Yeshiva University News » 2009

Dr. John S. Condeelis co-led the research team.

Dec 29, 2008 — In an important finding published online in “Developmental Cell,” researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, along with collaborators at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have identified a protein likely responsible for causing breast cancer to spread.

Metastatic cancer occurs when cancer cells from the original tumor travel to distant sites via the bloodstream. Most cancer deaths occur when cancer spreads to other organs. Trying to stop cancer before it metastasizes is the main goal of cancer treatments. A marker showing that cancer has spread would help doctors choose the best possible treatment options for patients. Upon diagnosis, 6 out of 10 breast cancer patients have cancer that is still in its primary location making the potential discovery of a marker for invasive cancer of tremendous value.

Early markers of metastatic breast cancer have been hard to find. In the Einstein-led study, researchers have identified a protein that is a promising candidate for a metastatic breast cancer marker.

The protein, called Menainv, is present in invasive cells within a breast tumor. These cells move into surrounding tissue and eventually to blood vessels. Menainv is not found in cells that stay within breast tumors, an indication that this protein contributes to the invasive and metastatic ability of tumor cells and is not just an ‘innocent bystander’.

The research was conducted under the direction of John S. Condeelis, PhD, professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein and co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and Frank B. Gertler, PhD, Ross Scholar Professor of Biology at MIT.

The latest research was aided considerably by the work of Jeffrey B. Wyckoff, principal associate of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein who, with Dr. Condeelis, developed the in vivo invasion assay used to isolate metastatic tumor cells from breast tumors thereby implicating Menainv as important for metastasis.

Evanthia T. Roussos, an MD-PhD student in Dr. Condeelis’ lab and primary co-author of the study, explains, “We have micro-needles filled with growth factors and tissue that we insert into a tumor on an anesthetized mouse. If a tumor cell is invasive, within four hours, it will crawl into the needles. We found that mouse breast tumor cells that we engineered to contain Menainv were invasive whereas cells that did not have Menainv were not.”

The study also found that tumor cells harboring Menainv are less likely to be responsive to newer breast cancer treatments that inhibit epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR). Epidermal growth factor (EGF) has been shown to increase a breast cancer cell’s invasive potential. Drugs that inhibit EGF may lack effectiveness against tumor cells that express Menainv. That’s because Menainv cells are so sensitive to EGF that even the small amount of EGF signal that the drugs fail to block may be enough to stimulate EGF receptor and promote tumor cell migration and metastasis.

If Menainv behaves in humans the way it does in mice, researchers could develop an antibody test or PCR assay to identify it.

The current study builds on previous research by Dr. Condeelis’ group which identified Menainv as the isoform of Mena that is over-expressed in the invasive and metastatic subpopulation of tumor cells in breast tumors. The current study shows that Menainv forces tumor cells in mammary tumors of mice to become invasive and eventually metastasize to the lung.

The primary co-authors of the paper are Ulrike Philippar, MIT, Merck Research Laboratories and Evanthia Roussos, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology; Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center. Other authors include Matthew Oser, Yarong Wang and Jeffrey B. Wyckoff of Einstein; Sumanta Goswami of Einstein and Department of Biology, Yeshiva University; Hideki Yamaguchi, formerly of Einstein and now at Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences; Hyung Do Kim and Douglas A. Lauffenburger, MIT; Silvia Giampieri, Cancer Research UK, London Research Institute; and Erik Sahai, Einstein and Cancer Research UK, London Research Institute.

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The Price Center is the largest medical research facility to be constructed in the Bronx since Einstein opened in 1955.

Dec 29, 2008 — “New York Construction” magazine has presented its Best Health Care Project Award for 2008 to the Michael F. Price Center for Genetic and Translational Medicine/ Harold and Muriel Block Research Pavilion at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The magazine’s annual “Best of” awards recognize design and construction excellence in 20 different categories. Eligible projects are located in the tri-state area and must be substantially completed in the past year. An independent jury of industry experts judged a record 268 nominations and awarded projects based on such criteria as project management, client service, safety, design and functionality.

Winners in each category will be entered in the first-ever National Best of ’08 competition and judged against winning entries from other regions.

The top honor in the health care category was given to the five-story, 223,000-square-foot Price Center/Block Pavilion, Einstein’s home for translational research. The new facility includes more than 40-fully equipped laboratories, a biosafety level-3 laboratory, common spaces to facilitate collaboration and a 107-seat auditorium.

The Price Center/Block Pavilion represents the largest medical research facility to be constructed in the Bronx since the college of medicine opened in 1955. Designed by Payette Associates of Boston and built by Tishman Construction of New York, the facility was dedicated in June 2008.

Read more about the Price Center/Block Pavilion here.

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Dec 29, 2009 — On December 22, Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership convened a program on “Building Boards for Economic and Strategic Success for Yeshivot and Day Schools” in the Five Towns and Rockaways. The program is the sixth in a series this past year that helps schools to engage in research-based data-driven practices to improve their fiscal solvency.

Harry Bloom, Director of Planning and Performance Improvement for Yeshiva University’s School Partnership explained, “We surveyed the local day school leaders to determine what they most wanted to learn about. Past programs have focused on topics including major donor cultivation, maximizing annual campaigns, and energy efficiency. This program on Board governance was a culminating event and, collectively, the schools unanimously realized that effective boards could power up all initiatives the schools require.”

To enable focused problem solving, the event was limited to five schools and will be followed up with additional programs. Each participating school brought a team of at least four board members and a senior administrator from its financial and education domains. Eli Shapiro, LCSW, Yeshiva University’s Regional Coordinator for School Affordability, opened the event by framing the program as part of greater ongoing professional development opportunities for educators and community leaders through conferences, consultancies and the extremely popular webinars that are available live and archived at www.yu.edu/schoolpartnership.

The keynote speaker was the CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, David Mandel. Mr. Mandel focused on the practical strategies of cultivating and identifying new and appropriate board members; their financial and fiduciary responsibilities, their role in annual campaigns and development, and the critical responsibility of a board in strategic planning.

Mark Gold, part of the Board Presidium at Mesivta Ateres Yaakov in Hewlett, stated, “This seminar was very helpful to Mesivta Ateres Yaakov and each YU event demonstrates how even a mature, well-run institution such as ours can be managed more effectively. Yeshiva University is doing an unbelievable chesed reaching out pro-bono to yeshivot and day schools and sharing YU’s amazing expertise to help us better support our educational mission.”

Following Mr. Mandel’s address the teams from participating schools worked individually with Yeshiva University facilitators to identify one or two specific goals and the steps to achieve these desired outcomes. According to Shapiro, “the most important piece is for schools to walk out with an achievable plan to implement positive change.”

The list of facilitators included YU Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel, Avi Lauer, Senior Executive Director for Community Affairs, Richard Bieler, Harry Bloom, and Eli Shapiro.

Yeshiva Darchei Torah of Far Rockaway board member and Lawrence Village Trustee, Michael Fragin, said that the YU program was both timely and important. “Responsibility, accountability, and transparency should be on the minds of every member of non-profit boards these days. YU’s series of seminars and David Mandel, in particular, have been very helpful in orienting board members toward a fuller appreciation of their roles.”

Yeshiva University and the School Affordability team will continue to work with yeshivot, day schools and communities across the country to improve educational, fiscal, and operational performance. In the Five Towns, the past year has been one of growth for Yeshiva University and the schools in the community. With more than a dozen schools present at most of the six programs they ran, advocacy in Albany, numerous consultation meetings with nearly 20 schools, work with community leaders focused on the tuition challenge, it has been quite a year of partnership.

The Institute for University-School Partnerships Director, Dr. Scott Goldberg stated, “Yeshiva University and the Five Towns and Rockaways share a common goal – building a strong and sustainable Jewish educational system for all Jewish children. With the hard work and dedication of lay and professional leaders of schools and the expertise and experience of Yeshiva University, we partner to advance Jewish education today and for generations to come.”

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Moses Pava Offers Spiritual Tools to Stimulate Conversation About Business Ethics

Dr. Moses Pava, noting what he calls “huge, huge ethical lapses” in the business world, is using his latest book to help people of all faiths talk about the dilemma.

Pava, the Alvin Einbender Professor of Business Ethics at Sy Syms School of Business, says he is hoping that his newly published Jewish Ethics as Dialogue: Using Spiritual Language to Re-Imagine a Better World (Palgrave MacMillan) will give people the tools to talk to one another and think more systematically about the failures.

The tools in his book come from traditional and modern Jewish texts, from scholars such as Rabbis Joseph Soloveitchik and Irving Yitz Greenberg, as well as secular views from people such as the 20th-century American philosopher and activist John Dewey. Greenberg and Dewey are two major proponents of the new self-conscious religious attitude known as “intelligent spirituality”—an idea that, Pava writes in the book, provides a useful set of precise criteria to evaluate some of the many changes that are occurring in corporate America and that are defended under the banner of spirituality in business.

Pava wants the texts he cites in his book to provide the centerpiece in discussions that lead to a more ethical way of conducting businesses and lives. These are discussions he imagines can be held in formal settings, such as corporate meetings, or informal places, such as synagogues or Jewish community centers. From these discussions, ethical norms are generated and authenticated, Pava says.

“I am trying to provide not only a way for Jewish people to talk about ethics, but for people from other traditions to apply the method to their own tradition,” says Pava, who has taught for two decades at Yeshiva University and is the author of several books on the religion-business connection.

While Pava surely wants to see adults change their ways, one of the book’s goals is to help students engage in ethical dialogues. In the appendix, he provides an open letter inviting them to participate.

“I hope people remain open-minded, that some percentage of adults continues to learn throughout their lives,” he says. “But the most efficient and appropriate way to allocate a scarce amount of time is to engage students to effect some kind of change.

“If we start much earlier, even before college, we have a much better chance of having an impact on people.”

Pava puts the onus on people like himself—educators and those witnessing the downward spiral in business—to push for an improvement in the ethical culture.

“We have to be more aggressive in challenging people doing questionable activities, but in a respectful way,” the Sy Syms professor says. “If you are a witness to immoral activity and didn’t say anything, now you have a degree of responsibility after the fact.”

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Einstein Researchers’ Novel Nanotechnology Heals Abscesses Caused by Resistant Staph Bacteria
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have developed a new approach for treating and healing skin abscesses caused by bacteria resistant to most antibiotics. The study appears in the journal PLoS One.

Abscesses are deep skin infections that often resist antibiotics and may require surgical drainage. For their new treatment strategy, the Einstein scientists developed tiny nanoparticles—smaller than a grain of pollen—that carry nitric oxide (NO), a gas that helps in the body’s natural immune response to infection.

When topically applied to abscesses in mice, the particles released NO that traveled deep into the skin, clearing up the infections and helping to heal tissue.

“Our work shows that nitric oxide-releasing nanoparticles developed here at Einstein can effectively treat experimental skin abscesses caused by antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, even without surgical drainage,” says Joshua D. Nosanchuk, MD, senior author of the study and associate professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology.

“This is important,” he notes, “because several million people are treated for staph infections every year in the U.S. Increasingly, these infections are caused by methicillin-resistant Staph aureus — or MRSA — the serious and potentially fatal “superbug” that we tackled in this study.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 94,000 cases of invasive MRSA infections occur each year, resulting in 19,000 deaths. In a 2006 study involving multiple emergency rooms across the U.S., MRSA was isolated from 61 percent of abscesses.

“To have a topical medication for staph infections instead of one that you have to take orally and systemically would revolutionize the way we take care of our patients,” Dr. Nosanchuk adds.

In research published earlier this year in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the interdisciplinary Einstein team showed that NO-containing nanoparticles could clear up superficial skin infections caused by MRSA. The current study of abscesses was designed to learn whether the nanoparticles could combat infections deep in the skin.

The researchers experimentally induced MRSA abscesses in 60 mice. The abscesses were either left untreated, topically treated with “empty” nanoparticles, or topically treated with nanoparticles containing NO and were evaluated four days later.

The microbial concentration in the abscesses of mice treated with NO-containing nanoparticles was significantly reduced compared with abscesses in the other two groups. In addition, the abscesses of mice treated with NO-containing nanoparticles had undergone much more healing, as shown by their improved appearance and by the far greater amounts of collagen (a protein important in maintaining the structure of skin) deposited within them.

The Einstein nanoparticle technology was developed by Joel M. Friedman, MD, PhD, the Young Men’s Division Chair of Physiology and professor of physiology & biophysics and of medicine, and Adam Friedman, MD, currently the chief resident in the division of dermatology of the department of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein.

When introduced on the skin or into the body, the tiny nanoparticles absorb water, swell up, and start releasing their cargo in a sustained manner. The nanoparticles can carry and release a variety of drugs as well as chemicals, including NO.

Produced naturally by cells throughout the body, NO has important biological properties including killing bacteria, healing wounds, and increasing blood flow by dilating blood vessels. “But NO is a very short-lived gas,” notes Dr. Joel Friedman, “and, until now, methods to deliver it to targeted tissues in the proper doses have proven elusive.”

Einstein researchers are also pursuing other potential therapeutic uses for their nanoparticles. For example, along with Kelvin Davies, PhD, associate professor of urology, the Friedmans recently showed that nanoparticles loaded with either NO or tadalafil (Cialis) show promise as a topical cream-like treatment for erectile dysfunction.

Earlier this month, Makefield Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company based in Newtown, PA, licensed patent rights to Einstein’s NO-containing nanoparticle technology. The company plans to use topical formulations of the NO-containing nanoparticles to treat antibiotic-resistant infections and erectile dysfunction.

The paper, “Nitric Oxide Releasing Nanoparticles Are Therapeutic for Staphylococcus aureus Abscesses in a Murine Model of Infection,” was published in the November 12, 2009 issue of PLoS ONE.

Other Einstein authors of the study are George Han, an MD-PhD candidate, Luis R. Martinez, PhD, and Mircea Radu Mihu, MD.

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Students from Local George Washington High School Learn About Hanukkah at YU

Yeshiva University shared the light of Hanukkah with its neighbors when 15 students from the local George Washington High School attended a holiday party hosted by a group of Yeshiva’s Presidential Fellows on Dec. 18.

See a photo gallery of the event here.

The event was part of a broader initiative created two years ago by past Presidential Fellows, who forged a close relationship with Dr. JoAnn Sainz, an assistant principal at the school. The fellows helped to organize educational support and assistance to the high school students, many of whom come from immigrant families. The project is currently being coordinated by Nava Billet, the Fredda Leff Presidential Fellow in the Office of the Dean at Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and Uri Westrich, the Ronald P. Stanton Presidential Fellow in the Office of the Dean at Yeshiva College.

“One of our main goals is building community relations,” said Billet, who organized the Hanukkah party with Westrich and some of their colleagues. “We are a school in Washington Heights, they are a school in Washington Heights. Jews and Dominicans are neighbors. We may have different cultures but it is important not to be afraid of the unknown.”

The students heard the heroic stories of Judah the Maccabee and Judith and Holofornes, spun dreidels, joined in singing Hanukkah songs, lit the menorah candles and tasted traditional delicacies such as latkes and sufganiyot [jelly donuts].

The morning program concluded with a round-table discussion centered on questions the students had submitted about Hanukkah and Jewish life in general.

“It surprised me and made me think a lot,” said GW junior Rudy Gonzalez. “I found the culture fascinating,” added classmate Felix Restituyo.

As part of the outreach initiative, Billet periodically joins with undergraduates to help GW students review and edit essays for college applications and scholarships.

“It is likely that the adults in their lives do not speak English and cannot help them with school work and college preparation. They can’t afford tutors either,” said Billet. “Working with young adults who are pursuing a higher education gives the students young role models and helps them to set goals for their own futures.”

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European Court of Human Rights Finds That Bosnia’s Political Ban on Jews and Roma Is Discriminatory

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the exclusion of Jews and Roma from Bosnia’s highest state offices is unlawful discrimination in a ground-breaking case in which Sheri P. Rosenberg of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University co-represented the successful applicant, Jakob Finci.

The ruling is a major step toward ending racial and religious exclusion in Europe, said Rosenberg, a professor and director of the Human Rights Clinic at Cardozo. Bosnia, along with the US and European states that continue to play a critical role in the country, should move swiftly to remove all discriminatory provisions from the country’s constitution.

“The court’s ruling is a major step forward in Europe’s struggle against discrimination and ethnic conflict,” said Rosenberg. “This decision affirms that ethnic domination should have no role in a democracy.”

The ruling on Dec. 22 was issued by the Grand Chamber of the Court in the case of Sejdic & Finci v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, and concerned the exclusion from the Bosnian presidency and the upper house of parliament of a Bosnian Jew and a Bosnian Roma. The Bosnian Constitution, drafted by negotiators during peace talks in Dayton, Ohio in 1995, restricts the highest offices of state – the upper house of parliament and the presidency – to members of Bosnia’s three main ethnic and religious groups – the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims).

The court found, by 14 votes to 3, that the exclusion of Jews and Roma could not be justified. It stated that the “authorities must use all available means to combat racism, thereby reinforcing democracy’s vision of a society in which diversity is not perceived as a threat but as a source of enrichment.”

“The European Court has made it clear that race-based exclusion from political office, such as that suffered by Jews and Roma in Bosnia, has no place in Europe,” said Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor at Human Rights Watch, who was co-counsel for Finci from his previous employment with Minority Rights Group International. “The US, EU and the other states who still play a major role in Bosnia, should ensure the ruling is put into immediate effect by backing a change in the constitution.”

Members of smaller groups (such as the Jewish and Roma communities), those from ethnically mixed backgrounds and those who do not wish to declare themselves members of the three main groups are banned from running for office. Despite the extensive involvement of the international community, in particular the US and the European Union, in the governing of Bosnia since 1995, these discriminatory provisions in the constitution have never been amended.

This ruling is believed to be the first under the recent Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination in all rights “set forth by law,” a much wider scope than previously existed under the convention.

Jakob Finci, the successful applicant, was born in a transit camp during World War II after his parents, Bosnian Jews, had been deported from the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. Returning to Bosnia after the war, he has had a distinguished career in public life and is now Bosnian ambassador to Switzerland. But his ethnicity and religion prevented him from the possibility of seeking election to the highest offices of state.

“I am delighted that the European Court has recognized the wrong that was done in the Constitution 14 years ago,” Finci said. “The Bosnian politicians need to right the wrongs in the Constitution quickly.”

Bosnia’s next presidential and parliamentary elections are due in October 2010.Constitutional reform has been under discussion in Bosnia since 2005 but so far has not produced any change.

“This landmark ruling clearly establishes that there is no scope for second-class citizenship in Europe,” said Cynthia Morel, who also served as legal counsel in the case. “The court’s finding will play an important role in strengthening Bosnia’s young democracy.” The case was supported throughout by Minority Rights Group International and the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The ruling made international news, including:
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Fox2 News
Forbes
The Jerusalem Post
Turkish Weekly
United Press International

For more information on the case, please visit:

The European Court of Human Rights or the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic at Cardozo School of Law.

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Exchange Program with Israeli High Schools Immerses 10th Graders in Israeli Culture

Twenty outstanding 10th graders from the Yeshiva University High Schools – 10 from the Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (YUHSB) and 10 from the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) – are participating in a six-week student exchange program with Israeli high schools. Now in its second year, the program aims to immerse the American students in Israeli culture and help them connect with their Israeli counterparts.

The YUHSG students joined their peers at Ulpanat Tzvia in Ma’aleh Adumim on Dec. 6 while the YUHSB students began classes at Yeshivat Mekor Haim in Kibbutz Kfar Etzion upon their Dec. 17 arrival.

“What’s unique about this program is that the students are fully integrated into the Israeli classrooms,” said Tova Rosenberg, coordinator of the exchange program and director of Hebrew language studies at both Yeshiva University High Schools. “The students sit in on all Judaic studies classes, are included in all school activities and are housed in the same dormitories as the Israeli students. They are not treated as guests, but as members of the student body.”

During their six-week stay, the Yeshiva University High School students take part in a series of field trips intended to show them Israel’s out-of-the-way treasures – “not the usual tourist spots” – and enjoy special Shabbat programs at the Yeshiva University Gruss Kollel in Bayit Ve’Gan arranged by the Kollel families themselves.

Later this year, six Yeshivat Mekor Haim students and four Ulpanat Tzvia students will travel to New York to study at the Yeshiva University High Schools for a six-week period. In addition to attending classes, the Israeli students will tour New York City and Philadelphia to learn about American history and culture, and will experience life in U.S. Jewish communities.

“By sending our students to Israel and bringing the Israeli students to our schools, we are opening the eyes of every student involved in the program to the reality of the global Jewish community. As our future Jewish leaders, it is vital that they understand and are accepting of other cultures,” said Rosenberg.

“The culture of deep spiritual purpose and constant reflection that is the hallmark of the Mekor Haim experience has exposed our students to serious religious and intellectual growth in ways unimagined for the typical 10th grader,” said Rabbi Mark Gottlieb, head of school at YUHSB. “Additionally, the visiting Mekor Haim students inject a sense of passion, urgency and authenticity into the rhythm of school life here. Armed with a newfound understanding of the American Jewish scene, these exceptional students have the potential to become the next generation of shlichim [emissaries to Israel].”

Watch video coverage of the exchange program on the Jerusalem Post’s Website.

Read news coverage here:
Ynet News
Arutz 7 article (English)
Arutz 7 audio interview with Yishai Fleisher
Arutz 7 article and link to audio interview on ‘Or Bachadashot’ (Hebrew)
Moreshet (Hebrew)
The Jewish Star

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Dec 22, 2009 — Yeshiva University’s (YU) Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) will bring their popular Yom Rishon series to the Five Towns community on Sunday, December 27 at 10 am at the Young Israel of Woodmere, 850 Peninsula Boulevard, Woodmere, NY. Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, senior scholar at the CJF, will discuss Asarah B’Tevet: From ancient times to the 21st Century.

The lecture, an initiative of the YU Regional Council of the Five Towns, is open to men and women and is free of charge.

Yeshiva University introduced the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon for men and the Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon for women as part of an initiative to strengthen Jewish communal life and learning. The program brings hundreds of men and women to YU’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights every Sunday morning to learn Torah and hear lectures from various YU rabbis and scholars. Since its inception, the Yom Rishon series has spread to Toronto, Los Angeles and other cities across North America.

Sponsors of Sunday’s program include congregations: Anshei Chesed, Aish Kodesh, Beth Sholom, Young Israel of Lawrence/Cedarhurst and Young Israel of Woodmere. To learn more about the Yom Rishon programs, view an upcoming schedule or to hear audio recordings of past shiurim visit www.kollelyomrishon.org and www.midreshetyomrishon.org.

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Stern student Sophie Marmor lights a candle while Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter looks on.

Dec 19, 2008 — A Yeshiva University memorial in honor of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, who were killed in the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, became a charge for students to incorporate some of the Holzbergs’ compassion, commitment to Judaism and respect for other people into their lives.

A somber mood pervaded Weissberg Commons, filled to capacity with 200 students on Dec. 17. Adira Lautman, president of the Torah Activities Council, opened the memorial by inviting seven people to light candles—six to commemorate those killed in the Chabad House, and one for the other victims of terror that day.

Each person had some kind of connection to Mumbai, Chabad or the Holtzbergs: Sophie Marmor, a Stern College student, and Aziza Kahn, a Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology student, both of whom traveled to Mumbai in the summer as part of a course on Global Health; Rabbi Shlomo Sternberg, a chavruta [study partner] of Rabbi Holtzberg; Rabbi J.J. Schachter, who spoke at the event about the massacre’s meaning for Jews; the presidents of the Chabad Society on the Beren and Wilf campuses; and Yoffi Jacob, a YU High School for Boys student from Mumbai.

“I will never forget the Shabbat I spent at the Holtzbergs,” said Marmor. “To me, their behavior exemplified chessed [kindness] and human decency.”

She spoke about how touched she was by the Holtzbergs’ warmth towards one of their guests at Shabbat, an Israeli man whose release from an Indian jail Rabbi Holzberg had helped to negotiate. The next day at lunch, Marmor was seated next to him and, Marmor said, her natural inclination was to make an excuse to change seats. But this time she didn’t want to.

“I wanted to be like the Holzbergs,” she said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the tragedy and what I can learn from it.” She urged audience members to honor the memory of the Holtzbergs by increasing the level of tolerance in their own lives.”

Rabbi Sternberg, who learned together with Rabbi Holtzberg at a yeshiva in Crown Heights, said he thought about what his friend would have wanted him to say. “I think this is what he would say. ‘I wish that everything wouldn’t have had to happen. I wish I could be back in Mumbai, where no one would know about me. I wish I could reach out to thousands of neshamas [souls] but that was all taken from me. You are standing in a room with hundreds of young, talented students. They must continue where I left off.”

“The Holtzbergs helped people change their lives, and didn’t ask for anything in return, chessed for the sake of chessed,” Rabbi Sternberg said.

Rabbi J.J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future, said that Jews’ response to the killings should be “what we can learn from such a tragedy.”

Referring to the upcoming Hanukkah holiday, he said, “We must light a candle in the midst of darkness. We must do something.”

“We must remember those who perished and be inspired by their memory and in the zechut [merit] of our activities their their neshama will rest,” Rabbi Schacter said.

The ceremony ended with Rabbi Yona Reiss, Max and Marion Grill Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, who recited a “kol maleh rachimim,” prayer to memorialize the victims of terror in Mumbai.

Read Ferkauf student Hillary Lewin’s tribute to the Holtzbergs here.

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