Yeshiva University News » 2006 » June

President Richard M. Joel and Member of Knesset Rabbi Michael Melchior

Jun 27, 2006 — Yeshiva University (YU) President Richard M. Joel has called the decision by the Israel Ministry of Education not to recognize academic degrees to YU graduates who have immigrated to Israel “inconceivable” and “unacceptable.”

In testimony yesterday before a joint session of the Knesset’s Education, Culture, and Sports Committee and the Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and the Diaspora, President Joel urged the committees to unequivocally recognize such degrees.

“It is inconceivable, moreover unacceptable, that the Ministry of Education suddenly refuses to recognize the academic validity of the Yeshiva University degree in order to determine appropriate salary and compensation to our graduates, new olim (those who immigrated), who have been hired to educate children in Israeli schools, or who would seek to fill other positions within the public sector,” said President Joel.

President Joel addressed the Knesset to ensure the continued recognition of all Yeshiva University degrees for the calculation of salary status by the Education Ministry. This calculation is important for the numerous YU alumni who work in the Israeli education system. Yeshiva University degrees are fully recognized by Israeli universities and for professional accreditation. Recently some YU alumni experienced difficulties with their salary status when seeking positions under the auspices of the Ministry of Education.

Yeshiva University has been inextricably linked to Israel since its inception. More than 3,000 YU alumni olim have come from Yeshiva University, more than any other university in the world. They hold influential positions in education, finance, government, Jewish learning and medicine and make significant contributions to Israeli society. Approximately 800 students spend their post-high school in Israel in YU’s S. Daniel Abraham Program in Israel which has had steady enrollment despite ongoing tensions.

In times of crisis, YU students have repeatedly proven their willingness to work and risk their lives in Israel. During the Gulf War in 1991, some 400 students, faculty, administration, and alumni, including then-President Norman Lamm, flew to Israel on a mission known as Operation Torah Shield and filled jobs vacated by soldiers. During the intifada in 2002, 200 students flew to Israel on Operation Torah Shield II for a weeklong solidarity mission.

Despite the support of several Members of Knesset (MK) from across the political and religious spectrum including MK’s Natan Sharansky, Zevulun Orlev and Education Committee Chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior, YU graduates still face rejection of their degrees only in Israel. More than a year ago, former education minister Limor Livnat demanded that YU degrees be recognized immediately. Academic institutions and governmental bodies around the world recognize degrees awarded by Yeshiva University and accept its graduates into their masters and Ph.D programs.

“Yeshiva University is a leader of American Jewry and an internationally respected university. There is nowhere in the United States where Israel is more of a priority,” said Minister Sharansky.

Committee Chairman Melchior declared, “We are going to solve this problem and facilitate a recognition process which works. We cannot allow bureaucracy to get in the way of YU alumni being successfully absorbed in Israel.”

Rabbi Melchior gave the professional staffs of the Finance, Justice and Education Ministries 30 days to devise the process by which all Yeshiva University degrees would be immediately recognized for the assessment of salary levels.

“The issue is clear – a duly accredited American university frankly demands the proper legal recognition the State of Israel must give to a properly accredited institution of the United States of America,” President Joel concluded in his remarks to the committee. “We have wonderful graduates trying to contribute to the state and are being blocked by bureaucratic nonsense.”

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Jun 20, 2006 — Students at Yeshiva College and Sy Syms School of Business on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights are the beneficiaries of a new Sefer Torah presented by the Lipman family of New York and Memphis, TN.

The inscribing of the Sefer Torah for YU was commissioned by businessman and philanthropist Ira A. Lipman of New York and given in observance of the yahrzeit (anniversary of the passing) of his late father, Mark Lipman.

Siyum (completion) and dedication ceremonies for the Sefer Torah were held in the Lipschutz-Gutwirth Study Hall of Leah and Joseph Rubin Residence Hall. Renowned Cantor Joseph Malovany, Distinguished Professor of Liturgical Music at YU’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music and Cantor of Fifth Avenue Synagogue, led the audience in passages of Psalms to mark the occasion.

Speakers included YU President Richard M. Joel; Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, Vice President for University Affairs; Rabbi Sol Roth, Rabbi Emeritus, Fifth Avenue Synagogue, New York, and Professor of Philosophy at YU; Rabbi Rafael Grossman, Senior Rabbi Emeritus, Baron Hirsch Congregation, Memphis; and Rabbi Samuel Fox, Rabbi Emeritus, Beth Jacob Congregation, Dayton, OH, formerly Rabbi of Congregation Agudath Achim, Little Rock, AR.

The consecration of a Sefer Torah is traditionally celebrated as if it were a bride. Mr. Lipman’s sons, Gustave, Joshua, and Benjamin, carried the Torah under a chuppah (canopy) held aloft by YU students to its new home in the Lipschutz-Gutwirth Study Hall. Students and faculty members joined the Lipman family in the procession from Morris and Celia Morgenstern Residence Hall and sang traditional songs as they marched.

The honor of assisting Rabbi Binyomin Spiro of Baltimore, the sofer (scribe) who prepared the Sefer Torah, in completing its lettering was given to YU students, faculty and administrators, followed by members and close friends of the Lipman family. After the final letters were completed by President Joel and Ira Lipman, Mr. Lipman and his sons carried the Torah in a seven-circuit procession as Cantor Malovany led those assembled in song.

In his remarks, President Joel acknowledged the Lipman family’s extraordinary commitment to the perpetuation and flourishing of Jewish religious life, especially on university and college campuses. The family has given Sifrei Torah, also completed on previous yahrzeits of Mark Lipman, to the Hillel chapters of the University of Pennsylvania, Northeastern University, Columbia University, Ohio State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland; as well as to Fifth Avenue Synagogue; the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles; the Center for Jewish History, New York; Baron Hirsch Congregation; and Congregation Agudath Achim.

Ira A. Lipman is founder and chairman of Guardsmark, LLC, one of the world’s largest security services companies, with more than 155 offices in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and France, serving clients in over 400 cities. His father, the late Mark Lipman, founded and operated Mark Lipman Service, a private investigations company in Little Rock and Memphis, and was a prominent leader of the Jewish community for many years, including having been president of Congregation Agudath Achim and the moving force to build a new synagogue that was completed in 1952 in Little Rock.

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Jun 19, 2006 — Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have observed for the first time that gene expression can occur in the form of discrete “pulses” of gene activity.

The researchers used pioneering microscopy techniques, developed by Dr. Robert Singer and colleagues at Einstein, that for the first time allow scientists to directly watch the behavior of a single gene in real time. Their findings appeared in the current issue of Current Biology.

When a gene is expressed or “turned on,” genetic information is transferred from DNA into RNA. This process, known as transcription, is crucial for translating the gene’s message into a functional protein. Diseases such as cancer can result when genes turn on at the improper time or in the wrong part of the body.

Researchers customarily use microarrays (also known as “gene chips”) to assess gene expression in tumors and other tissues. But with millions of cells involved, microarrays reflect only “average” gene expression. Just how a gene is transcribed in a single cell — continuously, intermittently or some other way—has largely been a mystery.

Now, in observing a gene that plays a major role in how an organism develops, the Einstein researchers observed a phenomenon that until now has been indirectly observed and only in bacteria: pulses of transcription that turn on and off at irregular intervals.

Dr. Singer and his co-workers used a fluorescent marker that sticks to the gene only when it is active. Under a microscope, this fluorescent marker appears when the gene turns on, then disappears (gene “off”) and then appears again (gene “on”).

The focus of the study was a gene important in the life cycle of the social amoeba Dictyostelium, thousands of which sometimes aggregate into a single slug-like mass. This developmental gene plays a major role in transforming the “slug” into a stalk-like structure called a fruiting body, which releases new amoebae.

“The pulsing we observed in this gene would allow it to very precisely regulate development,” says Dr. Singer, the study’s senior author and professor and co-chair of the Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology at Einstein.

He likens a gene to a thermostat. “Heating a home all the time would be wasteful and would overheat the house,” he says. “The solution is a thermostat, which injects a little bit of heat when needed and then turns off. Similarly, a cell needs the gene to be turned on—but too much activity at the wrong time can be a problem, so the solution is to have small bursts of activity.”

Still to be discovered, says Dr. Singer, is how the pulsing mechanism itself is controlled. In addition, these findings pertain to developmental genes, which are turned on selectively and only in certain tissues. “Other genes—so-called constitutive genes—are regularly expressed by all the cells of an organism,” Dr. Singer notes. “We’d like to find out whether these genes pulse as well.”

Also involved in this study were Jonathan R. Chubb (now at University of Dundee in the U.K.), Tatjana Trcek and Shailesh M. Shenoy.

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Jun 19, 2006 — The Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS) at Stern College for Women will expand this fall to offer an intensive two-year senior fellowship to two program graduates. It will be the first program of its kind in the United States.

The two inaugural fellows are Elana Stein and Esti Honig, both of Teaneck.

The GPATS fellowship is open to women who have completed the two-year curriculum. The senior fellows will continue their rigorous study of Talmud and Halakhah and play a leading role in expanding GPATS educational programs in various communities. They will also receive leadership training on topics such as public speaking and leading group discussions through Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

The goal of GPATS is to develop women as both Judaic scholars and role models for the Orthodox community. Launched in 2000, the program is funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation and is directed by Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel.

“Highly educated women are needed as scholars, as educators, and as role models,” said Rabbi Shmuel Hain, rosh beit midrash (head of the learning program) of GPATS. “The senior fellows, with the help of the CJF, will be better prepared to take on these leadership roles in the Orthodox community.”

Over Shavuot, nearly all of the GPATS students served as scholars in communities across North America, from Nebraska to Ohio to Boston to New Jersey.

On May 24, the program graduated 11 women, the largest class in its history. They will receive a certificate in Advanced Talmudic Studies in recognition of their two years of intensive study of Talmud and Halakhah.

Many of this year’s graduates also pursued graduate degrees in education and this fall will teach at a variety of high schools and colleges.

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Jun 6, 2006 — Once a month, the Center for the Jewish Future facilitates a shidduch between Stern College for Women and women in the community who are interested in Torah learning.

The program is called Midreshet Midtown, as an offshoot of the successful Kollel and Midreshet Yom Rishon Programs on the Wilf Campus. The lunchtime lesson serves to link the community to the Jewish knowledge of faculty and advanced students who are part of the Yeshiva University community.

“We try to bring in different instructors, both well-known faculty from the university and students from the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies here at Stern,” said Dr. Susan Hornstein, director of Beren campus programs for CJF.

Rochelle Graubard, a Kew Gardens Hills resident and graduate of Stern College for Women, said she found the class convenient and familiar. She had been looking for a place to learn during the workday and her daughter, also an alumna, emailed her the description of the class held May 31.

In honor of the approaching holiday of Shavuot, Elana Stein, a senior fellow in the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies discussed the timing of Shavuot and the relationship between Shavuot and Pesach.

Deborah Acshheim moved to a new office in the East Midtown/Murray Hill area two years ago and had been looking for a lunchtime learning opportunity ever since. She brought two officemates with her to the May 31 class.

“I thought that today’s Midreshet Midtown program was excellent, and I look forward to the next one,” the Upper West Side resident said.

The next class will be taught by Jewish studies instructor Shoshana Schecter of Stern College on Thursday, June 29 at 12:30 pm, in the Levy Lobby, 215 Lexington Ave.

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Jun 5, 2006 — Hundreds of YU students, faculty, alumni and friends enthusiastically marched up Fifth Avenue in the annual Salute to Israel Parade. President Richard M. Joel led the YU contingent that accompanied a parade float and live music was provided by Blue Fringe.

Salute to Israel Parade Photo Gallery

Students from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, sporting scrubs, had a large representation. On the float, students responded to cheers from the crowd and handed out specially designed YU T-shirts.

YU’s participation, estimated at 500, included the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools, affiliated high schools, as well as senior administration.

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Jun 1, 2006 — “A few months ago, if someone had asked me to name five rabbis in the United States, I could not have done it,” says Rabbi Rafael Feuerstein, chairman of Tzohar, the largest organization of religious Zionist rabbis in Israel.

Founded to repair the divide between secular and observant Israelis, Tzohar is partnering with Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) to create an international dialogue among Jewish leaders, hoping to form a concerted, strategic movement to address key issues facing the world Jewish community.

The first step towards creating these connections was a historic series of roundtable discussions at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Feuerstein and his colleagues, Rabbi Dovid Stav, Rabbi Avi Geissar, Rabbi Shai Piron and Tzohar executive director Chagai Gross, met with scholars and leaders from a cross-section of major Jewish organizations. Over the course of four days, participants discussed critical issues facing the larger Jewish community including assimilation, Jewish identity, conversion, marriage, church state issues, professional rabbinate and the future of religious Zionism.

“The ultimate goal of the roundtables, and the organizations that participated in them, was to expose the Israeli rabbis to various segments of community in the Diaspora and to acquaint them with institutions that can help them create a more effective rabbinate in the communities they serve,” said Rabbi Brander, dean of CJF. “The rabbis of Tzohar seek to mend the gaps in Israeli society resulting from events beginning with the murder of Prime Minister Rabin, z”l to the chasm created in Israeli society after disengagement.”

The challenges that face American and Israeli Jews as they work toward this goal are largely the same, but the causes are sometimes different, the discussions revealed. For example, enriching the relationship between rabbis and their synagogues is a primary concern of both groups. Tzohar, however, is also committed to reaching out to secular Israelis by bringing Torah and Jewish traditions to them and focusing on matters of concern to the entire Israeli population.

Israeli rabbis are paid by the government and work regular jobs in addition to their religious duties, which makes their relationships to their congregants relatively distant. In order to make the synagogue the heart of the community, Tzohar maintains, the rabbi must learn to be more than just an expert on Jewish law, but a psychologist, social worker, and community organizer as well.

Rabbis in the US are accustomed to serving these many roles, and over Shabbat, the Tzohar group split up to observe Orthodox communities in action at synagogues in Florida, Cleveland, Long Island and the Upper West Side of
Manhattan.

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June 2006
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