Yeshiva University News » 2009 » June

Jun 30, 2009 — Affirming its status as a pioneer in advanced Talmud and Judaic study for women and its four decade long commitment to developing Orthodox Jewish women as scholars, teachers, and community leaders, Yeshiva University, through its Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), will sponsor the Women’s Beit Midrash Fellows Program next month.

The program, “Crisis, Hope and Leadership in Jewish Tradition,” which will take place at Lincoln Square Synagogue, 200 Amsterdam Avenue, from July 6 to July 29, is designed to provide women of all ages and Jewish educational backgrounds with the knowledge and tools to become Judaic scholars, community leaders, and role models for the Orthodox community.

The program is a component of the CJF’s annual Manhattan Beit Midrash Community Program, which has offerings for men, women and youth at Lincoln Square Synagogue.

Highlighting this year’s Women’s Beit Midrash Fellows Program will be a mini-course on Mondays and Wednesdays led by Elana Stein Hain, who completed advanced studies in Talmud at YU’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS) and current Community Scholar at Lincoln Square Synagogue, the first woman to hold such a position at the prominent New York house of worship. The position is sponsored by the CJF.

Hain’s mini-course, “Chabura: Sugya Survey Workshop,” will focus on a sampling of sugyot (Mishnaic texts) which are ripe for both the yeshiva/Brisker (Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik) method as well as academic perspectives. The workshop will include 30 minutes of chavruta (group study) helping participants develop and sharpen their learning skills.

“Women are partners in the leadership of the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “What this program does is provide the tools for them to grow intellectually and develop the knowledge necessary to take on this role. It’s an outgrowth of our commitment to women’s leadership and Jewish education that dates back 40 years to the founding of Stern College for Women, the Midreshet Yom Rishon held weekly on the YU campus, the GPATS program and numerous leadership fellowships for women.”

In addition to Hain, the faculty for the Women’s Beit Midrash Fellows Program includes Rabbi Moshe Kahn, a faculty member of Stern College, the GPATS program, and the Drisha Institute, who will address the “The Call of the Shofar: A Halakhic Analysis” on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays; and Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster, an Assistant Professor of Bible at Yeshiva College, who will focus on “Sefer Yeshayahu: Text and History” on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, Rabbi Brander will give a special shiur on “Justice, Human Rights and Morality: The Ethics of Warfare” on Tuesday, July 14 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

“I am thrilled to be part of this progressive program,” said Ms. Hain. It gives me great satisfaction to help foster a vibrant environment of leadership and learning for women of all ages who, like me, have a deep interest in becoming scholars and role models within their community.”

For adults of all ages, there is a rotating scholar series on Tuesday evenings, a three-week course on Wednesdays, July 8, 15 and 22, and a morning program. Among the faculty will be Rabbi Hayyim Angel of Congregation Shearith Israel of New York and instructor at Yeshiva College; Yael Leibowitz, an adjunct professor at Stern College; Rebbetzin Smadar Rosensweig, professor of Bible at Stern College; Dapha Fishman Secunda, director of women’s programming at the CJF; Dr. Shai Secunda, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellow in Judaic Studies at Yale University; Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the CJF; and Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf, senior lecturer in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University.

Among the topics they will address are: “Jeremiah’s Confrontation with the Religious Establishment”; “Maimonides’ Analysis of Sefer Iyov”; “Yehudah and David”; “Theological Reflections of National Suffering”; “Interactions between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity”; “Reflections on Tisha B’Av”: “Our Patriarch Avraham”; and “Notes from the Destruction in Eichah Rabbah.”

For more information on YU summer programs or to register, please contact DFishma2@yu.edu or call 212.340.7700 x430.

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Jun 30, 2009 — On the heels of a successful conference on energy conservation on April 30, Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership convened a conference attended by 14 day schools from the Five Towns, the Rockaways and Queens to guide them in advanced fundraising strategies and techniques. The session on “How to Successfully Generate Major and Planned Gifts” was well received by the participating educational institutions, spanning the denominational spectrum, that gathered at Mesivta Ateres Yaakov in Hewlett, NY.

The speakers included Rabbi Herb Tobin, a leading fundraising consultant to Hillel and PEJE (The Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education); Dr. Eric Levine, senior vice president at UJC (United Jewish Communities); Alan Secter, director of planned giving and endowments at UJC; and Harry Bloom, the Institute’s director of planning and performance improvement.

“The Institute is committed to convening Best of the Best experts in the key areas of school affordability to give school professionals and board members hands-on tools,” said Bloom, a veteran school director of institutional advancement and fundraising consultant. “The seminars are coupled with in depth school consultations so that we are able to hone in precisely on the kinds of help schools need.”

Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, Ph.D, menahel of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov, was impressed with “the overall vision and practical approach” of the Institute.

“The professionalism and comprehensive manner in which Yeshiva University is approaching current crucial issues that all schools across the spectrum are facing is refreshing,” said Rabbi Yaffe. “We look forward to continued involvement in this developing process and benefitting from their expertise.”

Patricia Rabinowitz, director of development of the Brandeis School in Lawrence, NY, appreciated YU’s efforts in leading the charge.

“School administrators and staff need support and strategies to help them deal with this very uncertain financial climate,” said Rabinowitz. “It is great that YU can help on both counts by providing access to expertise and opportunities for collaboration.”

The Institute’s school affordability team continues its efforts to provide individual school consulting as well as community-wide school affordability programs. The upcoming school year will feature workshops in the Five Towns on maximizing annual campaign potential; tuition setting best practices; engaging the board of directors in solving the affordability crisis; and taking full advantage of federal, state and local government programs.

The Institute for University-School Partnership is a division Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. For more information on the Institute please visit www.yu.edu/azrieli/schoolpartnership or contact Harry Bloom at hbloom1@yu.edu. Five Towns/Far Rockaway schools should contact Regional Coordinator Eli Shapiro at shapiro4@yu.edu.

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Jun 29, 2009 By Dr. Jeffrey S. Gurock

While there has been abundant chest-bumping on Tel Aviv streets among Israeli basketball fans over the selection of Omri Casspi by the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the NBA draft, the odds are against this late first-round pick securing a roster spot in the world’s most competitive round ball league.

The skinny on this thin forward is that he is just not strong enough or sufficiently resourceful on the offensive end to make it at this rarified level. But were Casspi to survive the weeding out of training camp, the marketing possibilities would be endless among American Jews.

While we now do have one of our own in a loop that was once very Jewish—Jordan Farmar of the LA Lakers follows in the footsteps of Ozzie Schechtman, who made the first basket in the history of the Basketball Association of America, a forerunner of the NBA, and of Dolph Schayes who was one of the league’s greatest stars in the 1950s—if billed as an Israeli star, Casspi’s emergence would garner far more attention and excitement in our community. For more than a century, sports entrepreneurs have recognized that Jews—perhaps more than other Americans—exalt vicariously through the exploits of their sports heroes, foreign and domestic.

A little-known fact and case in point: In 1926, the greatest all-Jewish sports team of the 20th century—Hakoah Vienna, winners the previous year of the Austrian professional football crown—made a triumphant tour of the U.S. They were even fêted in the White House by President Calvin Coolidge. Taciturn Cal met with almost no one. In a stop in New York, after receiving keys to the city from Mayor James J. Walker, some 47,000 fans turned out at the Polo Grounds to watch them compete. More than 30 years would elapse until Pele would bring out larger crowds to soccer games in America. Hakoah, a Zionist club, also packed stadiums in Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis. Everywhere they went, most of the captivated audience was Jews, excited to be part of those athletic scenes. They were also very proud of that White House reception. So caught up were Jews in America with Hakoah’s successes that they largely ignored protests among Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis that three of the matches were on the Sabbath. The rabbis were out of touch with their community’s emotions.

A true believer in sports’ meritocracy, NBA Commissioner David Stern will not push the Kings to find a roster spot for Casspi. But with Casspi on board all concerned might expect a major resurgence of Jewish fan interest in the NBA. As for the Israeli athlete, massive beyond-the-contract allurements would accrue to him . Not only would the NBA store carry his uniform—perhaps with a premium jersey with Hebrew as well as English lettering—but he might be convinced to endorse his own line of kosher Israeli products despite the fact that he is a secular Jew.

That would be an interesting historical twist of fate. Hakoah—that Zionist club in the pre-Israeli state era—never considered endorsing religious values during its tour here 83 years ago. Unquestionably, it is worth it for Casspi to try his hand at the NBA before settling for the Israeli or European leagues.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University and author of Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports (Indiana U. Press).

The opinions expressed in this piece are solely the author’s and cannot be attributed to Yeshiva University.

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Jun 26, 2009 — Dr. Neer Asherie, assistant professor of physics and biology at Yeshiva University (YU), was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study protein phase behavior. The title of the grant, which will begin on September 1, 2009 and continue over three years, is “Understanding the Self-Assembly of Globular Proteins: Phase Behavior, Interactions, and Chirality.”

The award is an NSF RUI (Research at an Undergraduate Institution) grant and will support Asherie’s research with undergraduate students at YU’s Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women.

“My students and I study protein phase behavior,” explained Asherie. “In other words, we study what happens when you take a solution of proteins and change the conditions. Right now, it is impossible to predict what will happen. Our long-term goal is to make such predictions possible.

“By studying the changes which occur in protein solutions,” he added, “we hope to better understand protein condensation diseases, such as cataracts or Alzheimer’s, and improve processes such as the industrial purification of proteins.”

Asherie came to YU in 2004 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he did postdoctoral work in biophysics and where he received his PhD in physics in 1998. Since his arrival at YU, Asherie has made a great effort to involve undergraduates in his research.

Sam Blass, a recent YU graduate, was awarded an NSF graduate fellowship to the PhD program in materials science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities after spending three years conducting extensive research with Asherie.

“All those hours in the lab made me want to do more of this,” said Blass, who credits Asherie’s “love of science and his eagerness to share it with his students” as inspiring him to pursue a career in research.

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Jun 25, 2009 — Yeshiva University brought the public health systems of India and the United States closer together in September 2007 when President Richard M. Joel signed a memo of understanding with his counterpart from the Public Health Foundation of India. Now the two have joined forces with Haifa University in Israel to collaborate on research and educational opportunities for faculty and students at all three institutions.

The three-way international agreement was signed by leaders from the three organizations in Israel on June 22. The initiative was developed by Dr. Sonia Suchday, co-director with Dr. Paul Marantz of YU’s Institute of Public Health Sciences, and Dr. Yael Latzer, associate professor at Haifa University’s Department of Social Welfare and Health Sciences.

Suchday first initiated close ties with India’s public health community last summer, when she led a group of undergraduate and graduate students taking a course on global health on a trip to Mumbai. There, they conducted research with students at St. Xavier’s College, learned about Indian approaches to medicine and health and visited the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a premier graduate research institute. The global health course is running again this summer, with a follow-up trip to Mumbai scheduled for the middle of July.

The Institute for Public Health Sciences teamed up with YU’s Center for Israel Studies last March to hold a conference addressing the economic, cultural and governmental ties between India and Israel. Leading scholars and the consulates of both countries participated in the conference.

President Richard M. Joel described the newest collaboration as a “win-win-win relationship.” The arrangement will help students and faculty in the U.S., Israel and India gain a better understanding of international health issues.

Another effect will be to bolster Israel’s academic community. Integrating Israeli faculty into international programs “is a very good statement” in response to pressure to boycott Israeli academics, added President Joel.

“I think what we should do is engage with Israeli academic institutions and bring along as many partners as we can,” he said.

Read about the Israel and India conference at YU here.

Read about the memo of understanding between YU and India here.

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Jun 25, 2009 — Dr. Neer Asherie, assistant professor of physics and biology at Yeshiva University, was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study protein phase behavior. The title of the grant, which will begin on September 1, 2009 and continue over three years, is “Understanding the Self-Assembly of Globular Proteins: Phase Behavior, Interactions, and Chirality.”

The award is an NSF RUI (Research at an Undergraduate Institution) grant and will support Asherie’s research with undergraduate students at YU’s Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women.

“My students and I study protein phase behavior,” explained Asherie. “In other words, we study what happens when you take a solution of proteins and change the conditions. Right now, it is impossible to predict what will happen. Our long-term goal is to make such predictions possible.”

“By studying the changes which occur in protein solutions,” he added, “we hope to better understand protein condensation diseases, such as cataracts or Alzheimer’s, and improve processes such as the industrial purification of proteins.”

Asherie came to YU in 2004 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he did postdoctoral work in biophysics and where he received his PhD in physics in 1998. Since his arrival at YU, Asherie has made a great effort to involve undergraduates in his research.

Sam Blass, a recent YU graduate, was awarded an NSF graduate fellowship to the PhD program in materials science at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities after spending three years conducting extensive research with Asherie.

“All those hours in the lab made me want to do more of this,” said Blass, who credits Asherie’s “love of science and his eagerness to share it with his students” as inspiring him to pursue a career in research.

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Jun 24, 2009 — Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Stern College for Women, is one of four principal investigators awarded a grant of $1.92 million over three years from the U.S. Department of Energy to study the fundamental properties of nanoparticles that are essential for catalysis (the speeding up of chemical reactions). His research could ultimately help develop more efficient catalysts and lead to alternative sources of energy.

Frenkel will receive $473,000, which will fund a full-time postdoctoral research associate and support his research at Stern College and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The professor also plans to involve Yeshiva University undergraduates in his research, starting in the fall when he returns from a sabbatical.

The study sets out to describe and understand the fundamental properties of nanoparticles by measuring their structure and reactivity using a number of advanced experimental techniques and computer simulations. Frenkel will conduct his research using very powerful X-ray sources at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven. As a co-director of the Synchrotron Catalysis Consortium there, which he co-founded, he helps run the dedicated facility for synchrotron research in nanocatalysis and nanoscience.

“Catalysis is at the core of the chemical and petroleum industries in the US and is thus of critical importance to the national economy,” Frenkel said. “For example, it has been estimated that catalysis-based processes represent 90 percent of current chemical processes and generate 60 percent of today’s chemical products. In addition, catalysis is of growing importance in several other fields, including environmental protection, pharmaceuticals and bioengineering, and more recently fuel cells.”

According to Frenkel, nanoparticles make up the majority of existing catalysts but their catalytic activity is not yet understood. The far-reaching mission of his research is to help advance our understanding of the mechanism of catalysis and edge the scientific community forward toward a rational design of catalysts.

“Catalysis is essential in our ability to control chemical reactions,” Frenkel explained. “The process is critical to finding alternative energy solutions—including hydrogen, solar and water energy—to decrease our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.”

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Jun 22, 2009 — Yeshiva University’s (YU) focus on advanced undergraduate level research continues to intensify with the selection of five exceptional students for the Henry Kressel Research Scholarship in 2009. The scholarship—established last year by Dr. Henry Kressel, managing director of Warburg Pincus LLC and a Yeshiva College (YC) graduate—offers students the unique opportunity to craft a year-long intensive research project under the direct supervision of YU faculty.

This year’s recipients include Isaac Kuyunov of Tel Aviv, Israel; Aaron Ciner of Bala Cynwyd, PA; Jane Kitaevich of Tbilisi, Georgia; and Elie Friedman of Teaneck, NJ.

The program is modeled after the research fellowship at Harvard. “These students will embody the commitment to intellectual rigor, creativity and pursuit of knowledge that defines the Yeshiva University of the 21st century,” said Dr. Edward Berliner, executive director of science management and clinical professor of physics at YU

The scholars will each receive a stipend of $7,500 for the year, along with travel money and appropriate research-support expenses. Following their research tenure, Kressel Scholars will present their work to the student body to stimulate a larger intellectual discussion on the topic.

The students’ research, conducted under the mentorship of a faculty member, will focus on a variety of subjects.

Isaac Kuyunov will research the role of proteins in bio-mineralization under the mentorship of Dr. Raji Viswanathan, professor of chemistry and associate dean of academic affairs at YC.

“I have always been attracted to scientific exploration,” said Kuyonov, a YC chemistry major. “YU gave me the opportunity to learn from great faculty, who encourage and challenge me to do my best.”

Avi Ciner, a biology major at YC, initially became interested in scientific research during his first summer of college. “YU provided me with housing and funding to conduct research on campus for two months,” he said. “That experience piqued my interest.”

Ciner will be mentored by Dr. Yakov Peter, assistant professor of biology at YC, and will be researching multipotential reparative cells (MRC) in mouse lung tissue. “I enjoy doing research that I can relate to practical medicine and I hope that my results in the lab will help further what is known about MRCs and their role in the lung.”

Growing up in conflict-ridden Georgia after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Jane Kitaevich decided to research the relationship between the role of ethnicity and the political behavior of minority groups. She will be mentored by Dr. Elizabeth Radziszewski, assistant professor of political science at SCW.

“I want to research the nature of the conflict that tore apart my country for more than a decade,” said Kitaevich, an international relations and economics major at SCW. “I am endlessly grateful for my professors’ attention, care, encouragement and willingness to satisfy my thirst for knowledge both in and out of the classroom.”

Eli Friedman’s research will involve writing a case history of 1967’s Keyishian vs. Board of Regents Supreme Court case. He became fascinated with the subject while conducting research on academic freedom in the 1960s and 1970s for his mentor Dr. Ellen Schrecker, professor of history at YU.

“I entered YU with two basic academic goals: to receive a broad liberal arts education and to develop the research and writing skills necessary for serious graduate work,” said Friedman, a YC history major. “The variety of class offerings makes the first goal eminently achievable and the small class sizes allow students interested in research to develop their skills under close faculty supervision.”

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Jun 20, 2009 — As a foster child, Satarra Davis was often told she wasn’t “college material.” With determination and support, she not only graduated from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, but this summer she will receive her master’s in social work from Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

“There are many young people out there like myself who never got the opportunity to be where I am today because nobody took the time to invest in their futures or believe in them,” Davis told Wurzweiler Board members and donors at a recent Merit Scholars dinner. “This is what I am thankful for and this is my inspiration for going into the profession of social work.”

She is also the recipient of a scholarship from the Latino Social Work Task Force with career plans to work with adolescents in her community.

For her field experiences, Davis created and facilitated therapy groups for the Family Development Program at the Harlem Children’s Zone, counseled and advocated for survivors of domestic violence for the Jewish Board of Children and Family Services’ Bronx Domestic Violence Program and served as a Youth Development Counselor for middle and high school female students for the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, where she now heads the Unbreakable Sisterhood Sorority.

She currently works at Inwood House’s confidential residence in the Bronx, where she counsels homeless, pregnant teenagers and helps them obtain services and learn life skills once they give birth.

While Davis was inspired to become a social worker by her own former case worker, she believes “the best role models and mentors are people who realize that they never stop learning and can always learn something new from anybody and everyone.”

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Jun 19, 2009 — Dr. Marina Holz, assistant professor of biology at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, was recently awarded a one-year $30,000 grant from the Wendy Will Case Cancer Fund to research the role of the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) /S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1) genetic pathway in breast cancer.

Holz, a resident of Greenwich, CT, is interested in identifying genetic and molecular differences between normal and cancer cells that would allow scientists to design targeted therapies. The $30,000 grant follows a previous grant of $75,000 grant from the Elias Genevieve and Georgiana Atol Charitable Trust to research the molecular mechanisms of the S6K1 gene.

She recently published a research paper that provides a biochemical explanation as to why a two-drug regimen is effective for some breast cancer patients. While the paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry is laudable for its contribution to advances in breast cancer treatments, it is also noteworthy for its co-authorship by four Stern students, most of whom are now recent graduates, including lead author Rachel Yamnik ’08SCW.

“It’s exciting to get undergraduates interested in biology, biomedicine and science—and now they all have a productive research experience they can use to advance their careers,” said Holz, who is also an assistant professor of molecular pharmacology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

As a post-doctoral researcher during the summer of 2006, Holz had two Stern students—Yamnik and Nilly Brodt ’08SCW—join her for an internship at Harvard Medical School, from which she received her PhD. When Holz was recruited to Stern in 2007, the students continued their research with her.

They were joined by current Stern S. Daniel Abraham Honors student Alla Digilova and Daphne Davis ’09SCW, who are also listed as co-authors of the paper. (The sixth co-author, Chris Murphy, was a technician in Stern’s biology department.)

Yamnik is now a full-time research fellow in Holz’s lab and Brodt begins medical school in the fall.

In the paper, the researchers show that S6K1 activates the estrogen receptor (ER), causing breast cancer cells to proliferate—as many as 60 percent of breast cancers test positive for ER. Doctors treat ER-positive cancers with anti-estrogen therapy—usually tamoxifen—but resistance to therapy develops in most cases. The drug rapamycin, which is already FDA-approved for other clinical applications, is known to target S6K1, so the Stern study suggests that a combination of rapamycin and tamoxifen is effective for patients who “carry the double mutation of too much S6 and too much ER,” Holz said.

When Holz presented the study at the 31st Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium last December, she said, “clinicians were very excited because it explained why some patients respond to the combination of rapamycin and tamoxifen, and others don’t.”

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