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An Afternoon on Broadway

December 17th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On Sunday, December 7th, the Honors Program attended a matinee of the Broadway show You Can’t Take it With You at the Longacre Theater. Set during the Great Depression and considered a classic of the modern American theater, this revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 comedy written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman starred James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielson, Rose Byrne, and Annaleigh Ashford, among other notable Broadway performers.

The house

The plot focuses on the eccentric Sycamore family, whose daughter Alice is about to bring home her suitor, Tony Kirby, who is the handsome, patrician son of her company’s president. Although Tony comes from a successful and rather straight-laced family, which Alice believes will prove an impediment to their relationship since their families are so different, Tony succeeds in convincing her that as long as they love each other nothing can stand in their way.

Mayhem ensues, however, when Tony accidentally brings his parents to the Sycamores for dinner on the wrong night, starting off a series of embarrassing mishaps that threatens the future of their relationship and Tony’s marriage proposal.

Although many of the scenes in the play were purposely awkward and cringe-worthy, there were plenty of genuinely funny laugh-out-loud moments to break up the tension.

You Can't Take it With You on Broadway

Most impressive, perhaps, was the revolving set designed by David Rockwell, which included the exterior of the Sycamore house as well as an elaborate interior showing their living room, entrance hall, and a staircase leading to the second floor bedrooms, as well as a door leading to the kitchen.

JJS Honors Newsletter November-December 2014 Issue 5.4

December 11th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Dear Honors Community,

Please enjoy our most recent newsletter, available by clicking this link (JJS Honors Newsletter November-December 2014, Issue 5.4), and read more about the Honors Program’s past and upcoming activities.


The Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program Staff

The Honors Program Goes to the Opera

December 10th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat


The Metropolitan Opera

In one of our exciting cultural events of the semester, the Honors Program took a trip to the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center on Monday evening, December 1st, to see the highly acclaimed production of “La Boheme,” Giacomo Puccini’s most popular opera. This tale of tragic young love set in the bohemian Paris of the 1840s was a beautiful introduction to opera for some of our students.

Throughout the course of four acts, the opera told the story of Rodolfo and his group of friends, and his ill-fated love for the sickly Mimi, a neighbor who wanders into his apartment one day when her candle blows out — a storyline that served loosely as the inspiration for the popular musical Rent. Mimi, whose tender, delicate nature contrasts with the more bold and flirtatious Musetta, steals Rodolfo’s heart from the moment they meet. But of course, love is never easy, and as the opera unfolds, Rodolfo’s relationship with Mimi and Marcello’s on-and-off relationship with Musetta are put to the test.

Franco Zeffirelli’s set design greatly enhanced the opera, transporting the viewer back two centuries via a realistic replica of Paris’s streets. While the first and fourth acts take place in the apartment that Rodolfo shares with three roommates, the second and third acts are awe-inspiring in their beauty. In the second act, Rodolfo goes out to dinner with his friends and Mimi, and we see the group walking along a Paris street that is lined with shops and teeming with Parisians young and old. In the third act, the audience is transported to the scene of a nineteenth century small tavern, its yellow lights glowing through a snowstorm that blankets the rest of the scene in a flurried white layer.

La Boheme

The Honors Program was fortunate to be able to see this breathtaking and unforgettable production of La Boheme, and was thrilled that Dr. Selma Botman, YU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, came with the group.

Honors Roundtable: Professor Sumanta Goswami

December 4th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

On November 19th, we had another installment of our Honors Roundtable events, this time with Professor Sumanta Goswami. His presentation, “From the Himalayan Heights to Washington Heights: A Personal Odyssey in Science, Philosophy, and Religion,” focused on his beginnings in India, and his education, travels, and professional career, both before and after joining the Yeshiva University/Einstein College of Medicine faculty in September 2006.

Professor Goswami shared with us his personal philosophy about science and religion, both of which aim to attain the absolute. He also discussed the professional projects that he is working on, with a focus on cancer research, and the ways in which his students have been able to participate, gaining useful experience in the field and making significant contributions to the work. He described the basic idea behind his recent research in personalized cancer therapies and explained why he sees the future of the field going in that direction.

Thank you to all those who attended and especially Professor Goswami for coming to speak to us.

Professor Sumanta Goswami speaking

Painting Total War: The Art of World War I

November 27th, 2014 by hannahrozenblat

Dr. Sam Gellens speakingOur very own Assistant Director, Dr. Sam Gellens, led a talk focusing on some of the Great War’s most iconic images as part of our series of conversations on World War I. He discussed how these works of art were used for a variety of purposes: in the service of propaganda, as expressions of grief, and as a bitter commentary on civilization in the wake of the war.

Dr. Gellens opened with the 1914 poem by Rupert Brooke titled “The Soldier,” which was written at the beginning of the war and celebrated death in combat as an expression of English patriotism and nationalism.


He then delved into the images of the time in depth, for example, how the U.S. government commissioned various artists to create wartime propaganda posters. Perhaps the best known of these remains James Montgomery Flagg’s famous “I Want YOU for the U.S. Army” recruitment poster, featuring Uncle Sam (Flagg used his own face as the model).

Aside from propaganda, art was used to express grief over the losses sustained during the war. The most prominent example of this was Kathe Kollwitz’s sculptures, “Grieving Parents.” After losing her youngest son, Peter, earkly in the war, Kollwitz searched for an appropriate way to express her grief, resulting in these sculptures of a grieving mother and father, which were installed in a German military cemetery in Belgium.

In contrast to this highly personal use of art, artists such as Otto Dix and George Grosz depicted the general horrors of war and its effects on humanity. Dr. Gellens pointed out that their angry, bitter representations of war have a phantasmagorical, otherworldly quality, implying that civilization has died as the result of the ferocity of the new and highly destructive weapons employed such as poison gas. The horror of this is depicted in a particularly striking manner in Dix’s “Stormtroopers Advancing Under Gas,” which graphically portrays soldiers wearing gas masks that seem to strip away their humanity and make them look like aliens.

The presentation provided a unique and highly interesting perspective on World War I and its horrors from the angle of both art and literature.

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