Yeshiva University News » 2009 » March

The Lions squared off against the Rams in the Sarachek final.

Mar 31, 2009 — Chants of “M-T-A” and “R-A-M-S! Rams! Rams! Rams!” reverberated throughout the filled-to-capacity crowd at Yeshiva University’s Max Stern Athletic Center as hundreds of students, parents and alumni gathered to watch the 18th annual Red Sarachek Basketball Tournament championship game between the Yeshiva University High School for Boys / Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (YUHSB) Lions and the Ramaz Rams—both of Manhattan. In the end, Ramaz’s defense proved too tough for the Lions as the Rams pulled away with a 48-26 victory.

View a gallery of photos from the event.

“I’d like to congratulate Ramaz on their win. They played a great game,” said YUHSB Head Coach Daniel Gibber. “Today just wasn’t our day, but it was an incredible season and I’m extremely proud of my guys.”

Daniel Klein, a senior guard for the Lions, echoed the coach’s sentiments. “We gave it all we had and it was exciting just being here,” Klein said.

The championship capped off a week of thrilling basketball for the 20 teams participating in the tournament.

“This was a lot of fun,” said Jacob Moskowitz, a senior guard for Los Angeles’ Shalhevet Hebrew High School. “It was cool bonding with Jews from other parts of the world.”

The tournament, named for the legendary Bernard “Red” Sarachek—head men’s basketball coach at YU for over 25 years—was established in 1992 as a way to honor Sarachek’s accomplishments and contributions to the sport and the Jewish community. Since the inception of the tournament, nine different schools have been crowned champions.

“The tournament provides students from diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to meet and compete with their counterparts,” said Michael Kranzler, YU director of undergraduate admissions. In addition to basketball, many players spent Shabbat together off-campus, leading to a sense of sportsmanship that could be felt throughout the tournament.

“My team was looking forward to the opportunity to reunite with old friends and make new ones,” said Yeshivat Or Chaim (Toronto) Head Coach Jason Blackwell, who found the tournament to be “a great team-building experience.”

Championships were awarded to the top four tiers with Ramaz winning Tier 1, Or Chaim winning Tier 2, Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy (Rockville, MD) winning Tier 3, and Shalhevet winning Tier 4.

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Rabbi Hyman and Ann Arbesfeld, longtime supporters of YU, were honored by President Richard M. Joel.

Mar 26, 2009 — The Yeshiva University High Schools Annual Dinner of Tribute at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on March 22 honored Rabbi Hyman and Ann Arbesfeld, YU Benefactors with deep roots in the YU community.

Rabbi and Mrs. Arbesfeld endowed the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon and the Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon in memory of Rabbi Arbesfeld’s parents. They also established a Kollel Fellowship at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in memory of Ann’s parents, Benjamin and Rose Berger.

Rabbi Arbesfeld graduated from Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) and Yeshiva College, and received semikhah [ordination] from RIETS. Mrs. Arbesfeld served as the president of YU Women’s Organization for 10 years and continues her involvement as a member of its executive council. The Arbesfeld children are alumni of YUHS and the Arbesfeld grandchildren currently attend the high schools.

“We could not be more satisfied with what the schools have done for our children’s education, ego and esteem,” Saul Stromer YH’78, who has two children at the high schools, said in his welcoming remarks. “A Yeshiva University High School education is like vitamins—it fortifies you for the rest of your life.”

The program also singled out the hard work of two faculty members: Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson, in his bar-mitzvah year at YUHSB, and Deena Rabinovich at YUHSG.

Rabbi Mendelson serves as the rebbe of the Advanced Honors Masmidim track in 11th grade at YUHSB. He was awarded the Joseph S. and Caroline Gruss Excellent Teachers Fund Award and the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education from the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York.

Mrs. Rabinovich serves as the YUHSG Israel guidance coordinator and teaches Chumash to the 11th grade. A graduate of Stern College for Women, she is an EdD candidate at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. Mrs. Rabinovich is a 2007 recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and the 1996 Joseph S. and Caroline Gruss Excellent Teachers Fund Award.

In his address, President Richard M. Joel told the enthusiastic crowd that everyone in the room was partners in the continuum of building the next generation of the Jewish people. “There’s nothing more important for us, for Klal Yisroel [the people of Israel], or for the world,” President Joel said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of staying on the course, but we’re going to do it together.”



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Mar 25, 2009 — Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have previously shown that the co-mingling of three cell types can predict whether localized breast cancer will spread throughout the body. Now, a collaborative study led by investigators at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center has produced a test for metastasis that could help doctors precisely identify which patients should receive aggressive therapy.

This might spare many women at low risk for metastatic disease from undergoing unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatment. The findings were published today in the online version of Clinical Cancer Research.

“This is the first marker that could reliably predict metastatic outcome in a case-controlled study,” said study co-author John S. Condeelis, PhD, professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology and co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center at Einstein. “It could dramatically change the way we approach the care of women with breast cancer.”

The test, which most pathology labs could carry out, was developed by scientists at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell based on the intravital imaging observations of researchers from Einstein.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Last year, approximately 182,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 died from the disease.

Tumors in breast cancer patients are graded for degree of differentiation and staged for the extent of disease. Surgery is the first line of defense for most patients with breast cancer. For patients with higher grade tumors, additional treatment with chemotherapy or radiation is typically recommended to decrease the risk that the disease will spread.

However, studies show that only 40 percent of these patients actually do develop metastatic disease. “What this means is that most of these patients are unnecessarily exposed to chemotherapy or radiation, which can have significant side effects or even worsen the disease,” said Dr. Condeelis.

Recently, Dr. Condeelis found that breast cancer spreads only when a specific trio of cells are present together in the same microanatomic site: an endothelial cell (a type of cell that lines the blood vessels), a perivascular macrophage (a type of immune cell found near blood vessels), and a tumor cell that produces Mena. The protein Mena was shown to enhance a cancer cell’s invasiveness in a collaborative study from Dr. Condeelis and Frank Gertler at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT published in Developmental Cell in December. A site with these three cells constitutes what is called a tumor microenvironment of metastasis, or TMEM.

The New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell investigators, aided by the Einstein and MIT scientists, then developed a tissue test to detect the presence and density of TMEMs. The test consists of a triple immunostain containing antibodies to the three cell types. A high number of TMEMs in a tissue sample means that the tumor is likely to metastasize or has already done so.

In the current study, the immunostain was tested on breast tissue biopsy samples taken from 30 patients with advanced metastatic breast cancer and 30 patients with localized breast cancer, all of whom had been followed for at least five years. The resulting immunostains were evaluated by two pathologists who were not aware of the patients’ clinical outcomes.

Their analysis confirmed that TMEM density was significantly higher in patients who had developed metastatic breast cancer than in those who had localized disease. For every ten-unit increase in TMEM density, the risk for metastatic disease doubled. The density of any of three TMEM components alone was not sufficient to predict clinical outcome.

The study also showed that the ability of the TMEM density test to predict metastatic disease was independent of other currently used predictors, including lymph node metastasis, tumor size, presence of lymphovascular invasion, and tumor grade.

While the new test promises to reduce overtreatment of breast cancer, it could reduce undertreatment as well.

“There are some patients with Grade 1 breast cancer who ultimately develop metastatic disease,” said Dr. Condeelis. “By measuring TMEM counts, we could identify those people and treat them appropriately.”

The researchers are currently working on a blood test for predicting metastatic breast cancer. In theory, such a test could predict the risk of metastatic disease even before a tumor forms. “It could be part of a routine checkup, especially for women with a strong family history of the disease,” said Dr. Condeelis. Before such a blood test could be developed for commercial use, researchers will need to conduct a population study.

The paper, “TMEM in Human Breast Carcinoma: A Potential Prognostic Marker Linked to Hematogenous Dissemination,” was published March 24, 2009 in the online version of Clinical Cancer Research.

In addition to Dr. Condeelis, the co-authors of the paper include: Brian D. Robinson, Gabriel L. Sica, Yi-Fang Liu, Joan G. Jones of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center; Frank B. Gertler of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Thomas E. Rohan, professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.

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“The Forward” editor Jane Eisner and "Jewish Week" publisher and editor Gary Rosenblatt speak with students after the discussion.

Mar 24, 2009 — All the news that’s fit to print takes on different connotations when discussing Jewish newspapers and their coverage of issues of interest to the Jewish community. This was the focus of a panel entitled, “Jews and News: Ethics in News Reporting,” at the Wilf Campus and organized by uundergraduate students.

Ilana Hostyk, a Stern College for Women student who moderated the discussion, posed pointed questions to the editors from the top Jewish newspapers in the metropolitan areas including Jane Eisner, editor of “The Forward”; Shlomo Greenwald, associate editor of “The Jewish Press”; Josh Nathan-Kazis, editor of “New Voices Magazine”; and Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the “Jewish Week.”

The event was sponsored by the YU College Democrats, Yeshiva Student Union and Stern College Student Council.

Among the questions driving the discussion were what makes an article or event Jewish; how does a Jewish paper handle stories that may reflect negatively on the Jewish community; and should Israel coverage be even-handed?

“We try to find a Jewish angle to news stories and we pride ourselves on being independent and telling stories factually in the very best tradition of journalism,” said Eisner. “As far as Israel is concerned, we all have our own emotions about Israel and it’s unrealistic to be objective about it, yet we refrain from bringing our own biases into our reporting.”

While the “Jewish Week” covers the Jewish community, it isn’t a source of hard news for their readers. “We strive to find unusual angles not found in other papers and we’re sensitive to community concerns,” said Rosenblatt. “The ultimate challenge is to strike a balance between ‘Jewish’ journalism and ethics.”

Not surprisingly, sometimes Halacha [Jewish law] plays a more dominant role in covering stories than journalism, Greenwald pointed out. “As Jewish journalists, we shouldn’t be passive bystanders to controversy playing out in the Jewish community,” the “Jewish Press” editor said. “However, at the same time we must be committed to reporting news in a halachically appropriate way.”

As editor of “New Voices,” Nathan-Kazis is more focused on coverage of Israel and generally has a left-leaning posture. “How can we cover Israel evenhandedly?” he asked. The “Jewish Week” supports Israel, said Rosenblatt, but that doesn’t preclude criticism of Israeli policies.

In contrast to “The Forward” or “Jewish Week,” the “Jewish Press” primarily carries opinion pieces, and is very pro-Israel. Eisner would like to see her paper’s role as a catalyst to bring Jewish people together. “Sometimes our role is to help Americans stay Jewish,” she said.

“It was invaluable for us as students to see the moral rationale that guides each of the Jewish publications,” said Perel Skier, a Stern senior. “We got to see several different points of view and how that affects their selection of material and their treatment of Jewish stories.”

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Mar 19, 2009 — Applying for financial aid may seem daunting in this economy but it just became much easier thanks to Yeshiva University’s new blog, Bob Can Help, at www.yu.edu/bobcanhelp. On the blog Robert Friedman, university director of student finance, shares his expertise with students, parents and financial aid officers around the country.

Friedman, a nationally recognized expert in financial aid at universities who has been at YU since 2003, offers a practical guide for students navigating the maze of financial aid “no matter where they’re applying,” he said. “I address the main question on everyone’s mind: how to afford a college education.”

Friedman is an active member of professional associations such as the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). He was previously director of student aid at Teachers College, Columbia University and held senior positions at Fordham University and DePaul University.

Blog postings include “Five Tips for When Financial Hardship Hits Home,” “The Five Top Financial Aid Myths,” “The Top Five Realities,” and advice on filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The site also includes a video clip of Friedman explaining financial aid, relevant articles in “The New York Times” and “Wall Street Journal” and useful links, including a link to follow him on Twitter.
The blog is updated weekly with content based on timely issues and questions Friedman receives in emails.

With FAFSA applications due soon for next year, it’s a good thing Bob’s blogging: more people are filing this year, they’re filing earlier and many feel paralyzed by fear about how they’ll afford college tuition, he said.

“As the economy continues to struggle, financial aid is prominent in the minds of students, parents and the media,” says John Fisher, director of enrollment management.

Friedman was recently quoted in the “Seattle Times” and CNBC and on Bankrate.com.

Fisher added, “We are well positioned to establish prominence in this field because Friedman is a well-known professional, and YU has maintained a reputation for integrity at a time when the financial aid operation at many schools has been shown to have an untoward relationship with student loan lenders.”

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Mar 19, 2009 — Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have identified genetic markers that signal poor outcomes for patients with head and neck cancer. These findings could one day lead to a genetic test that could help select or predict successful treatment options for patients with this type of cancer. The results were published in the American Journal of Pathology.

Head and neck cancer refers to tumors in the mouth, throat or larynx (voice box). Each year, about 40,000 men and women in the U.S. develop head and neck cancer, making it the sixth most common cancer in the U.S.

Surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation are the main treatment options but cause serious side effects: surgery may involve removing large areas of the tongue, throat or neck and can affect appearance, and any type of therapy can cause swallowing or speech problems that can significantly affect quality of life. Despite curative treatment attempts, on average only about half of patients survive beyond five years after treatment. This is greatly affected by the size and location of the tumor.

The Einstein study focuses on microRNAs, a recently identified class of short RNA molecules that play key roles in regulating gene expression. Abnormal microRNA levels have been associated with all types of cancer yet examined.

In previous research, the Einstein scientists and other groups reported that approximately 50 specific microRNAs were expressed at higher or lower levels in head and neck tumor cell lines compared with normal cells. In this study, the Einstein researchers, for the first time, have linked levels of specific microRNAs with tumor recurrence and poorer survival in head and neck cancer.

The Einstein team analyzed samples from 104 head and neck cancer patients from Montefiore Medical Center, the university hospital and academic medical center for Einstein. The patients were treated and followed over five years. At the time of cancer diagnosis and before any therapy, researchers removed samples tumor tissue from patients, as well as normal tissue adjacent to their tumor, and measured microRNA levels in the two types of tissue.

Patients who fared worst had the lowest levels of two particular microRNAs-miR-205 and let-7d-in their tumor tissue. Specifically, these patients were four times more likely to have an earlier metastasis or local-regional recurrence of their cancer than patients with higher levels of miR-205 and let-7d in tumor tissue.

These findings may eventually be put to practical use, allowing physicians to identify potentially aggressive head and neck cancers and choose the most appropriate treatment.

“A biologic marker identifying aggressive tumors would allow us to direct therapy more appropriately, minimizing over or under-treatment,” explained Richard Smith, MD, the lead clinician on the paper. Dr. Smith is associate professor of clinical otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery and associate professor of surgery at Einstein, and vice-chair of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Einstein and Montefiore.

“In addition, these molecules, or modified forms of these molecules, can potentially be used in treatment because their small size allows them to be reintroduced into cells with the possibility of altering the behavior of a tumor,” says Geoffrey Childs, PhD, professor of pathology at Einstein and corresponding author of the article.

“Our next steps are to confirm these results in a new patient population and to find additional markers that would allow us to develop a reproducible and accurate prognostic test,” explained Nicolas Schlecht, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology and population health, and of medicine at Einstein. Dr. Schlecht is also the Miriam Mandel faculty scholar in cancer research and a senior author of the paper.

Other Einstein and Montefiore faculty members involved in this study were Melissa Fazzari, Margaret Brandwein-Gensler, Quan Chen, Robert Burk, Michael Prystowsky and Thomas Belbin.

The paper, titled “Low-Level Expression of MicroRNAs let-7d and miR-205 are Prognostic Markers of Head and Neck Squamos Cell Carcinoma,” appeared in the March 2009 issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

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Mar 18, 2009 — The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Tzohar, the largest organization of religious Zionist rabbis in Israel, ran a Shabbaton Seminar this past weekend for over 40 rabbis and lay leaders from around Israel with the goal of strengthening Israeli communities by transforming their synagogues into community centers.

The Jerusalem-based seminar served as the first stage of the training program for the Open Communities Project, the flagship initiative of Tzohar, which was founded to repair the divide between secular and observant Israelis.

Bolstered by the CJF’s extensive experience in the cultivation and support of Jewish communities throughout North America, the comprehensive project aims to train and guide over 400 talented rabbis and incorporate them into communities across Israel over the next 10 years. These rabbis will participate in an ongoing training program that will focus on the role of the rabbi in the community and the challenges that they are certain to face.

“This initiative endeavors to provide Israeli rabbis and lay leaders with the tools they need to mirror the North American model, successfully integrating a rabbinical figure into the community structure and refocusing the goals of the lay leadership toward the revitalization of the synagogue,” explained Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the CJF, who made a special visit to Israel to attend the event.

Over the weekend, the seminar’s attendees participated in a variety of workshops, lectures and discussions that helped them better understand the issues facing Israeli society – including the absence of Jewish values from the public arena – and verbalize their own visions for the futures of their communities.

“Our goal is to make rabbis more accessible and relevant to all sectors of the community, and to promote the synagogue as a community center and safe haven for secular and religious Israelis alike,” said Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, director of the Open Communities Project. “Our collaboration with the CJF gives us confidence that we can achieve these goals.”

During the project’s trial run in 2008, 10 communities – from as far north as Zichron and as far south as Arad – experienced the reintroduction of rabbinic figures and development of lay leadership activities with very positive results. Tzohar hopes to reach out to approximately 20 new communities by the end of 2009, with another CJF-led seminar scheduled for June.

The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Tzohar, the largest organization of religious Zionist rabbis in Israel, ran a Shabbaton Seminar this past weekend for over 40 rabbis and lay leaders from around Israel with the goal of strengthening Israeli communities by transforming their synagogues into community centers.
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Mar 16, 2009 — With cultural, political, economic and military ties never stronger and more apparent between Israel and India, international leaders and scholars will convene at Yeshiva University for a two-day conference, entitled “Israel and India: A Relationship Comes of Age,” on March 30-31. In light of the recent tragedies in Mumbai, the conference will be dedicated to the memories of those who lost their lives in the attacks.

A project of YU’s Center for Israel Studies (CIS) and the Institute for Public Health Sciences (IPHS), the conference, a highlight of a year-long program at Yeshiva University celebrating the deepening ties between Israel and India, will explore the many facets of this evolving relationship. The discussions will promote a social climate of tolerance, understanding, partnership and growth.

The conference, open to the public at no cost, will be held at the Yeshiva University Museum, 15 West 16th Street, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on March 30.

“What better way to celebrate 60 years of independence than to build upon the already rich, connected history that these two countries share,” said Dr. Steven Fine, director of YU’s Center for Israel Studies. “We are honored to host leading Israeli and Indian authorities from the worlds of business, politics and medicine to discuss advancing this relationship for the betterment of both countries.”

Israel and India face a number of common challenges and have a shared interest in fostering alliances to bolster economic growth. Dedicated sessions led by Israeli and Indian business leaders and scholars will explore these various challenges and discuss opportunities for the development of strategic partnerships that continue to strengthen each country.

“At a time when terrorism is challenging bonds of cooperation and friendship between various parts of the globe, the conference is a celebration of democracy and friendship,” said Sonia Suchday, PhD, co-director, Institute of Public Health Sciences at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.

Congressman Ackerman, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where he plays major leadership roles in flash point areas of the world, will give the featured address March 30 at 10 a.m. Ackerman is heavily involved in U.S. policy involving national security, nuclear proliferation and terrorism issues in areas such as the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Scholars participating in panels throughout the two-day conference include:
- Dr. Nathan Katz, professor and founding chair of the Department of Religious Studies, as well as founder-director of the Center for the Study of Spirituality, at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami. Arguably the world’s authority on Indian Jewish communities, he is co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies
- Professor Maina Chawla Singh, instructor at the College of Vocational Studies of Delhi University and Advisory Board Member of Global Alliance for Women’s Health
- Professor Efraim Inbar, director, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and professor of political studies at Bar Ilan University
- Professor P.R. Kumaraswamy, professor of international studies at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India
- Professor Gad Ariav, head of High-Tech Management School and Faculty of Management, Leon Recanati School of Business at Tel Aviv University
- Dr. Amit Kapoor, professor of strategy and industrial economics at Management Development Institute (India) and Honorary Chairman at Institute for Competitiveness
- Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, director general of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Israel
- Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India

Serving as moderators throughout the conference are:
- Raji Viswanathan, associate professor, Department of Chemistry at Yeshiva University
- Ruth Bevan Dunner, senior professor of the Department of Political Science at Yeshiva University
- Steven Fine, professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University and director of YU’s Center for Israel Studies
- Michael Ginzberg, dean and professor of management and information systems at Sy Syms School of Business, Yeshiva University
- Paul Marantz, associate dean for clinical research education at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
- Sonia Suchday, associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University

To register for this conference or see the full program of speakers and topics , visit the Center’s Web site or call 212-960-0189.

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Mar 16, 2009 — Four exhibits taking their inspiration from the world of Jewish life and tradition in a rich variety of media are opening to the public at the Yeshiva University Museum in February and March.

I of the Storm: Michael Hafftka, Recent Work, March 22 – Aug. 30, 2009

After more than 30 years of portraying the human figure with a neo-expressionist style, Michael Hafftka turns to his Jewish heritage for subject matter and inspiration in his new exhibition, “I of the Storm: Michael Hafftka, Recent Work.”. Frequently compared to the painters Soutine, Goya and Rouault, Hafftka here makes use of mystical images, biblical themes and the Hebrew alphabet in watercolors and oils.

A group of watercolors based on “The Zohar,” or Book of Splendor serves as a visual exegesis of this 13th-century Jewish mystical text, which is widely considered the most important work of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. Several recent oil painting focus on Jewish or biblical themes including “The Flood,” “Honi Ha Me’aggel” (Honi the Circledrawer) and “Babel.” A centerpiece of this group is “The Hill (Jerusalem),” a large-scale triptych that the artist recently donated to the YU Museum.

The son of Holocaust survivors and refugees from Europe, Hafftka was born in Manhattan in 1953 and raised in the Bronx. After the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973, he volunteered to work on a Kibbutz in Israel for a year. The experience, which the artist says was accompanied by a series of visions and mystical dreams, led him to experiment with painting, which became his true vocation.

Hafftka’s work is represented in the permanent collections of, among others, The Metropolitan Museum, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, New York Public Library Collection, Housatonic Museum of Art, Arizona State University Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, and the Yeshiva University Museum.

Joseph, the Bull and the Rose by Anette Pier, Feb. 26– Aug. 30, 2009

Mexican artist Anette Pier takes the theme of the bull (shor) and the bull fight (fiesta brava) and relates it to the multi-faceted biblical figure of Joseph in her exhibition “Joseph, the Bull and the Rose.”

Working from within her Jewish-Mexican tradition, Pier builds upon the image of the bull as a metaphor for Joseph’s magnetism, charisma, and acquired identity. The artist visually demonstrates how bullfighting is a dance and power play, with the matador paralleling Joseph’s relationship with his brothers. The metaphor serves as a thread through this collection of 20 mixed-media paintings.

The allegorical references in Pier’s exhibition derive from Midrashim—later interpretations and commentaries on the biblical text through later sources. By comparing the biblical Joseph with the more recent traditions of the bullfight, the artist highlights tensions embedded in the original text, while also commenting on ways biblical tradition has been reinterpreted and adapted by later, especially Mexican, culture.

Pier studied painting and philosophy and received a medical degree from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico. She has shown solo and collective exhibits in both Mexico and the United States.

Final Mourner’s Kaddish: 333 Days in Paintings by Max Miller, March 24 – Aug. 16, 2009

Max Miller’s grief provides the inspiration for a vivid, moving and cathartic account of his year spent saying Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, for his father.

The 50 vibrant watercolors, considered by the artist to be a coherent unit, are painted on paper. They depict the synagogues Miller visited in New York, Vermont, Ohio and Florida. Accompanying the images is the artist’s commentary, based on his thoughts, feelings and experiences with those he met during this pursuit. While honoring the Jewish tradition of memorializing a parent, he came to learn a great deal about his father and their shared heritage.

Miller is known for his abstract paintings that embrace color and line, as well as his figurative paintings of human and animal subjects. He has had exhibitions in New York City and throughout the East Coast. He received his BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and MFA from Yale University. He has been awarded numerous fellowships, including a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and two Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants.

After the death of his father, Murray A. Miller, who grew up Orthodox with Yiddish as his first language, Miller chose to undertake the custom of saying Kaddish, a prayer of mourning exalting the name of God, which is recited in the presence of a congregation daily for eleven months.

As an historic record and for personal reasons, he created a watercolor of each place he said Kaddish. The exhibition also features a stunning portrait of Miller’s father against a silver leaf background – an image of iconic and descriptive power that sets the tone for the show.

While saying Kaddish has formally ended for Mr. Miller, bringing this project to fruition provides an opportunity for those within the Jewish community, and for those in other communities, of all ages, to witness and honor the tradition of the Mourner’s Kaddish, and to reflect on their own humanity and spiritual journeys.

Exhibition Sponsor: New York Foundation for the Arts

Testimony and Memory: Contemporary Miniature Torah Mantles by Carole Smollan, Feb. 26 – July 26, 2009

The beauty of the fabrics and the high degree of skill lavished on Torah mantles are a measure of the regard in which the Torah is held. The mantles “dress” and protect the sacred, handwritten scroll comprising the first five books of Moses. In “Testimony and Memory: Contemporary Miniature Torah Mantles,” London artist Carole Smollan reinterprets these ceremonial covers using remnants from huppot (wedding canopies) that she designed for couples from around the world.

This collection of 56 exquisitely detailed miniature mantles exhibit an extraordinary range of decorative variation. Smollan employs a variety of stitching techniques and other embellishments, such as applied lace, linking this body of work to her early career in lace and lingerie design. In addition to specializing in traditional processes, such as Japanese shibori, Smollan has developed her own technique of “bleeding” silk. These pattern-dyeing techniques, she believes, epitomize the way in which cloth retains the memory of any action that is performed on it.

Additional resonance is generated by the fact that all of the textile fragments and trimmings used to construct the mantles come from the artist’s treasured store of off-cuts and rejected portions of other textile projects.

A small, moving series of Torah mantles tells the story of Smollan’s own family exodus from Lithuania to South Africa; these objects are artificially aged and stained and incorporate fragments of family travel documents and ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts), photographs, and other memorabilia. Other imagery on the Torah mantles is more traditional – the Tree of Life, the menorah (seven-branched lamp), the Ark of the Covenant, and Hebrew prayers and words spoken at life-cycle ceremonies.

Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Smollan does not remember a time when textiles were not a part of her life. In the 1990s she emigrated from South Africa to London. She describes her large collection of miniature Torah mantles as a “collective memory,” a weaving together (to use a textile metaphor) of her life’s artistic work and personal history.

Smollan works out of studios in London and Portugal. Her work has been exhibited internationally for almost forty years.

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Students talk to Rabbi Mayer Twersky, a rosh yeshiva.

Mar 12, 2009 — More than 650 young men in the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program converged on Jerusalem last Saturday night for a special Melave Malke Kumsitz hosted by Yeshiva University in Israel to mark the end of Shabbat. The event was the first of its kind, bringing together students from 23 different yeshivas from across Israel to mingle with each other and meet, dance with and hear divrei Torah [words of Torah wisdom] from Rabbis Michael Rosensweig, Hershel Shachter and Mayer Twersky, all roshei yeshiva [professors of Talmud] at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York City.

“We were thrilled by the response for this event,” said Rabbi Ari Solomont, director of the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program. “It demonstrates how eager these young men are to hear from and be inspired by our roshei yeshiva.”

The Saturday night event included an all-you-can-eat hot buffet and entertainment by musician Ari Goldwag.

Alex Porcelain, who learns at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and plans to attend Yeshiva University as an honors student, said the Melave Malka was “awesome.” “It was a great opportunity to meet the roshei yeshiva on a more personal level. The top notch food, lively music and incredibly leibedik [lively] dancing allowed guys from yeshivot all over Israel to meet and have a fun time together,” Porcelain said.

“Now that the YU guys in Israel are more oriented with the roshei yeshiva and their peers, everyone’s really excited for their upcoming years at YU, knowing what great opportunities lay ahead,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of the rabbis, Rabbi Rosensweig said, “It gave them all great sipuk hanefesh [spiritual satisfaction] to see so many talmidim [students] from various yeshivot and how Yeshiva University is a unifying force that can bring them all together.”

The event followed a special Shabbaton at YU in Israel’s campus for the nearly 40 applicants to the Yeshiva Masmidim Honors Program, which is open to those who excel in their Torah studies in Israel and who will adhere to advanced standards of study once at Yeshiva College in New York. The students had a chance to hear from Rabbi Ari Zahtz, who made the trip from New York specifically for the Shabbaton. The other rabbis were in Israel to interview applicants for the honors program.

Rabbi Solomont said he hopes to build on the success of the evening and noted that it offered students another reminder of the services YU in Israel offers, such as this year’s Summer Kollel for students wanting to continue studying Torah in the Holy Land through the summer.

“There are really a lot of meaningful things going on here for our students,” Rabbi Solomont said. “The atmosphere here is really one that gives meaning to the goal of bringing wisdom to life.”

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March 2009
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