Yeshiva University News » 2004 » November

Dean Purpura

Nov 30, 2004 — Four of Yeshiva University’s extraordinary communal leaders and philanthropists and Dominick P. Purpura, MD, the Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will be honored at the university’s 80th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, Dec. 12, at The Waldorf =Astoria.

The Convocation begins at 5:30 pm in The Starlight Roof, where YU President Richard M. Joel will confer honorary degrees upon the four communal leaders and philanthropists: Hyman Arbesfeld, Muriel Block, Ronald Gruen, and Dinah Pinczower–and he will present the Presidential Medallion for achievement to Dean Purpura.

Dominick P. Purpura, MD
A world-renowned neuroscientist and the longest-serving dean of any medical school in the country, Dr. Purpura has been dean at Einstein since 1984 and holds the additional title of vice president for medical affairs at YU. He is internationally known for studies in mental retardation that demonstrated the primary involvement of certain structural abnormalities of nerve cells in the brain.

Dr. Purpura’s scientific and administrative leadership have had a major impact on Einstein. During a dramatic period of realignment in healthcare, he positioned the medical school as the educational hub of a network that includes five teaching hospitals in New York.

Dr. Purpura first joined the medical school in 1967 as chairman of the anatomy department and was later named director of the college’s Rose F. Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. In 2001, Dr. Purpura received New York City’s highest scientific honor, the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Medical and Biological Sciences. He is a past president of both the Society for Neuroscience and the International Brain Research Organization and served for more than 25 years as chief editor of the journal Brain Research.

Rabbi Hyman Arbesfeld has been a member of the board of trustees of YU’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary for the past 20 years. He has helped make RIETS the vibrant center of Torah scholarship and rabbinic training that it is today. Rabbi Arbesfeld graduated from Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 1949, earned a BA degree from Yeshiva College in 1953, and was ordained by RIETS in 1956. His wife, Ann, was president of the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization for nine years and each of their four children is a YU graduate.

Muriel Block, owner of Gray Block Realty, is a longtime supporter of Einstein. She is a member of both the board of directors of the National Women’s Division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Executive Board of its New York chapter. A philanthropist who dreams of a healthier world, Ms. Block’s gift of real estate to Einstein, valued at more than $21 million and the second largest in Einstein’s history, is being used to expand research and education facilities at the medical school through the construction of The Harold and Muriel Block Research Pavilion.

Ronald Gruen, one of the Dallas community’s most prominent Jewish leaders, continues to have a tremendous impact on the various projects in which he is involved. Mr. Gruen and his wife, Ethel, are YU Benefactors and partners in an innovative program to expand and enhance learning among Jewish students nationwide. Mr. Gruen has served as chairman of the education board of Shearith Israel Congregation and president of Akiba Academy.

Dinah Pinczower has been dedicated to furthering the work of Yeshiva University Women’s Organization for more than two decades. Through her inspiring leadership and tireless devotion, YUWO has raised millions of dollars for scholarships, academic facilities, stipends for needy students, and other important projects. Ms. Pinczower, a licensed real estate broker, and her husband, Joe, a certified public accountant, have two sons, Kenneth and Lawrence. Both sons are alumni of YU’s High School for Boys and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.


From left: First-session panelists Prof. Nahum Rakover of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society in Jerusalem; Prof. J. David Bleich, Herbert and Florence Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics at CSL; Prof. Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History at SCW and conference organizer; and session chair CSL professor Suzanne Stone.

Nov 30, 2004 — Contrary to his reputation for rationalism, the Jewish philosopher Maimonides in his youth explored mysticism as a way to characterize the divine realm.

This intriguing finding was offered by Moshe Idel, Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at a conference titled “Between Rashi and Maimonides: Themes in Medieval Jewish Law, Thought, and Culture,” held at YU Nov. 21–23.

Professor Idel, a foremost authority on medieval Jewish mysticism, said that although Maimonides rejected mystical models later in life for ones more strictly philosophical, his explorations suggest that Jewish mysticism and Jewish philosophy are not as incompatible as once thought.

Professor Idel was among a gathering of distinguished scholars from the United States, Canada, and Israel who discussed themes of Jewish scholarship from a time bracketed by two of Judaism’s greatest commentators.

The conference focused on significant differences and similarities between medieval scholars from Ashkenaz (Northern France/Germany) and Sefarad (Spain/North Africa/Egypt), who were leading intellectual and spiritual lights during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a time that marks one of the most prolific periods in Jewish scholarship.

The conference was timed to commemorate the 900th anniversary of Rashi’s death and the 800th of Maimonides’.

The Bea and Leonard Diener Institute of Law at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies at YU’s Stern College for Women sponsored the three-day conference. Both schools hosted the five sessions, which opened Sunday afternoon with discussion on “Methodologies of Legal Interpretation” at Cardozo’s Brookdale Center.

“I’d like to note that this first session is taking place in Cardozo’s Moot Court and features Prof. J. David Bleich as the first speaker,” said Cardozo Professor Suzanne Stone, session chair, referring to the appropriateness of discussing legal interpretation in Cardozo’s training courtroom with the participation of the school’s Herbert and Florence Tenzer Professor of Jewish Law and Ethics.

Professor Bleich addressed the gathering on the halakhic (Jewish legal) controversy between Rashi and Maimonides about the question of identity as related to humans and animals, particularly as it pertains to kashrut (Jewish dietary laws).

Other participants in the conference included Prof. Nahum Rakover, of the Jewish Legal Heritage Society in Jerusalem; Prof. Ephraim Kanarfogel, E. Billi Ivry Professor of Jewish History at Stern College, and the conference’s organizer; Prof. Michelle Levine, assistant professor of Bible at Stern; Prof. Daniel Lasker of Ben-Gurion University in Israel; Prof. Menachem Kellner of Haifa University; and Prof. Robert Chazan of New York University.

Professor Kanarfogel is editing a volume of the conference proceedings.


Nov 23, 2004 — Lamport Auditorium was the site of an exciting and heated contest of musical talents when more than 600 students, parents and guests attended a rousing concert on November 16. Five popular Jewish bands squared off at the Third Annual Battle of the Bands featuring a special guest appearance by Simply Tsfat.

Battle of the Bands photo gallery

Omek Hadavar, a band composed of YU students, narrowly won the competition and also won Battle of the Bands last year in Israel. Jeremy Gaisin’s Midnite Remedy came in a close second. A panel of 20 Jewish musicians judged the contest.

Four busloads of students from Stern College for Women came to the Wilf Campus to join in the festivities. The undergraduate student councils sponsored the concert.


Joseph Wilf and family members joined President Richard M. Joel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Morry Weiss, and Chancellor Norman Lamm at a ribbon-cutting ceremony dedicating the Wilf Campus.

Nov 17, 2004 — Yeshiva University formally dedicated the Wilf Campus during an annual reception for its boards of trustees on November 16.

Joseph Wilf and family members, all YU Benefactors who have supported the university for many years, cut a ceremonial ribbon in front of the Wilf Campus monument.

“It is a privilege to have the Wilf name associated with YU and what it represents,” Mr. Wilf said during the reception. “The university is a model of excellence in fulfilling the leadership of the Jewish community.”

View photo gallery of Wilf Campus dedication

The event also marked Mr. Wilf’s 80th birthday, which board members celebrated by presenting him with a card signed by the YU community.

In 2002, the Wilf family of Hillside, NJ, made a munificent gift to YU, chiefly to underwrite major enhancements to its main campus in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. In gratitude for the family’s generosity, the campus was named the Wilf Campus of Yeshiva University.

Mr. Wilf, chief executive officer of Garden Homes Management, a Union, NJ-based real estate development, building, and management firm, and his family are among New Jersey’s most prominent leaders and supporters of Jewish education and other Jewish causes.

Over the next few years, the Wilf gift will provide for beautification and enhancement of the seven city blocks of the uptown campus. The gift also continues the family’s support of the Wilf Distinguished Undergraduate Scholarship Fund at YU that underwrites the education of undergraduate students at the highest level of academic achievement.

The family made its first Benefactor-level contribution 13 years ago, when it established a major scholarship fund for financially needy and deserving students attending the three undergraduate schools.


Standing l-r: Romema Fireman, Emily Gross, and Morry Weiss. Seated l-r: Chaya Melton, Leora Galian, Ketti Kanfer, Sarah Stern, Talia Weiss, Meira Fireman, Sarah Schabes, and Batsheva Cohen.

Nov 17, 2004 — Stern College for Women students from the Cleveland area had the opportunity to have dinner Tuesday with Morry J. Weiss, chairman of the Board of Trustees, to discuss their experiences at Stern.

The dinner took place in the Ivry Center at the Jerome and Geraldine Schottenstein Residence Hall on the Beren Campus. Mr. Weiss, a Cleveland resident who is chairman of American Greetings Corp., asked the 11 students about such topics as their out of town experience, recruitment, and facilities improvements.


President Richard M. Joel, holding coat of current YU student Aaron Kornhauser while Aaron explains why he chose to attend Yeshiva University.

Nov 15, 2004 — On a sunny day in Washington Heights, the sky seemed especially bright over Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. It was no doubt a positive portent for the school, as hundreds of prospective students and their parents attended Sunday’s Open House 2004 program, meeting with President Richard M. Joel, YU professors, and current students of YU’s Yeshiva College and Sy Syms School of Business.

In Nathan Lamport Auditorium, President Joel greeted the crowd and, just as he did for the undergraduate women at the Beren Campus Open House two weeks ago, extolled the virtues of education at Yeshiva University to future undergraduate men. He explained that YU was a quality institution that thrives on its quality students.

“The people who come to this school are those people who want to be leaders,” President Joel said.

As proof, he called upon about 20 current YC and Syms students, among them the president of the student body, the director of next spring’s YC Arts Festival, and a student with a radio show on WYUR.

“I’m not here to preach to you,” President Joel told the Lamport crowd. “I’m here to invite you today to ‘kick the tires.’ Meet our rosh yeshiva. Meet our faculty members. Meet the students.”


Jacob Bayer, a senior from Lawrence, NY, who attends Hebrew Academy – Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR), said he plans to make YU his college home.

“Jewish learning is important to me,” Jacob said. “The truth is, after high school, most kids stop Jewish learning. At YU, you’re going to keep learning throughout college. For me, this is important. Also, academically YU is a top-ranked school.”

Jacob said he’d like to focus on a major in the humanities, either history or English.

Jacob’s interests in Jewish learning combined with a desire for secular education were reaffirmed by current students during a program called “You Can’t Afford Not to Go to YU” for about 120 prospective students in Furman Dining Hall. The obviously enthusiastic future recruits asked questions about what kind of workload to expect at YU, whether Jewish studies interfered with secular studies; they asked about the food, about a dress code, about a curfew. All queries reflected a serious and practical interest in YU.

At the conclusion of the Furman program, Hillel Davis, PhD, vice president of university life, provided examples of the types of students and activities one could expect at YU. Dr. Davis told stories of YU students dedicated to their Jewish heritage, from students who served in the Israeli army to students who, in just 72 hours, organized a trip for more than 100 to the Netherlands to protest the International Court’s criticism of Israel’s security fence to a student dedicating his time, with help from other students, to help agunot, Jewish women trying to secure divorces from recalcitrant husbands.

“The experience of Torah Umadda and the overall education and Jewish studies you experience here is unsurpassed,” Dr. Davis told students. “Living a Jewish life of meaning is more significant (at YU), by leaps and bounds, than anywhere else in the world.”

Another high school senior kicking the tires at YU was Yosef Berman of Teaneck. A student at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), Yosef said he was impressed by YU. His brother, Yonah, is a graduate of Yeshiva College. For his part, Yosef said he plans to consider the offerings of other schools, but said YU had a lot going for it. He stressed YU’s emphasis on a dual curriculum and its diversity of extracurricular options.

“I really like the idea of the radio station (WYUR),” he said. “And I’m captain of my high school wrestling team, so I’m interested in YU’s wrestling program, too.”

Students and their families also took advantage of tours of dorm rooms, visits with yeshivot from Israel, learning about the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, and discussing areas of study with faculty and current students. From the looks on the fresh faces kicking YU’s tires Sunday, the future of YU appears bright indeed.

As President Joel said to students at the start of the day, “You won’t come (to YU) to earn a living, but to build a life.”


Nov 12, 2004 — “Challenges and Opportunities: Orthodox Families Confront a Changing World,” the final lecture in a seven-part series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, will be held on Sunday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 pm at Yeshiva University’s Geraldine Schottenstein Cultural Center, 239-241
East 34th Street, Manhattan.

The lecture will be given by Sylvia Barack-Fishman, PhD, a 1964 Stern College graduate and associate professor of contemporary Jewry and American Jewish sociology at Brandeis University. Dr. Fishman received a master’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from Washington University. She is the recipient of several awards, including the 1994 National Jewish Book Award in the contemporary Jewish life category, and YU’s Samuel Belkin Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement. She is the author of five books on American Jewish sociology.

Co-chairs of the lecture series are Stern College alumnae Debbie Niderberg and Cali Orenbuch. Sharon Herzfeld, MD, and Susan Ungar-Mero, MD, also Stern graduates, co-chair the college’s yearlong jubilee celebration.

For more information on this and other Stern-at-50 events, call 212-340-7862, or e-mail While admission to the lectures is free, advance reservations are required. Online registration is also available at


Nov 12, 2004 — His reputation precedes him and controversy often overshadows his stature as a fiction writer. However, during his visit to the Wilf Campus, acclaimed author Salman Rushdie was engaging, disarming, and surprisingly nonchalant about his public image.

Speaking to a full house in Lamport Auditorium that attracted many interested visitors to campus, Mr. Rushdie spoke of the importance of “freedom of the imagination.”

“The important battle to win in this world is against placing limitations on thoughts and ideas. This is an ongoing battle,” he said.

One of the conflicts we face in a free society, he continued, is that we have the option of shaping these stories. “It’s important not to have situations in which these stories are dictated.” Mr. Rushdie posited that the infamous fatwa imposed on him by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 was a desire to control the story—or free expression—in an Islamic state.

Mr. Rushdie plumbed the essence of fiction. “The telling of a story is at the bottom of who we are as human beings. We tell stories as a way of inquiring into ourselves. All families have stories and it’s a way to tell that we are members of a family. We live inside these stories.”

In the afternoon, 15 students participated in a class conducted by Mr. Rushdie and YU professors Elizabeth Stewart, PhD, assistant professor of English and director of the Yeshiva College Book Project, and Ruth Bevan, PhD, the David W. Petegorsky Professor of Political Science. Mr. Rushdie discussed his writing process, literary influences, and insights into Islamic fundamentalism.

Justin Daniel ’05Y, an English major who attended the class, said the small size of YU was a strong advantage for him. “I have friends at Ivy League colleges who don’t get an opportunity like this,” he said.

Mr. Rushdie said he started out as a novelist wanting to write about urban India, as he believed no other writers had portrayed the sensual, crowded reality of his native country. When he moved to the UK and later the US, the subject of migration became important. “Now I’m interested in the shrinking planet—the idea that everywhere is a part of everywhere else,” he said. “The story of the Middle East is the story of the US; the story of Al Qaeda is the story of New York City.”

Mr. Rushdie’s visit was sponsored by the Yeshiva College Book Project and the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs, which, inaugurated in March 2004, seeks to promote international understanding and cooperation by providing an educational forum for the exchange of ideas related to diverse critical issues in our increasingly interdependent world. The annual Book Project is aimed at fostering a spirit of tolerance as well as providing an opportunity for dialogue between students and faculty, and for developing a broader sense of intellectual community.


Nov 11, 2004 — Students in Yeshiva College’s Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program and Stern College for Women’s S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program attended a Nov. 9 lecture given by Prof. David Berger.

The lecture, “Christians and Jews: Interfaith Relations from the Holocaust to ‘The Passion,'” focused on relationships between both faiths since the Holocaust to the present day, including Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion.”

Prof. Berger is the Broeklundian Professor of History at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center if the City University of New York. He is also a visiting professor of Jewish history at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.


L-R: Azrieli professor John Krug, dean David Schnall, and student Avi Billet.

Nov 10, 2004 — Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration hosted a dinner reception Monday, Oct. 25 for students and faculty to get together in an informal setting.

Held at Weissberg Commons on the Wilf Campus, the dinner allowed more than 75 students and faculty to meet. Because most Azrieli students attend evening classes after a full day of teaching, the opportunity to socialize with peers is scarce. Many commented they were please to have the opportunity to speak with their professors about matters unrelated to specific classroom subjects.

The dinner also featured remarks by Dean David Schnall and Drs. Chaim Feuerman, Yitzchak Handel, Moshe Sokolow, David Pelcovitz, Scott Goldberg, and John Krug, who each described their academic and personal interests and the factors that caused them to enter Jewish education. Dr. Schnall’s concluding words of encouragement to all Jewish educators were received with a standing applause.