Yeshiva University News » 2009 » February

Feb 26, 2009 — Yeshiva University received an Eddy Award from “Pensions & Investments,” an international newspaper that focuses on money management, at the newspaper’s 17th annual Defined Contribution Conference in Miami Beach, Fla., on February 9. The Eddy Awards recognize the highest caliber investment education programs of defined contribution plan sponsors — corporate, union and not-for-profit — and service providers.

Yeshiva University received a first-place award in the category “Ongoing Education: Not-for-Profit” for its campaign to educate staff, faculty and administration about changes in its retirement plan, as provided by Prudential Retirement.

The award stated that Yeshiva’s campaign “was totally branded, featuring its own employees and the same colors as the school itself. The information was solid and complete. And, kudos for warning people about the negatives of taking loans.”

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Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, front, heads up a team at Einstein studying autophagy, a process that may hold the key to aging. Other members of the team are, back row, from left, Dr. Fernando Macian-Juan, Dr. Laura Santambrogio and Dr. Mark Czaja.

Feb 26, 2009 — Four faculty members at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University were awarded a five-year, $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study autophagy, a fundamental cell process that may hold the key to aging.

Autophagy (which literally means “self-eating”) refers to several surveillance systems that all cells rely on to find, digest and recycle molecules within them that have become damaged. This cellular recycling both “cleans up” the cell and provides it with energy, since digested products can be used as fuel. Many studies have documented that autophagy becomes less efficient with age, allowing protein and other cellular components to gradually accumulate inside cells and, almost certainly, interfere with normal cell function.

The Einstein consortium is led by Ana Maria Cuervo, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of developmental and molecular biology, of anatomy and structural biology, and of medicine at Einstein and one of the world’s leading experts on autophagy. With the help of the NIH grant, Dr. Cuervo and her colleagues will test their hypothesis that impaired autophagy may explain the decline in organ function, weakened immunity and other functional losses associated with aging. More specifically, the researchers will:

• look at the role of two different types of autophagy in liver and brain function as well as immunity, under normal and stressful conditions
• analyze how these two types of autophagy change as the liver, brain and immune system age
• determine how changes in autophagy that occur with age contribute to the aging of the entire organism, to the gradual deterioration of cognitive function, to the failure with age of two essential immune functions (antigen processing and presentation, and T helper cell activation and tolerance) and to abnormalities in lipid metabolism.

“These studies will involve the cooperation of all four of us on the Einstein faculty who have jointly received this NIH grant,” says Dr. Cuervo. The other three members of the Einstein consortium are Laura Santambrogio, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology; Fernando Macian-Juan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology; and Mark J. Czaja, M.D., professor of medicine.

“We’re hopeful that this research project will lead to fundamental insights that will help us understand, treat or even prevent the metabolic alterations and decline in cognitive and immune function that affect us as we age,” says Dr. Cuervo. “Strategies that can keep our cells’ autophagic pathways operating efficiently as we get older could help us to enjoy healthier lives well into old age.”

The Einstein researchers have set up a website that describes their research effort in more detail.

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Study co-author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., is a professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.

Feb 26, 2009 — Women who have more years of fertility (the time from first menstruation to menopause) have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease than women with fewer years, according to a large new study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

“These findings, involving nearly 74,000 women, suggest that longer exposure to the body’s own, or endogenous, hormones, including estrogen, may help protect the brain cells that are affected by Parkinson’s disease,” says lead author Rachel Saunders-Pullman, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., assistant professor of neurology at Einstein and attending physician in neurology at Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of Einstein’s in Manhattan.

An abstract of the study was released by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). Further study details will be presented at AAN’s 61st annual meeting in Seattle, April 25 – May 2.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease. About 1.5 million Americans currently have Parkinson’s, characterized by symptoms that can include tremor (shaking), slowness of movement, rigidity (stiffness) and difficulty with balance. The condition typically develops after the age of 60, although 15 percent of those diagnosed are under 50. There is no cure for Parkinson’s, although medications or surgery can ease symptoms of the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is almost twice as common in men as in women, and researchers have long hypothesized that sex hormones might play a role in the disease.

In the current study, researchers analyzed the records of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study and focused on those women who developed Parkinson’s disease. The study involved about 73,973 women who underwent natural menopause.

The study found that women who had a fertile lifespan of more than 39 years had about a 25 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s compared with women who had a fertile lifespan shorter than 33 years.

In addition, the data showed that women who had four or more pregnancies were about 20 percent more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than were women who had three or fewer pregnancies. “One explanation for this finding is that the post-partum period, which is typically one with lower levels of estrogen, subtracts from a woman’s total fertile lifespan,” says co-author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and population health and the principal investigator of the WHI study at Einstein.

“Overall, our findings might lead one to assume that hormone therapy would make sense as a neuroprotective agent,” says Dr. Saunders-Pullman. “However, we also found that women who were taking hormone therapy did not have a lower risk for Parkinson’s. Thus, our data does not support a role for treatment with exogenous hormones, that is, hormones that originate outside the body, to prevent Parkinson’s.”

In fact, hormone therapy can have harmful neurological effects. “Earlier studies in the Women’s Health Initiative demonstrated that hormone therapy increases one’s risk for both stroke and dementia,” says Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller. “Clearly, we need to conduct more research into estrogen’s effects on the brain.”

The study was supported by the Thomas Hartman Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the National Institutes of Health.

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Feb 26, 2009 — Dr. Jacob Wisse has been appointed director of the Yeshiva University Museum, as announced by Yeshiva University Provost Morton Lowengrub, PhD. Dr. Wisse, a tenured Associate Professor, has been head of the art history program at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University since 2005. His appointment follows the retirement of Sylvia A. Herskowitz, who served as director for 33 years.

“Jacob Wisse brings the dedication of a scholar, the sensibility of a curator and the experience of a leader to his new role as director of the Yeshiva University Museum. We are delighted that he has accepted this position and look forward to working with him in his new capacity,” said Dr. Lowengrub.

“These are challenging times for cultural institutions,” said Dr. Wisse, “but I am confident that Yeshiva University Museum will continue to flourish, and that through intelligent, creative exhibitions and programming our audience will grow. I look forward to developing and presenting a range of ambitious historical and contemporary exhibitions and educational programs, and to directing the staff in the exploration and interpretation of Jewish art, history, and culture.”

Dr. Wisse, 43, earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. He has a background in museum education and curatorial work. Through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he earned a Curatorial Studies Certificate and was twice awarded the Museum’s Theodore Rousseau Curatorial Fellowship. This past summer, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend as part of the NEH’s We the People Project to research “New York City Firehouses: The Legacy of Renaissance Ideals in a Modern Urban Context.”

In his teaching, research and curatorial work, Wisse stresses primary and contextual study of art. He will continue to teach and guide the art history program at Stern College, where he was named Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year in 2005-2006, his first year at the school. At Stern, he has introduced courses that use exhibitions and museum collections to complement the classroom experience, including a summer program in Florence on the art and culture of the Renaissance.

A Montreal native, where he received an extensive Jewish education, Wisse earned his B.A. from McGill University before going on to graduate school, where he specialized in northern European art of the late Medieval and Renaissance eras. His book, City Painters in the Burgundian Netherlands, will be published by Brepols Press in 2009.

Dr. Wisse is a member of the College Art Association, the American Association of Museums, and the Historians of Netherlandish Art, for which he serves as field editor for 14th and 15th century books. He lives with his wife and daughter in Manhattan.

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Feb 25, 2009 — The Yeshiva University (YU) Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization (CJL) at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law will present their Annual Ivan Meyer Lecture in Jewish Law on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:30 PM at the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room, 55 Fifth Avenue at 12th Street, New York, NY. Professor Gerald J. Blidstein, the Ivan Meyer Visiting Scholar in Comparative Jewish Law, will speak on the subject of “Human Dignity as a Norm of Jewish Law.”

Gerald Blidstein is a professor in the Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Among his numerous research interests, he has written extensively on the legal thought of Maimonides and the relationship between law and ethics in Jewish law. He is a Fellow of the Israel Academy of Arts and Sciences and, in 2006, received the coveted Israel Prize in Jewish Thought. Professor Blidstein holds a doctorate in rabbinics from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

The lecture is named for the late Dr. Ivan Isaak Meyer, who practiced law in Germany and New York City and was a generous supporter of Jewish education in the New York area. Admission is free and open to the public. To register online visit www.cardozo.yu.edu/cjl/registration or call us at 212-790-0258. For more information on The Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization visit our Web site at www.cardozo.yu/edu/cjl

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The Eimatai Conference, sponsored by Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future, is an opportunity for students to discuss issues and challenges facing the Jewish community.

Feb 25, 2009 — High school students from across North America will hone their leadership skills at the bi-annual Eimatai Leadership Development Conference on March 1 – 3 at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, MD. The conference is sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

The gathering, which began nine years ago, is an opportunity for students to discuss issues and challenges facing the Jewish community with a view to understanding how they can make a positive impact. This year’s theme will be “Citizen Jew vs. Jewish Citizen: Exploring a Dual Identity.”

“The students attending the conference will explore both their Jewish values and national values,” said Aaron Steinberg, director of the Eimatai Leadership Development Project. “They will explore potential conflicts that may arise as a result of their dual allegiances and dig deeper toward a better understanding of their identities as young American or Canadian Jews.”

The students will also explore issues related to the way Jewish communities are formed, the characteristics that make someone a ‘good person’ and the balance between allegiance to both Israel and a home country.

Inspired by the rural location of the conference, an additional focus on environmental issues is planned to unite the students with a common goal of decreasing energy waste in their local communities.

Fourteen undergraduate Yeshiva University students who received in-depth training for six months will lead the conference. The student “advisors” facilitate discussion groups, create informal educational programs and mentor the high schoolers in activist projects that they undertake after the event.

The conference is an invaluable leadership experience for the advisors as well. “This process shows them how to create an educational curriculum and how to be effective informal educators,” Steinberg said. “This is valuable experience for advisors who aspire to careers in formal and informal education.”

For Stern College junior Yael Ausbel, the opportunity to be an advisor is particularly exciting. A former Eimatai participant herself as a student at Yeshiva University High School for Girls, Ausbel brings added insight. “I think having the student’s perspective and the ability to understand what Eimatai participants are going through will help me be a better advisor,” she said.

Eighty student representatives from 11 schools across the United States and Canada will participate. They include: Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, IL; Frankel Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit in Detroit, MI; Akiva Hebrew Day School, Detroit; Yavneh Academy of Dallas in Dallas, TX; Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD; Beth Tfiloh Community High School in Baltimore, MD; Hebrew Academy of Nassau County in West Hempstead, NY; Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Holliswood, NY; and Yeshivot Bnei Akiva in Toronto, ON.

After the conference, students from each school develop a program to implement in their community under the mentorship of the Eimatai advisors. One of the most successful initiatives to date, Project Ray’ut, was launched by Ausbel and her friend, Joyce Tessel, after their first Eimatai conference. They created a project that fulfilled what they felt was lacking in their school.

“We were hoping to find a way to help our peers learn about connecting to the people and land of Israel,” she said. Through Project Ray’ut, juniors at Yeshiva University High School for Girls spend a week in Israel engaged in activities that address real needs in Israeli society, such as cleaning bomb shelters, planting trees and working at a soup kitchen and an Ethiopian absorption center.

Other Eimatai projects have included developing parks in low-income neighborhoods, revamping a local food pantry and creating environmental awareness initiatives. Advisors help students assess the needs of their project and support them for the remainder of the year.

“Eimatai strives to cultivate a community of student leaders,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the CJF. “The critical aspect of this initiative is that it creates relationships that continue throughout the year. It not only inspires the student representatives but transforms entire schools through the student leadership projects.”

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Among the Environmental Club’s accomplishments is its participation in Recyclemania, a national campus recycling competition.

Feb 24, 2009 — Yeshiva University was named one of 10 North American winners of the Climate Crews Contest in recognition of its effort to promote environmental awareness on campus.

The contest, sponsored by the United Nations Foundation in partnership with the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), rewards student initiatives to make their college “greener.”

As part of the prize, Esther Steifel, a Stern College junior and member of the Environmental and Energy Club on the Beren Campus, and Andrea Moore, sustainability coordinator at Yeshiva’s Office of Energy and Sustainability Programs, will attend a conference in Washington, D.C., where they will meet leading climate, energy and sustainability experts.

The Environmental Club will also receive a mini-grant to help offset the costs of their newly launched project, YU Unplugged, an energy-saving competition that will track each dorm’s energy usage on the Wilf and Beren Campuses, as well as the opportunity to host an on-campus sustainability seminar through the SEI.
Yeshiva University’s contest submission was entered by the Office of Energy and Sustainability Programs on behalf of the student-run Environmental and Energy Club.

YU Unplugged was the project that distinguished YU from the other colleges in the competition since it was the only proposal that focused on energy conservation. During the competition, each dorm’s energy usage will be measured and then divided by the number of people living in each dorm. These results will be tallied and compared to previous months’ energy bills. The dorm with the largest percentage decrease will receive a student-made, recycled-material trophy to display in the lobby of their building.

Among the Environmental Club’s accomplishments is its participation in Recyclemania, a 10-week, national recycling competition among college campuses.

Last year, the Environmental Club partnered with the Office of University Housing and Residence Life to institute an internal competition as well. Each month during the contest, first and second place prizes were awarded to the dormitory floors on either the Wilf or Beren Campuses that collected the most recycling. This year, the competition has expanded to include both the Cardozo and Einstein campuses.

Moore sees the Climate Crews Contest win as evidence of the collaboration between students and Yeshiva’s administration. She recognizes that this partnership will “further our ideal and lead us to a greener future at Yeshiva University.”

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Feb 23, 2009 — Four students at The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy /Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) were named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program after performing extremely well on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Tests (PSAT/NMSQT). Toronto’s Aaron Yevick was one of the academically talented seniors named.

“These are some of the most gifted students to ever come through the school,” said Dr. Edward Berliner, professor of physics at YU, who teaches calculus and AP physics at YUHSB and directs the new Honors College for gifted students. “They all worked extraordinarily hard and I was extremely fortunate to have had all four as my students.”

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. Awards are given annually to students with the highest PSAT/ NMSQT selection index scores (critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills scores) qualifying them for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of the approximately 1.5 million entrants from over 21,000 high schools, about 15,000 or less than 1 percent advance to finalists standing.

To become a finalist, students must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed by their principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the students’ earlier performance on the qualifying test. The finalists continue in the running for the opportunity to compete for some 8,200 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $35 million, which will be offered next spring.

“When I found out I was named a finalist I felt a great sense of accomplishment,” said Yevick, who praised his school and teachers. “YUHSB has always helped me pursue my academic goals. My teachers, particularly Dr. Berliner, have always given me the opportunity and the motivation I needed to excel.”

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Feb 23, 2009 — While the current harsh economic conditions have led to a bleak employment market, there are industries and professions that have job openings, including those in the Jewish communal and educational fields. For all those aspiring to such careers, the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future is holding its inaugural Jewish Job Fair this Thursday, February 26 at 6 p.m. at YU’s Wilf Campus at 500 West 185th Street.

Hundreds of candidates, including students and alumni of YU, have already submitted resumes for consideration, and dozens of Jewish day and high schools and community organizations from across the country will be in attendance to accept and review resumes and conduct interviews.

Participating organizations include Isralight, Jewish Community Center Association of North America, National Council of Young Israel and University Jewish Chaplaincy in London. Day schools include Akiva Hebrew Day School in Southfield, MI, Columbus Torah Academy in Ohio, Yeshivat Rambam in Baltimore, and Torah Academy of Philadelphia. There are also numerous organizations and day schools in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut region.

The fair is being held in conjunction with the Institute for University-School Partnership, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, YSU, TAC, the Career Development Center and the Jewish Social Enterprise Training.

For information and registration, visit jewishjobs@yu.edu.

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Feb 23, 2009 — Four students at The Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy /Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) were named finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program after performing extremely well on their Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Tests (PSAT/NMSQT). Three of the academically talented seniors are New Jersey natives Yosef Kornbluth and Moshe Shulman of Teaneck and Eli Putterman, of Bergenfield.

“These are some of the most gifted students to ever come through the school,” said Dr. Edward Berliner, professor of physics at YU, who teaches calculus and AP physics at YUHSB and directs the new Honors College for gifted students. “They all worked extraordinarily hard and I was extremely fortunate to have had all four as my students.”

The National Merit Scholarship Program is an academic competition for recognition and scholarships that began in 1955. Awards are given annually to students with the highest PSAT/ NMSQT selection index scores (critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills scores) qualifying them for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Of the approximately 1.5 million entrants from over 21,000 high schools, about 15,000 or less than 1 percent advance to finalists standing.

To become a finalist, students must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed by their principal, and earn SAT scores that confirm the students’ earlier performance on the qualifying test. The finalists continue in the running for the opportunity to compete for some 8,200 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $35 million, which will be offered next spring.

“I was very excited when I found out I was named a finalist,” said Shulman, who aspires to join the YU honors program and pursue a degree in math or science. “It is truly a great honor to receive this award.”

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