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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.

We Took a Boat Ride to Peterhoff – Yitzchak Fried

July 3rd, 2014 by joshuafluss
The Fountains at Peterhof

The Fountains at Peterhof

We took a boat ride to Peterhoff – the palatial complex built by Peter the Great after his victory over the Swedes. The grounds and palaces are built right on the Gulf of Finland; this was where Peter liked to relax and entertain.

The palaces of Peterhoff have many whimsical features, which give them a vaguely comic character, like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Here’s an example.

There is a fabulous complex of fountains on the hillside that precedes the palace (check out the picture!). The fountains are plated in real gold, and show mythological and biblical figures; the center fountain shows Samson ripping apart a lion. Ornamental stairs ascend the hillside toward the palace; water streams over them into the central pool. These stairs are decorated with ornate pictures of green velvet overlaid with metalwork. Small fountains are spaced evenly along the width of the hillside.

Above the main fountain complex the hillside has been chiseled into a platform;

The Trick Fruit Bowl

The Trick Fruit Bowl

this is tiled into a black and white checkerboard. The platform opens into a cave which is marked on the tourist map as “the grottoes”. Inside, golden statues stand along the walls of the cave, and in the center of the room, like a great secret treasure, is a bowl of fruit on a polished stone table. Every now and then a stream of water flows over the entrance to the cave, blocking access to it. This increases the impression that it is a “secret” cave, a hidden chamber. The golden statues and polished table at the center of the room seem purposeful and mysterious.

But the whole room, with its impressive air, is a prank! The bowl and table are a trap; the table edge erupts into a fountain if anyone removes a fruit from the bowl.

Welcome to Russia – Josh Fluss

July 3rd, 2014 by joshuafluss

Our First Meal at the Restaurant

As one of the coordinators of the trip to Saint Petersburg, I was a little afraid of what it would be like there. The sorts of things you worry about when you travel miles and miles from home: your food, your bed, the cultural differences and especially the language barrier. How would I be able to get around and deal with the people? How would I do something as simple as ordering food? The answer to my questions was provided as soon as I landed. Within minutes of clearing customs, I had ordered a cab in a mix of English and gesticulation, received help in finding it from some helpful strangers, found my way to our nice hotel, and walked down to the restaurant, shown below. The staff there has been wonderful and the food delicious every day (which always helps after a long day of walking around). We’ve been practicing our Russian reading skills and learning with the help of people all over the city. And while there are not many people here who do speak English, we were able to navigate around the city Jewish community with our translators and our Hebrew.

Walking Around Town at 10 PM

Walking Around Town at 10 PM

It’s been strange going from the “City that Never Sleeps” to the “City Where the Sun Never Sets”, but we’ve been welcome as visitors and as Jews where ever we went.

Moving on to Bigger and Better Things

June 10th, 2014 by joshuafluss

It is with joy tempered with sadness that we wish Millie a hearty congratulations on her new job working for Weill Cornell Medical College on the East Side. We wished her off with a surprise party last Tuesday, June 3rd (pictured below). Millie, thank you for everything you have done for the Honors Program in the last several years, and for your 10 years of service to Yeshiva University at large. We hope you’ll come visit from time to time, since we know that Honors won’t be the same without you.   photo (1)

Honors Students Take Home the Prize

May 21st, 2014 by joshuafluss

All of us at the Honors Program want to congratulate the students on another successful year completed! But our students aren’t ending the year quietly. Jonathan Green has told us that he will be spending the summer in Washington D.C. taking part in the Hertog Program, an advanced study of Political Science and modern political issues. And Daniel Goldsmith will be continuing his Physics and Math education by pursuing computational neuroscience in the Biophysics lab of Prof. Bruce Knight at Rockefeller University. Congratulations Jonathan and Daniel, and to the many prestigious students we haven’t heard from. We look forward to hearing about the amazing work you have done over your summer break.

Moshe Shulman’s Thesis Presentation

May 19th, 2014 by joshuafluss

photo This past Sunday, May 18th, Moshe Shulman gave a piano performance in the Schottenstein building in partial fulfillment of the requirements of his Honors Thesis. In the presence of his advisor, Prof. Noyes Bartholomew, his parents, and fellow students, Moshe performed three pieces of classical music: Johann Sebastian Bach – English Suite No. 2 in a minor, BWV 807; Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonata No. 17 in d minor, Op. 31, No. 2, “Tempest”; and Frederic Chopin – Ballade No. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47. He also prepared a program and explained about the pieces he was playing. The program can be found here, and the video of the whole performance can be found below. Congratulations, Moshe, on putting on a wonderful show!