Yeshiva University News » 2009 » May » 19

May 19, 2009 — Madison Square Garden’s WaMu Theater was alive with energy, excitement and emotion at Yeshiva University’s 78th Commencement Ceremony on Thursday, May 14. President Richard M. Joel conferred honorary degrees upon Rabbi Dr. Jacob Haberman, founder of real estate ownership and management company Haberman & Haberman; Sylvia Axelrod Herskowitz, former director of the YU Museum; Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld of Young Israel of Kew Garden Hills, NY; and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Broadway hit In the Heights. Dr. David Shatz, the highly popular professor of philosophy at YU’s Stern College for Women gave the commencement address and was awarded the Presidential Medallion, the highest honor bestowed on a member of the faculty or administration for excellent service.

Shatz, who graduated as Yeshiva College’s valedictorian 40 years earlier, paid tribute to the institution that had nurtured his intellectual and spiritual development. “Far more than I have done for Yeshiva University, it has done for me,” he said, recalling fondly “the schools that educated me, the teachers I loved, and the students I taught.”

Addressing the Class of 2009, YU President Richard M. Joel encouraged them to repair the world by sharing their blessings with their community, with the Jewish people and the world. “It is not always easy but it always matters. The generation you join is one that is hungry for meaning and community,” the President said. “Be prepared to join with them while recognizing difference and even profound disagreement. All this you have been taught. All this you have learned. It’s time to lovingly lead.”

Uri Westrich of Teaneck, NJ, valedictorian of Yeshiva College, picked up on the theme of teamwork in his speech. “During my time at YU, I found time and again that my efforts were more productive when working with other people,” Westrich said to his fellow graduates. “Our duty as Jewish people is to look past our differences and work together to create a better future.”

Brooklyn’s Edmond Ainehsazan, originally from Tehran, Iran, was the James Striar School of General Jewish Studies valedictorian. “YU has provided me with an exceptional education where I could pursue my college degree together with enriching my Jewish knowledge,” reflected Ainehsazan, a biology major who plans on attending medical school. “It was a once in a lifetime experience that enabled me to flourish both intellectually and spiritually.”

The other valedictorians this year included Sara Enna Twersky of Riverdale, NY, Stern College’s Judaic studies valedictorian; Grace Charles of New York City; Stern College’s general studies valedictorian; Moshe Fink of Riverdale, Sy Syms School of Business men’s valedictorian; Chava Schwartz of Highland Park, NJ, Sy Syms women’s valedictorian; Yaakov Ehrenkranz of Memphis, TN, Mazer Yeshiva Program valedictorian; Roy Hilf of Haifa, Israel and San Paolo, Brazil, Isaac Breuer College of Hebraic Studies valedictorian; and Evan Hirschhorn of Spring Valley, NY, Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program valedictorian.

In all, more than 2,000 graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, as well as undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, will be awarded degrees this commencement season.


(L-R) Shane Fischman, Rochelle Brand, and Ruth Fried

May 19, 2009 — A curious person by nature, Shane Fischman of Woodmere, NY had been interested in learning more about Western culture’s obsession with weight, overall appearance and its unrealistic “ideal” body image. Fischman, a senior at Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) in Holliswood, New York, was particularly interested in seeing how this phenomenon occurred among Jewish girls in the Orthodox community. After spending a year and a half studying the subject, Fischman wrote a research paper entitled “The Effects of Parental Pressure and Community Pressure on the Body Image of Adolescent Girls in the Typical Orthodox Jewish Community.”

As part of her research Fischman read over a hundred articles and studies on body image, eating disorders, and perfectionism and sent out anonymous surveys to girls at local yeshivas and public schools between the ages of 11 and 18. She also surveyed the participants’ parents so that she could determine the effects of parental pressures on their children.

Fischman’s research found that parents who are perfectionists tend to raise daughters who are perfectionists, regardless of community type. She also determined that a Jewish mother’s perfectionism has a direct effect on her daughter’s body dissatisfaction, awareness of the community’s obsession over body image and drive for thinness.

“Shane is an exceptionally creative student and I applaud her initiative in researching such an important issue affecting young women in the Orthodox Jewish community,” said teacher Ruth Fried, science department chairperson at YUHSG and creator of the YUHSG Science Institute. “I believe that her research will be used as a springboard to help our girls and their parents deal better with the pressures of our world.”

Fischman’s research earned her an award from the American Psychological Association and led to her being named finalist at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair in the category of behavioral and social science. In addition she was named a Young Epidemiologist Scholars semifinalist, receiving a $1,000 scholarship.

“Shane is a unique individual with an infectious curiosity and love of learning,” said Rochelle Brand, head of school at YUHSG. “We are very proud of her accomplishments.”

Despite her passion for research, Fischman has other career aspirations. “I want to get involved in government and politics,” said Fischman. “My time at YUHSG has transformed me from a naturally curious person to someone who wants to take action, and make a difference. I’ve become more involved in community life and have grown more proud of my religion.”

To learn more about Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls visit