Dr. Eliezer Schnall Brings Torah Umadda Approach to His Classroom, Research

It was a classic set up: The woman in the video walking, unaware. The man racing by, snatching her purse off her shoulder, and the screen goes blank.

Dr. Eliezer Schnall teaches into the psychology class at Yeshiva College

Dr. Eliezer Schnall teaches Introduction to Psychology at Yeshiva College

Dr. Eliezer Schnall turned to his Introduction to Psychology class and asked them to “Write down the description of the thief. What did you see?”

In a class that covered various forms of memory, in this case eyewitness memory, Schnall kept the students engaged, their hands raised to answer, all offering different versions of what they saw. He is pleased with the result noting the “dozens of eyewitnesses and ten different versions of the events.”

He then quotes the tanna [Mishnaic era rabbi] and head of the Sanhedrin [ancient Jewish legislative body] Shimon ben Shatach from Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] who exhorts the need to examine witnesses and be careful with your words lest the witnesses learn to lie with them. Schnall pointed out that studies show that when witnesses are interviewed with leading questions, their memories are distorted and they often adopt misinformation.

Schnall, clinical associate professor of psychology, lives and breathes the Torah Umadda philosophy of Yeshiva University—blending the disciplines of psychology and Torah, using one to illustrate and enhance the other.

“My psychology courses are interdisciplinary, weaving together rigorous psychological science with classic Jewish religious texts and perspectives,” said Schnall. “The field of psychology is initially something new to most of my students, yet many of them have been immersed in religious texts throughout their lives. Presenting the psychological together with the religious helps students to understand and remember what they are learning, as their coursework is then connected to something that is already so much a part of them.”

Dr. Eliezer SchnallSchnall speaks easily, shares personal anecdotes, discusses studies, screens brief videos, and regularly quotes Talmud, Chumash, Mishna and Midrash to present a tightly woven class that pulls all the threads together to present a Jewish and secular fused tapestry on the topic discussed.

“I like the Torah Umadda,” said Yosef Penner, one of Schnall’s students. “He takes the YU slogan and actually puts it into action.”

“The way he speaks makes the material relatable; it’s more compelling than just a lecture,” said Eli Berger, another student.

Schnall’s research, published in scientific journals and covered in popular media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Jerusalem Post, highlights the Torah and psychology connection. He ties positive psychology, social psychology, and state-dependent memory to Jewish subjects.

One of his studies examined marriage satisfaction among Orthodox Jews. Another study demonstrated the reduced risk of mortality and positive mental health in those who attend religious services.

A 2012 paper, coauthored with one of his YU students, analyzed the ancient Sanhedrin through the lens of modern social psychology. Schnall noted that in certain cases, junior members of the Sanhedrin would be called upon first to voice their opinions, with senior members of the court presenting their view last. This process helped avoid groupthink, a theory wherein group decision-making frequently ignores alternatives in the quest for unanimity, often with a negative outcome.

Schnall himself is a product of Yeshiva University—having graduated The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys, Yeshiva College, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He credits Dr. Stephen Bacon, adjunct professor of psychology, for serving as “an early role model when I began to think about viewing psychology through the prism of Torah” and noted that Bacon and his brother Dr. Joshua Bacon, associate professor of psychology, continue to have an influence on him.

“Dr. Schnall is a particular asset to our department, with a very special niche that our unique student body really responds to,” said Dr. Anna-Lisa Cohen, department chair and associate professor of psychology. “His students, both those he teaches and those who conduct research with him, gain much from his approach to psychology that incorporates religious sources and viewpoints.”

“Connecting Torah and Madda together allows for greater appreciation and understanding of each,” said Schnall. “My students express excitement and interest in this unique approach to their studies. Nowhere but here could we explore psychology in quite this way.”

Moshael J. Straus Elected Chairman of Yeshiva University Board of Trustees

Yeshiva University’s Board of Trustees has elected Moshael J. Straus ’70YUHS, ’74YC as its next chairman. Straus, an accomplished investment executive and YU alumnus, will begin his term on July 1. He succeeds Dr. Henry Kressel, who joined the board in 2005 and has served as its chairman since 2009.

Moshael Straus

Moshael Straus

“Moshael’s judgment and counsel on a variety of major issues over these past few years have proved invaluable to the board and to me personally,” said Kressel.” I look forward to working with him as he helps lead Yeshiva University forward with excellence.”

“The chairmanship of the trustees of Yeshiva University is one of the premiere lay fiduciary Jewish positions in the world,” said President Richard M. Joel. “Moshael has been, is, and will be a fabulous partner in that endeavor. He has earned the respect of all his lay colleagues and the professional leadership of the University through his commitment, his analytic skills, his profound Jewish investment, and his philanthropic leadership.”

Straus was elected to the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees in 1998 and currently serves as a vice chairman. He is the chairman of the Board of Overseers of YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and is a member of the Board of Trustees of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS). His wife Zahava ’80C is a member of the Board of Overseers at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

“I am extremely honored to succeed Dr. Henry Kressel, who has led the Board with extraordinary vision, responsibility and dedication,” said Straus.

The Strauses have a long history of philanthropic giving to higher education, communal and Jewish causes. They have supported various initiatives at Yeshiva University, including the Joseph Straus Scholarship Fund at Cardozo, and the endowments of the Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Jewish Education at Azrieli and the Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Talmud at RIETS.

In 2010, the Strauses established the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. Led by the Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, the Center’s mission is to develop Jewish thinkers by deepening their education in the best of Jewish tradition, by exposing them to the richness of human knowledge and insight from across the ages, and by confronting them with the great moral philosophical, and theological questions of our age. In addition to unique courses, seminars and fellowships, the Center hosts numerous lectures and events. Past guests have included Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Senator and then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, columnist George Will and NYU President John Sexton.

Straus earned his bachelor’s degree at Yeshiva College, a JD at Fordham University School of Law and went on to found, along with his brother Daniel, the Multicare Companies, Inc., a healthcare services company. He is currently the CEO of Ascend Capital Group International, LLC.

In Fall 2014, the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies partnered with Yeshiva College and the YU Museum in hosting “Modeling the Flood Story: Midrash and Movie,” an interdisciplinary symposium examining the biblical flood account and how the story has been read, interpreted, reconstructed – and modeled – through Midrash, medieval and modern texts, art, and film, with a particular focus on the 2014 Hollywood film Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky.

Presentations were made by Dr. Irving Finkel (British Museum), Dr. Devora Steinmetz (Drisha Institute), Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein (New York University), Dr. Eric Goldman (Yeshiva University). They were then joined by Rabbi Hayyim Angel (Yeshiva University) for a panel discussion of “Noah as Midrash and Art.”

We posted a review of this two-part event back in December, and now we present a video featuring highlights from the various presentations (runs 25 minutes; video, courtesy of the YU Museum):

Students Gather to Commemorate and Celebrate Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days

Yeshiva University’s annual Tekes Ma’avar, the roller coaster commemoration of Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s somber Memorial Day, transforming at night into a joyous celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, took on an added poignancy this year with Torah classes on Israel-related topics dedicated to the memory of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l, who passed away earlier this week.

Hundreds of students packed the Lamport Auditorium Wednesday night, April 22, with an atmosphere of mournful yet anticipatory tension at the start of the student-organized event. A screen displayed photos of soldiers fallen in this past summer’s war in Gaza. A siren sounded and the Israeli flag was lowered.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life, shared his experience as a parent of an Israeli soldier, and was followed by Ethan Gipsman and Daniel Gofine, two current students who served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and members of YU’s Soldiers in Exile Club. Gofine described the selflessness of an officer he knew who was killed in Gaza and the officer’s constant refrain of the reason to fight for Israel: we have no other land.

After the lighting of a memorial candle, the Y-Studs a cappela group performed a musical tribute, Rabbi Yosef Blau, senior mashgiach ruchani at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, recited a Kel Maale – memorial prayer for fallen soldiers, and Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, assistant dean of undergraduate Torah studies, said the prayer for members of the IDF. The flag was then raised as the program transitioned to Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“The Jewish world needs a strong Israel and Israel needs a strong Jewish world,” said Avi Mayer, the Jewish Agency’s spokesman to the international media, who delivered the keynote. Stressing the need to pray, advocate and communicate for Israel, he exhorted students to work towards fixing what is not perfect about Israel, to go there to “heal it from within but even here in YU, learn what you can do to make it better.”

In his remarks, Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, Joel and Maria Finkle Visiting Israeli Rosh Yeshiva, noted that “just as we saw the hand of God at the splitting of the sea we saw the hand of God in the drying of the swamps in Israel, the wars, the growth of Torah and hi-tech in Israel. We are part of a chain of generations and need to be united.”

After prayers and the blowing of a shofar, students proceeded to the Max Stern Athletic Center for music, dancing and food. Festivities continued on Thursday with special Yom Ha’atzmaut programming scheduled throughout the day.

“Events like this highlight YU’s uniqueness,” said YU sophomore Ari Tepler. “Thousands of students coming together to pay tribute to the soldiers and Israel is a real testament to YUs role in the Jewish community.”

JFEW Grants Support Liberal Arts Internships and Science Fellowships at Stern

Two grants from The Jewish Foundation for Education of Women are helping Stern College for Women students excel in their fields of study—from biology to art history to psychology and beyond. A new internship grant will support students pursuing unpaid internships in the liberal arts, while a renewal of the Science Fellowship Program grant will continue to prepare Stern students to assume leadership positions in the scientific community.

“These two programs, science fellowships and summer internships, were conceived with the goal of empowering women,” said Dr. Karen Bacon, the Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean at Stern College. “This is a goal that I know we share with The Jewish Foundation for Education of Women. I am thrilled that Stern College is able to partner with this exceptional group of community leaders committed to women’s advancement.”


Stern’s JFEW Science Fellowship Program trains high-achieving students to become leaders in the global scientific community.

For the first time, the Stern College for Women JFEW Internship Grant will support students seeking to gain experience in nonprofits, the humanities or social sciences this summer by working at unpaid internships. Successful applicants will receive three stipend payments totaling $3,500 and complete a paper reflecting on the ways their internships have helped shape their careers. Applications will be open until April 30. For more information, contact the YU Career Center.

“This new award allows students in the humanities and social sciences the opportunity to pursue internships they otherwise would not be able to afford to complete,” said Jocelyn Coalter, director of employer and alumni relations at the Career Center. “Internships in social services, nonprofits and other related areas, while important for career development and future opportunities, are often unpaid, which can be a challenge for many undergraduates. This grant will allow these students to gain valuable career experience without causing them financial strain.”

In addition, JFEW has renewed funding for the Science Fellowship Program at Stern. According to the National Science Foundation, while women are making strides in education in the hard sciences, they are still leaving the field later on in life—at the rate of 52 percent when they reach an age of 35-40. Now in its sixth year, the Science Fellowship Program addresses the need for leadership training and mentoring among young women planning to go into scientific fields, empowering them to overcome barriers they may face and achieve lifelong success in their careers.

The program includes scholarship and research support, one-on-one mentoring and internship opportunities, among other enrichment activities. Participants in the program have conducted research in oral cancer biology, reproductive cell biology, neurobiology, psychology, breast cancer research, anesthesiology and neurophysiology, among other areas. They have also interned at prestigious institutions, including Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University and YU’s own Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Of the first cohort, which graduated in 2012, all 10 graduates continued their studies in diverse fields that ranged from biomedical engineering and epidemiology to food chemistry and optometry.

“The JFEW Science Fellowship Program opens doors for students by providing them with opportunities early on in their academic careers to explore their fields of interest outside the classroom,” said Dr. Alyssa Schuck, the program’s director. “The Program encourages students to leave their comfort zones, guides them through new experiences, and in doing so, introduces students to a range of new, exciting and enriching opportunities.”

May 12 Gala will Honor Community Leaders and Dedicated Faculty

Yeshiva University High Schools (YUHS) will host their Annual Dinner on Tuesday, May 12, at the Marina Del Rey in the Bronx, New York. Faculty honorees include Ruth Fried, chairperson of the science department and director of the Science Institute at the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central), and Rabbi Alfred Cohen, longtime maggid shiur at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), who will be retiring at the end of this year. Rabbi Steven ’89YUHS and Rachel Burg are MTA’s guests of honor, and Avi ’85YUHS and Aleeza Lauer are Central’s.

The dinner will also honor the 25th anniversary of the graduating class of 1990 at both MTA and Central.

Russi Fried Head Shot

Russi Fried

“The ability to nurture the love of science in Jewish young women over the past 25 years has been a privilege,” said Fried, who is celebrating her 25th year at Central, where she teaches regents biology and advanced placement biology. “As we study science together my students have opened their eyes to the mastery of God’s world and to the realization that the study of science is an integral part of the study of Torah. This honor presents me with the opportunity to say thank you to the parents who have entrusted their daughters’ science education to me, to the faculty who have been my colleagues, mentors and friends, and who have educated my own three daughters and to the administration who has always supported all of our science programming.”

Fried also serves as the liaison to the Yeshiva University High Schools/Albert Einstein College of Medicine Joint Summer Research Program and is a member of the Educational Steering Committee for the March of Dimes Nelson Rosenthal Convocation. In the summer of 2008, Fried was selected to attend the third Sheila Schwartz Family International Leading Science Teacher Seminar at the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. She received certification to implement both the Davidson Institute and the British Neufield Foundation Science Literacy Program (LSS – Learning Skills for Science). Fried was a recipient of the $10,000 Toyota Tapestry Grant from the National Science Teachers Association. She lives in Woodmere with her husband, Sholom, and their children, and they are members of Congregation Aish Kodesh. Their three daughters are all proud to be Central graduates (the youngest in 2015).

al cohen

Rabbi Alfred Cohen

Rabbi Alfred Cohen, maggid shiur at MTA, received semicha from Rabbi Yisrael Gustman and from Rabbi Hutner of Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin and served for many years as the mora d’asra  [leader of the congregation] of the Young Israel of Canarsie. For the past 21 years, he has been the Rabbi of Congregation Ohaiv Yisroel of Blueberry Hill in Monsey, New York. He is the founder and was the first editor of the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and has published numerous articles in the journal, as well as in Tradition and Jewish Life. Rabbi Cohen has received many citations and awards for excellence in teaching, including the Rabbi and Mrs. Joseph Baumol Award for Excellence in Jewish Education at Yeshiva University and the Avi Chai Foundation Award for Outstanding Jewish Education.

Rabbi Steven and Rachel Burg

Rabbi Steven and Rachel Burg

Rabbi Steven and Rachel Burg, of Bergenfield, New Jersey, are the proud parents of two current students in MTA: Aryeh, a senior, and Elie, a freshman. Their children represent the third generation of the Burg family to attend MTA. Rachel is a general studies teacher at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and is involved in many Bergen County communal activities. Rabbi Burg is the Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance and serves on many nonprofit boards, including the United Federation of Teachers.

Aleeza and Avi Lauer

Aleeza and Avi Lauer have been active lay leaders in their hometown of Woodmere, New York for many years, including leadership roles at the Young Israel of Woodmere and the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR). Avi currently serves as the vice president for legal affairs, secretary and general counsel of Yeshiva University and Aleeza is an educator at HAFTR. Both Aleeza and Avi are graduates of Yeshiva University schools and they are the proud parents of Jennifer and Josh Geffner ’07MTA, David (a sophomore at the Sy Syms School of Business), Ashley (a senior at Central) and Eli.

For dinner reservations, to place an ad in the journal or for more information, please contact Beth R. Gorin, director of institutional advancement for YU High Schools at 212-960-5489 or beth.gorin@yu.edu, or visit www.yu.edu/hsdinner

Stern College’s Carmelle Danneman Writes and Directs Award-Winning Film

Carmelle Danneman, a student at Stern College for Women, knew she wanted to be an actress from the age of six, but never pictured herself behind the camera. So when “Send in the Clowns,” the film the 20-year-old singlehandedly wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, won the Audience Choice Award at this year’s Fifty-Four Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, no one was more surprised than she was. “A couple of years ago if you told me that I would create my own film, I would have laughed,” said Danneman.

Carmelle Danneman, a student filmmaker who wrote, directed, produced and acted in her own award-winning movie.

Stern College’s Carmelle Danneman wrote, directed, produced and acted in her own award-winning movie “Send in the Clowns.”

In many ways, however, Danneman has been building up to that moment for most of her life. Taking every opportunity to pursue her passion for the stage within the framework of the religious lifestyle she valued, Danneman acted and performed throughout her elementary and high school years, eventually being cast in “Operation: Candlelight,” a film about a band of unconventional Jewish school girls that becomes a troupe of unlikely heroes. “I learned so much from just being on set and filming a real movie that it opened my eyes to the possibility of creating something of my own one day,” said Danneman.

When she came across a prompt for a Sundance contest highlighting films about economic inequality, Danneman decided to sit down and write something. As she wrote, she realized what she was creating wasn’t about the Sundance prompt—it was the direct result of deeply personal experiences relating to cancer. “My real inspiration for this short film was to make something in memory of my grandmother, who passed away from cancer,” she said. “It was so painful to watch her suffer and know there was nothing I could do to make her better. I had also volunteered as a medical clown during my year in Israel, and I wanted to somehow combine the two ideas to make a film that would bring hope and inspiration to anyone who watched it.”

Danneman’s finished script didn’t match the Sundance criteria, but that didn’t bother her; she was determined to produce it for its own merit. “So many people throughout my life told me I would never make it in this industry without compromising my Jewish beliefs, so I wanted to make this film as professional as possible almost to prove to them that it could be done,” she said. But Danneman had no idea where to begin. She researched each stage of the production process thoroughly, then got to work posting casting notices, searching for film locations, pulling together a crew, and obtaining the film equipment she needed.

“Each time I accomplished one task, something else came up that I needed to figure out,” Danneman said.

To finance the film, she waitressed at a restaurant in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, called Fuego Mundo and started an Indiegogo campaign that raised more than $5,000. In return, she promised that some of the proceeds would go toward the treatment of 6-year-old Katheryn Brenzina, who was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. The donations started pouring in, as did video auditions for parts, and before long, Danneman found herself addressing her very own cast and crew at the film’s first production meeting, held in her childhood home.

“Since I had been doing all the auditions and hiring via email, the production meeting was the first time I got to meet the cast and crewmembers,” said Danneman. “I think it was a bit of a shock for them when they saw that I was the director, because of how young I am.”

They quickly learned, however, that Danneman’s youth made her no less a professional. Her dedicated work ethic and rigorously planned and researched filming schedule meant they were done shooting in just two days. While a film editor worked over the raw footage, Danneman hit a recording studio with a composer to create the movie’s soundtrack. “After a few weeks, I had my first, very own film,” she said. “I have to believe God’s hand was helping me through the entire process.”

Danneman at the film's premiere

Danneman at the film’s premiere

The movie’s Audience Choice Award was deeply meaningful to Danneman, who hopes “Send in the Clowns” will bring comfort and hope to viewers, but especially those struggling with an illness. But in her mind, it’s also just the beginning: “I hope to pursue a film career, creating movies that make a difference in the world and impact audiences around the globe.”

A media studies and advertising major, Danneman had originally planned to attend the University of Maryland, but knew Stern College was right for her after a year of religious studies in Israel. “I realized the value of maintaining a religious environment and community, so I came to Stern,” she said. “Here, being a part of the University housing family as a resident advisor has helped me embrace who I am—knowing that everyone has a story and everyone comes from a unique background inspires me to become the Orthodox Jewish filmmaker I want to be.”

If there’s one thing Danneman has learned from her journey, it is the power of that inspiration. “I think attitude definitely impacts a situation,” she said. “If people just remember to stay positive, keep smiling and never give up, it will put them just a little closer to appreciating every moment of life and being able accomplishing what they set their minds to.”

Renowned Scholar and Former RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Dies at 81 

Yeshiva University mourns the passing of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ’53YC, ’59R. A renowned author and scholar, Rabbi Lichtenstein was the senior Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. At Yeshiva University, he served as the Rabbi Henoch and Sarah D. Berman Professor of Talmud and was the inaugural Rosh Kollel and director of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein

Rabbi Lichtenstein was born in France in 1933 and, along with his family, fled to the United States in 1940. He studied in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin under Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner before earning a bachelor’s degree at Yeshiva College and semicha [rabbinic ordination] at RIETS, followed by a PhD in English literature at Harvard University.

In l971, after serving as RIETS Rosh Yeshiva for several years, he immigrated to Israel, joining Rabbi Yehuda Amital as co-Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shevut. In 2014, he was awarded the Israel Prize in Jewish religious literature for his contributions to rabbinic scholarship.

“Rav Lichteinstein served as Rosh Kollel, Rosh Yeshiva and professor of Talmud at RIETS, but that doesn’t begin to capture his essence or his influence,” said YU President Richard M. Joel. “He was one in a generation and his unique Torah perspective and worldview has shaped us all, but his towering goodness stands first and foremost.”

Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva and a student of Rabbi Lichtenstein, called him “a giant in Torah scholarship, one of the first-tier Torah scholars of our generation.”

He added: “Rav Lichtenstein represented the best of the products of RIETS and identified with its mission all his life. He was a loyal student of Rav Soloveitchik, his father-in-law, and identified fully with his approach and furthered its applications by applying his knowledge and scope. Rav Lichtenstein expanded Brisker scholarship in a range of topics in halacha and hashkafa leaving a legacy for the broader Torah and yeshiva world.”

“Beyond Rav Aharon’s sophistication and intellectual prowess what stands out is his humility and modesty,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life. “He was always there to help the community rabbi and educator, assisting us in coming to conclusions on community policy with halachik integrity, masterful sensitivity, and great clarity of vision.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein is survived by his wife, Dr. Tovah, his children Yitzchak, Moshe, Meir, Shai, Esti and Tonya and by two sisters Hadassah Kleiman and Shoshana Lichtenstein and thousands of talmidim [students] across the Jewish world.

The funeral will take place Tuesday, April 21, at Yeshivat Har Etzion at 10 a.m., followed by burial on Har HaMenuchot at approximately 2 p.m. Shiva will take place at Maginei HaGush 48, Alon Shevut.

Yeshiva University and Congregation Shearith Israel Present Community Beit Midrash Program 

Yeshiva University will present “Jews for George: An Exploration of Judaism in the Age of the American Revolution,” a four-week Community Beit Midrash program beginning Wednesday, April 29, at Congregation Shearith Israel, The Spanish Portuguese Synagogue.

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of YU’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, will teach the course using original source documents from the archives of Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in America, established in 1654.

The course, sponsored by the Straus Center, Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Congregation Shearith Israel, will meet on consecutive Wednesdays, April 29, May 6, 13, and 20, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Rabbi Menachem Genack, Rosh Yeshiva at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, will join Rabbi Soloveichik for the May 20 session on President Abraham Lincoln.

“The Community Beit Midrash Program allows the broader Jewish community to benefit from the extraordinary depth and talent of the Yeshiva University faculty,” said Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “Rabbi Soloveichik is renowned for his scholarship and insight in making the values and traditions of our community come alive through engaging and creative lectures and shiurim. As the United States begins to initiate the momentum towards a presidential election, this exploration of the convergence of American and Jewish history will resonate with both relevance and meaning.”

Congregation Shearith Israel is located at 2 West 70th Street, New York City. For more information, to register for the course or for sponsorship opportunities, visit www.yu.edu/jhistory.

Yeshiva University Yom HaShoah Ceremony Links Holocaust and Present-Day Anti-Semitism

In a darkened Lamport Auditorium on Wednesday, April 15, Stern College for Women student Michal Kupchik linked the lives of Alfred Rein, a young man who perished in the Holocaust, and Yoav Hattab, a victim of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket terror attack in Paris this past January.

“I am never again. I am all of those who were, but never will be, never are,” Kupchik told the audience against a backdrop of portraits of the two young men at Yeshiva University’s annual Yom HaShoah commemoration ceremony. “We cannot let the scars of the Shoah fade. Today, the battleground is different. But hatred pervades. Je suis Alfred Rein. Je suis Yoav Hattab.” 

This year’s theme, “I Am Never Again,” was inspired by the recent global slogans “Je Suis Charlie” and “Je Suis Juif.” The program united the Holocaust that occurred 70 years ago with the current rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world.

Hadassa Holzapfel, president of YU’s Student Holocaust Education Movement said that despite the physical distance between Yeshiva University and European Jewry, the student body must feel their pain and not let them suffer in silence. “Our grandparents swore to heed the warning signs and never again go as sheep to slaughter. This year, episodes of anti-Semitic violence have shaken Jews the world over. On this night of remembrance, with pained voices of past and present merging in our minds, we stand together and say ‘I Am Never Again.’ It is up to each one of us to stand up for being a Jew and stand up for the right thing. What happens to a Jew in France matters to a Jew in America. We cannot be passive but rather must be active to prohibit history from repeating itself.”

In his remarks, Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought, borrowed the opening statement from Gideon Hausner, the chief prosecuting attorney at the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961. “When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in the dock and cry ‘I accuse.’ Therefore I will be their spokesman and in their name I will unfold the awesome indictment.”

Rabbi Schacter stressed the importance of memory and the danger of forgetting by empowering the student body and audience with practical suggestions as to how to remember the Holocaust and stand up to anti-Semitism today. “Fifty-four years and almost to the day of Eichmann’s trial, in our Yeshiva University, we speak for those who cannot speak, and in their memory and in their name we announce tonight, zachor, remember.”

The evening included a discussion with Holocaust survivor and educator Sally Frishberg who offered her personal account and memories as a young girl. Born in Poland in 1934, her father decided to take their family and flee when German resettlement began in the eastern part of the country. She described how together with her parents and two younger sisters, she traveled between fields living in haystacks. Her family was then taken in by a friend who hid them in an attic for two years, surviving solely on beans and potatoes. Of the 15 family members hidden in the attic, 12 survived. When asked to reflect on the current resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, Frishberg said, “Once you learn to hate you can’t unlearn.”

Following a video presentation about the insecurities that French Jews feel in their country, Torah Activities Council President Amanda Esraelian recounted her recent solidarity mission to France along with Vice President Rabbi Kenneth Brander and Student Organization of Yeshiva President Natan Szegedi. “I could not imagine attending to my shul in New York and feeling unsafe, but in France, we were protected by three soldiers,” said Esraelian. “The daily life of this community is shaken.”

The program concluded with a recitation of “El Maleh Rahamim” by YU President Richard M. Joel and a performance by the Y-Studs a capella group. Six candles were lit on stage to commemorate six different aspects of Holocaust remembrance: Mrs. Sally Frishberg lit the first candle in memory of the grandparents who perished in the Holocaust; Zevy Kalinsky lit the second in memory of the one-and-a-half million children who perished in the Holocaust; Rabbi Brander and Esraeilian lit a candle in memory of the recent victims of anti-Semitism; and Yeshiva University students who served in the Israeli Defense Forces lit the fourth in memory of those brave soldiers protecting the Jewish people. The last two candles were lit by Rabbi Schacter and participants in the Adopt-A-Survivor program to represent the everlasting lights of Torah that are passed through generations.