG_1507ng Russians in the street to our tour guides, and there is no unified answer. Some middle-aged Russians feel nostalgic about the “good old days” as people everywhere are wont to do. However, many young people don’t consider the past to strongly affect their present mindset. They were born towards the end of the Soviet period, and they certainly are aware of the past, but they live taking advantage of the new opportunities afforded them by the new Russian Federation. Students I’ve talked to love learning English and other languages, and traveling, and simply having fun. They live in Petersburg, a city full of imperial and communistic imagery, a city of contradictions that Dostoevsky called  “the most abstract and intentional city in the world”, and their lives are so directly parallel to ours, as students in America. They simply love living and exploring, mindful of the dark past, but minds set on the bright future.