Yeshiva University News » 2011 » June

From Chechnya to Stern to Harvard, Alla Digilova Continues to Overcome the Odds

Alla Digilova, a 2010 graduate of Stern College for Women and soon-to-be Harvard Law student, has come a long way since she arrived in Brooklyn at age 14. She and her family came from Nalchik, a city in Southern Russia, thanks to a loan from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Fleeing war and strife, Digilova’s parents relied on welfare to get by, while her mother studied toward a degree in nursing to improve the family’s situation.

Stern College graduate, Alla Digilova, will begin her studies at Harvard Law this fall.

Stern College graduate, Alla Digilova, will begin her studies at Harvard Law this fall.

Nurturing her desire to become a scientist, Digilova entered Brooklyn Technical High School, a specialized science school, where she excelled despite her limited knowledge of English. She also co-founded an organization to promote women’s rights in the workplace.

One of the only observant Jewish students at Brooklyn Tech, Digilova reveled in the atmosphere of Flatbush, Brooklyn, where Judaism flourished openly. “When I first arrived in New York and saw all the Jewish people walking proudly to shul on Shabbat in their finest clothing, it was so beautiful to me because in Russia, Judaism is not something that was encouraged publicly,” she said. “When it came time to continue my education in college, I knew I wanted to be in a place where my Judaism could thrive.”

When she heard about Yeshiva University, with its dual curriculum and Jewish environment, coupled with the prestigious S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program, Digilova was hooked. As an honors student at Stern with almost full tuition coverage, Digilova majored in both biology and economics, and discovered that legal complexities fascinated her, especially the laws surrounding patents for medicine. For her senior project, she worked under the tutelage of Dr. Marina K. Holz, assistant professor of biology, to research new mechanisms of breast cancer cell regulation.

“Alla has always been one of my top students and I have been impressed with her drive, ambition and cheerful disposition,” said Holz. “She co-authored, with me, an article based on our research together for her senior project that was published in a peer-reviewed journal [the Journal of Biological Chemistry], which is quite an accomplishment for an undergraduate student.”

When Digilova decided to apply to law school, she studied on her own for the LSATs. By November 2010, she was accepted into Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Harvard, among other top-tier schools. She chose Harvard for its strong program in intellectual property and hopes to work on patent laws and biotechnology, in addition to cases in humanitarian law.

“It’s rare to come across a student as capable, poised and well-spoken as Alla,” said Dr. Cynthia Wachtell, founding director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program. “She’s an incredibly impressive young woman who has demonstrated remarkable academic accomplishment and her achievements are made even more striking by the atypical journey that brought her to Stern.”

Never one to let an opportunity pass her by, Digilova spent this year learning at the Shearim College of Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem. She will begin Harvard Law School in the fall along with at least two Yeshiva College alumni.

Digilova attributes her strong work ethic to her early struggles in Brooklyn and the inspiration she received from her mother. “When we got to Brooklyn and lived in a small apartment, sleeping on mattresses on the floor and struggling for every dollar, it was quite a psychological blow,” Digilova recounted. “Nevertheless, I think it also helped me turn all my energies and focus toward becoming successful in my academics, as I know that is the best way to better my life.”

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Wall Street Group Offers Alumni and Friends of Yeshiva University Professional Networking and Career Development Opportunities

More than 150 alumni and friends of Yeshiva University gathered for the most recent meeting of the YU Wall Street Group on June 23 to network, catch up and listen to a panel of experts discussing the latest trends in the real estate market.

Michael Stoler, standing, moderated a panel featuring Bradford Klatt, Brahm Cramer, Jeffrey Barclay, Ralph Herzka and Richard Born.

Michael Stoler (standing) moderated a panel featuring Bradford Klatt, Brahm Cramer, Jeffrey Barclay, Ralph Herzka and Richard Born.

Moderated by Michael Stoler, president of New York Real Estate TV and managing director of Madison Realty Capital, the panel, titled “Changing World—What’s Next for Real Estate,” included Jeffrey Barclay of Goldman Sachs; Richard Born of BD Hotels, LLC; Brahm Cramer of AllianceBernstein, Ralph Herzka of Meridian Capital Group, LLC; and Bradford Klatt of Roseland Property Company.

The event, hosted at AllianceBernstein’s New York City offices, served as the third meeting of the YU Wall Street Group in the past four months, providing many alumni the opportunity to network with a sizable cohort of individuals from the full spectrum of the business world. These encounters have resulted in group members securing new job opportunities ranging from beneficial internships to senior-level positions in respected firms.

“Yeshiva University has such a wide range of talented people associated with it,” said Yigal Marcus ’97YC, vice president of Bernstein Global Wealth Management. “It is always wonderful to spend an evening with such professionals.”

Started more than 15 year ago, the group now counts over 1,500 members in its ranks, nearly 70 percent of whom are alumni, according to Lawrence Askowitz ’87YC, the group’s co-chair. “I know that there is momentum gathering from these events,” said Askowitz, whose company has taken on two YU interns in the past year. In addition to hosting these gatherings, the Wall Street Group had also started sending out frequent e-mail blasts since March, alerting its members to new job openings in a significant selection of business-related fields.

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In introducing the panel, University Trustee and Chair of the Real Estate Committee Joshua Muss ’62YC, spoke of his satisfaction that the Wall Street Group dedicated an evening to discussing current developments in the real estate market. Aside from spreading the information gleaned from the panel, Muss also hoped that those present share with their firms, employers and colleagues an “understanding that at YU you will find as good a group of bright and eager students as any university in the world.”

Many of those in attendance hoped to take advantage of this sentiment. “It is wonderful to join this large group of professionals with YU connections,” said Jeremy Apfel ’10YC. Similarly, former Yeshiva University Presidential Fellow Daniel Neiss ’09YC viewed the panel “as a great chance to expand my network and find new opportunities.”

Klatt, co-managing partner of Roseland Property Company, delighted in his invitation to speak on a panel at a YU event. “I think it is vitally important that YU penetrate the secular business world in a much stronger way and these forums enable YU to do that,” he said. “YU has a lot to offer. Our demography is spectacular. We believe in Torah values that make for a good business framework, and to bring those to the business world is invaluable.”

To learn more about the Yeshiva University Wall Street Group or to get involved contact Alan Secter at yuwsg@yu.edu.

In addition to the offerings of the Wall Street Group, alumni and friends of YU are invited to participate in a Continuing Professional Education series on “Optimizing Your Clients’ Retirement Benefits—Social Security, Medicare and Pension Maximization” on July 13 that is presented by the newly formed YU Accounting & Financial Planning Network, a growing community of accountants and advisors in complimentary fields. To learn more about the group and the CPE series e-mail AFPNetwork@yu.edu. For more information on upcoming alumni events visit www.yu.edu/alumnievents.

Check out photos from a Wall Street Group event held in March at Bloomberg here.

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Stuart Halpern, Yeshiva Student, Alumnus and Employee, Builds on Strong Relationship Between University and Lifesaving Organization

Stuart Halpern wears many hats.

Stuart Halpern

Halpern's stem cell donation will help a 12 year old girl battle leukemia.

As coordinator of student life at Yeshiva University, assistant director of operations for YU’s new Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and assistant director of student events at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Halpern carries many titles. Recently, Halpern—a graduate of Revel and a doctoral student at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration—added one more: lifesaver.

On June 23, his essential donation of blood stem cells went toward saving the life of a 12 year old girl with leukemia.

The process began in 2006, when, as a student at Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel, Halpern registered with Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation—a bone marrow, blood stem cell and umbilical cord blood donor registry. “It’s something I felt was natural for me to do,” said Halpern, “and it’s such a simple thing to do to potentially save someone’s life.”

Halpern, who is also busy co-editing a sequel to 2010’s Mitokh Ha-Ohel—a collection of original essays on the weekly Torah portions authored by YU faculty—was called back twice for further stem cell testing, but, as he said, “third time’s a charm.” Halpern completed the five-hour procedure, in which IVs filtered out stem cells from his blood, and was able to return to work the next day.

“In a month, I get a report of how she’s doing,” said Halpern. “And there’s potential for me to even meet her personally in a year but my first priority is to hear that she’s fully recovering. That’s my only concern.”

Yeshiva University and Gift of Life have a longstanding relationship. The University has facilitated more bone marrow transplants, 31 to date, than any other institution through Gift of Life’s on-campus recruitment program.

In 2005 at YU’s 81st Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation, President Richard M. Joel conferred an honorary degree on Jay Feinberg, Gift of Life’s founder and executive director. Feinberg, a leukemia survivor, has devoted his life to educating and encouraging people to be tested for bone marrow registries.

Avi Amsalem ’09YC, and a former Presidential Fellow at YU, donated stem cells to the Gift of Life Registry as a student in 2007. He met Jack, a survivor of leukemia who benefitted from Amsalem’s gift, two years later at an emotional celebration hosted by the New York Mets at Citi Field.

The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation honored Yeshiva University with its Partners for Life Award at the foundation’s annual gala dinner in 2008 with President Joel accepting the award on behalf of YU students.

The YU Student Medical Ethics Society has dedicated February as Bone-Marrow Awareness Month on campus. Throughout the month, the group holds drives to recruit new donors to the Gift of Life registry and raise awareness about medical issues and halacha.

“We are proud to call Stu a member of the Gift of Life family,” said Feinberg. “The selfless deed of donating his peripheral stem cells to a total stranger is an act of pikuah nefesh—or saving the life of another person. His mitzvah reminds us that the partnership forged between Yeshiva University and Gift of Life is a strong and everlasting relationship, built on the passion and commitment of students like Stu.”

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Participants in YU’s Kansas City Summer Experience Volunteer for Disaster Relief Clean-Up in Joplin, Missouri

For the second year in a row a group of Yeshiva University students descended upon the Kansas City Jewish community as part of the University’s Kansas City Summer Experience, hosted by Congregation Beth Israel Avraham & Voliner (BIAV). The program, which ran May 31 through June 26, offered participants the opportunity to integrate with the community, spending their days working at a variety of businesses and dedicating their nights to energizing and learning Torah with the Jewish community.

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This year, however, their plans changed after a tornado hit nearby Joplin, Missouri, on May 21, killing more than 150 people. The group of eight students, led by Tuvia Brander, a recent YU graduate and second-year RIETS student, worked with community members to organize a Red Cross-sponsored disaster relief mission to the devastated area on June 12.

“We have done more than fulfill the mitzvah of tikkun olam,” said Brander. “We have added to the dialog of the community and inspired others to get involved.”
Joining Brander on the Kansas City Summer Experience were YU students Baruch Cohen, Sarit Cohen, Malkie Krieger, Asher Lindenbaum, Gabrielle Moskowitz, Mindy Sojcher and Yaakov Taubes.

“Having the [students] be part of our community for the month has been a special experience,” said BIAV Rabbi Daniel Rockoff. “I am especially proud of the positive example they have set throughout the entire Jewish community as spirited, observant young Jews who are eager to engage the world around them.”

The students, each of whom was provided a mentor and host families, spent the month interning at local businesses including MRI Global — Midwest Research Institute, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Kansas City JCC and Metro Title Services. In addition, participants led a nightly Beit Midrash program and organized panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues.

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Yeshiva University Summer Programs Emphasize Professional and Religious Leadership in Communities Nationwide

This summer Yeshiva University is hosting an assortment of learning and internship programs in cities across the United States, including Kansas City, MO; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Teaneck, NJ; Chicago, IL; Stamford, CT; and Atlanta, GA. These summer internship programs and kollels (intensive Torah and Talmud study programs) are sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), in partnership with local congregations in participating cities. The programs range in length from two to six weeks.

Students on the Kansas City Summer Experience help with disaster clean-up efforts in Joplin, MO.

Students on the Kansas City Summer Experience and members of the local Jewish community help with disaster clean-up efforts in Joplin, MO.

Students participating in the summer kollels have the opportunity to grow in their personal Torah study through rigorous Torah learning and daily shiurim [lectures] as well as to share their knowledge of Torah with their host communities in order to gain confidence and experience. Students will take part in formal and informal workshops with top educators, physicians, psychologists and other professionals on a wide variety of topics with which rabbis and communal professionals are confronted. These programs aim to help students develop skills in public speaking, as well as prompt shiur and drasha [sermon] development, and to experience Jewish life outside of the tri-state area.

Students participating in the Chicago and Kansas City kollel programs will complete internships in a variety of professions for local firms including Kenilworth Asset Management and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Additionally, participating students will lead numerous community-wide social, cultural and educational activities, interacting with the local community.

“Such opportunities allow our students multiple experiences as interns in professions they wish to pursue as careers and to realize how their knowledge and passion as lay leaders can empower communities around the world,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF.

  • The YU Atlanta Beit Midrash Program: July 13-24 in Atlanta, GA
    • Hosted by Congregation Young Israel of Toco Hills (YITH), 2074 LaVista Road NE, in Atlanta for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Led by YITH Rabbi Adam Starr, with RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Jeremy Wieder and Rabbi Michael Broide, professor of law at Emory University, serving as co-roshei beit midrash [heads of school]
    • Features instruction on the halakhic [Jewish law], social and political issues surrounding conversion and community
    • Shabbat meals and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues
    • Includes numerous community-wide social, cultural and educational activities
  • YU Kansas City Summer Experience: May 31-June 26 in Kansas City, MO
    • Hosted by Congregation Beth Israel Avraham Voliner, 9900 Antioch in Overland Park for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Led by BIAV Rabbi Daniel Rockoff, a Yeshiva University and RIETS graduate
    • Includes community wide social, cultural and educational activities; divrei Torah; nightly Beit Midrash program; Shabbat meals; and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues
    • Organizes full day internships at local businesses including MRI Global — Midwest Research Institute, Children Mercy Hospital, Teva, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Kansas City JCC, and Metro Title Services
    • On June 12, Tuvia Brander, a RIETS student currently serving as rabbinic intern at BIAV, led YU students and community members on a Red Cross-sponsored Disaster Relief Mission to Joplin, MO to help residents there rebuild their city and their lives following a devastating tornado in May
    • Provides host families and professional mentors for students
  • Yeshiva University’s Denver Summer Kollel: June 29-August 1 in Denver, CO
    • Hosted jointly by the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue (EDOS), 98 S. Holly Street, Denver CO and the DAT Minyan, 6825 E Alameda Avenue, Denver CO
    • Rabbi Daniel Rapp, Assistant Dean of YU’s Stone Beit Midrash Program and Isaac Breuer College, will serve as community scholar-in-residence from June 29-July 21. Wexner Kollel Elyon Fellow Rabbi Etan Schnall will serve as community scholar-in-residence from July 21 to August 1.
    • EDOS Rabbi Marc Gitler, DAT Rabbi Daniel Alter, and Rabbi Asher Klein of the DAT Minyan will also participate
    • Features community Shabbat meals, a community-wide Kollel Yom Rishon, and panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and Halakhic (Jewish law) issues, as well as social activities for students to interact with the local community

  • YU Beth Jacob Summer Learning Program: June 28 to August 2 in Los Angeles, CA
    • Hosted by Congregation Beth Jacob, 9030 W. Olympic Blvd. in Beverly Hills for men and women of Yeshiva University
    • Rabbi Dr. Alex Mondrow will serve as Rosh Beit Midrash of the program
    • Features study in Talmud and practical subjects of Halakhah (Jewish law); morning and afternoon study sessions; Lunch and Learns; small group learning; shiurim; and chavruta (one-on-one learning) with the Beth Jacob community each evenings

  • YU Chicago Lay Leadership Summer Program and Kollel: May 31-July 17 in Chicago, IL
    • The men’s learning program is hosted by the Hebrew Theological College, Skokie, Il. The women’s learning program is hosted by Congregation Or Torah, 3800 Dempster Street in Skokie. Both are part of the summer programming of the YU Torah MiTzion Kollel of Chicago
    • Led by Rabbi Reuven Brand, Rosh Kollel of the Yeshiva University Chicago Kollel and a YU graduate who received his ordination from RIETS
    • Features daily programs on practical subjects of Halakhah led by local Torah scholars, as well as chavruta (one-on-one learning), shiurim (lectures), and special Shabbat activities
    • Participants will complete internships in a variety of professions and local businesses including Kenilworth Asset Management, Strauss and Malk LLP, architect Dan Coffey, Office of State Representative Daniel Biss, Special Care Inc., Robinson Financial Group, Hadassah, and Moshe Klein & Associates

  • YU Stamford Community Kollel: August 1-13 in Stamford, CT
    • Hosted by the Young Israel of Stamford
    • Led by Rosh Kollel Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, Rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim of Teaneck, N.J., as well as instructor of Talmud and Jewish Studies at the Stone Beit Midrash program of YU.  Rabbi Elly Krimsky, Rav of the Young Israel of Stamford, will also participate
    • Program includes daily Rabbinic training from Rabbis and experts in the local community and offers morning/afternoon seders, Tisha B’Av programming and two Shabbatot in the local Stamford community
    • Includes youth programming and other community learning opportunities

  • YU Keter Torah Summer Kollel: July 5-August 12 in Teaneck, NJ
    • Hosted by Congregation Keter Torah, 600 Roemer Ave, in Teaneck
    • Led by Rosh Kollel Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman, Rabbi of the Young Israel of Midwood in Brooklyn, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS and lecturer for the Mazer School of Talmudic Studies (MYP)
    • Includes full days of learning Monday-Thursday, with daily chaburot (informal group classes) given by Kollel Elyon Fellows and Night Seder learning with the community
    • Students attend morning/afternoon seders, run daily youth programming and participate in two Shabbatot at Keter Torah
    • Open to male students only

  • YU Women’s Beit Midrash Program: July 5-29 in Teaneck, NJ
    • Hosted by Congregation Rinat Yisrael, 389 West Englewood Avenue, in Teaneck, NJ
    • Ms. Nechama Price, Rabbi Moshe Kahn and Rabbi Donnie Besser will lead daily, in-depth Torah learning open to all women of the community
    • Evening lecture series for men and women to feature Rabbi Jeremy Wieder, Mrs. CB Neugroschl, Mrs. Shani Taragin and Mrs. Yael Leibowitz

For more information on the CJF summer programs contact Rabbi Elie Mischel at emischel@yu.edu.

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The Incredible Story of a Group of Nice Jewish Boys

The following article appeared in The New Jersey Jewish Standard’s parenting monthly, About Our Children.

Less than 24 hours after serenading President Barack Obama with a little barbershop tag, shaking his hand, and posing for a picture with the leader of the free world in the White House in Washington, D.C. Meir Shapiro was back in Washington Heights.

He was cramming for three finals scheduled for the next day.

“It’s hard to think of any sort of ‘celebrity thing,’” says a still awestruck Shapiro, one of 14 members of Yeshiva University’s a cappella group, the Maccabeats, who were invited to perform May 17 at the White House for a gala marking Jewish Heritage Month.“I’m just a regular college student studying for finals,” says Shapiro, a 22-year-old Passaic native who is graduating and hopes to pursue architecture in the fall.

No doubt it was a scene replayed by the 13 others. A return to the mundane, following a foray into the meta-life of the Maccabeats, who catapulted from Internet fame a mere six months ago with their infectious YouTube video, “Candlelight,” into the hallowed halls of the East Room of the White House where they got the chance to mingle with America’s bold-named Jewish leaders.

“It was a pretty immediate return to reality,” says Maccabeat Joshua Jay, 24, of Paramus, who was back in his classes at Albert Einstein School of Medicine the next day.

While his medical school responsibilities certainly have cut into the whirlwind scheduling of the Maccabeats, who will be in Europe and South Africa this summer on gigs, Jay says he still will try to juggle both as best he can.

“It’s hard to say what our success is bringing,” Jay says. “But I think our goal is to continue to portray Judaism in a positive way by using the music and having fun.”

So here they are. These clean-cut Yeshiva boys with the dulcet tones and the sometimes cheeky sense of humor, dressed in their signature pressed, white shirts and ties (think early Beatles), adorning their yarmulkes, and singing songs with plenty of Hebrew phrases for the now more than 5 million viewers of their “Candlelight” video, a delightful portrayal of Chanukah based on the Mike Tompkins video and Taio Cruz’s song “Dynamite.”

Through the power of technology (and perhaps a higher power?), the Maccabeats have blended the worlds of observant Judaism and the secular one.

“They are the perfect mix of simultaneously taking the best from the Orthodox Jewish world and the best from the modern world in creating their music,” says Rabbi Mordechai Besser, principal of Manhattan Day School, which hosted the group for a Chanukah concert at a performance that had elements of fan fever by the excited students.

Think the Jewish Jonas Brothers.

“Their appeal to young people is their ability to incorporate the Jewish element into cool singing. And,” he adds with a smile, “they’re cute, too.

Richard Joel can speak as both the proud president of Yeshiva University and as the proud parent of his son, Maccabeat Nachum Joel.

While at the White House (the senior Joel was invited separately from the Maccabeats) he could not help think of how far his own family and the greater Jewish family have come. While videotaping the group’s performance with his Blackberry, tears of joy streaming down his face, he thought about his own late father, who was born in 1901 in Vilna, Poland. As a youngster, his father was the victim of an anti-Semitic attack and was left bloody in the snow. And now, here was his son and the sons of 13 others Jewish parents, performing at a reception for Jewish leaders at the White House. They also joined the men in davening mincha there.

“This is the majesty of the Jewish story,” says Joel. “Not just surviving, but thriving, and of the goodness of this land. It was very striking.” Joel also called the Maccabeats, “the best publicity that YU can ever have.

“They are committed to their principles and a sense of joy in their life,” Joel says. “They are committed to their community and to wanting to make the world a better place. And there is a joy to living Jewishly.”

He adds, “They are such terrific kids. They are pursuing their lives, grounded in Torah.”

Says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who caught the Maccabeats when they performed recently at the Lincoln Center concert for Birthright Taglit mega event, “Anyone who raises the profile of Judaism and does it as a Jew, and does so thoughtfully, is doing a great service.”

The group, which formed four years ago, struck gold through the now-famous “Candlelight” video. They became an overnight sensation with 2 million hits on YouTube after the video went viral Thanksgiving weekend.

Ellen Jay, mother of Maccabeat Joshua Jay, remembers that weekend. It was her youngest son Todd’s bar mitzvah.

“A few of the boys performed at Todd’s Bar Mitzvah,” she recalls. “After Shabbos, they told us to look on YouTube, and we saw the Candlelight video. A week later, there were a million hits.”

The fame landed them on the morning news shows including “Today,” and “The Early Show.” Major newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories about the obscure a capella group. And the Internet social network was filled with thousands of appreciative remarks about how the group has reinvigorated Chanukah and Jewish observance.

The impact still overwhelms.

“It was unbelievably emotional for us,” says Maccabeat Jeffrey Ritholtz of the reaction that poured in following the “Candlelight” video. “The fact that we were getting emails from people who said that they lit the menorah for the first time in years, it really blew us away. The fact that we were having this impact,was really something.”

In fact, for all the Maccabeats, the music is something they are doing “on the side.” They are pursuing careers in medicine, law, finance, the rabbinate and the like. The Maccabeats are, in alphabetical order, Chanina Abramowitz, David Block, Michael Greenberg, Julian Horowitz, Noah Jacobson, Joshua Jay, Nachum Joel, Ari Lewis, Mordechai Prus, Jeffrey Ritholtz, Buri Rosenberg, Immanuel Shalev, Meir Shapiro and Yonatan Shefa.

Actress Mayim Bialik, who says she’s their “number one fan,” is on her own religious path and has been raising the profile of observant Judaism with her involvement in Jew in the City, a website that produces videos aimed at answering questions and dispelling misconceptions about Orthodox Judaism. She sees the Maccabeats as a strengthening force for Judaism today.

“Although Orthodoxy varies greatly, the Maccabeats put themselves out there as immersed and ‘hip’ Jews, which is different from what a lot of people think of when they think of Orthodox Judaism. They are showing people that Modern Orthodoxy is ‘not your father’s’ Judaism.

“They have put Orthodoxy on the map in a great light. They have provided an image that observant Jews are proud of, and that non-observant Jews find appealing and exciting. As someone who was not raised religious but is on a path towards more observance, I find them inspiring, as they make me feel proud to be Jewish by emphasizing Torah living as the common denominator for life with style, grace and smiles that are melting hearts all over this world.

“What better role model is there for anyone seeking to pursue a life lived in accordance with Jewish values?”

Heidi Mae Bratt is the editor of  About Our Children, the parenting monthly of the Jewish Standard published by New Jersey/Rockland Jewish Media Group.

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Presidential Fellowship Alumni Bring Leadership Skills and Experience to Diverse Professional Careers

They work for top financial firms and attend top medical schools. They craft programming to create educated and imaginative leadership in Israel and coordinate national events for developmentally impaired children. They are rabbis, lawyers and teachers across the country. And they all have one thing in common. They are alumni of Yeshiva University’s Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership.

Alumni of the Presidential Fellowship gathered for a reunion at the YU Museum on June 13.

Alumni of the Presidential Fellowship gathered for a reunion at the YU Museum on June 16.

The Fellowship, founded by YU President Richard M. Joel in 2004, offers graduating students with ambition, enthusiasm and a record of academic excellence the opportunity to affect change from within the university community, putting their skills to work in departments that range from the Yeshiva University Museum and the Office of the General Counsel to the Office of the President. Each fellow is mentored by a senior member of his or her department, and weekly graduate courses, as well as on-site visits and other training activities, expose the group to multiple aspects of leadership.

While they have all moved on to the next stage in their personal and professional lives, former fellows still feel the impact of the program. On June 16, alumni from each of the seven cohorts gathered at the YU Museum for a reunion that celebrated not only their time as fellows, but the careers and lives they have built since.

“We wanted to bring you together to reignite the inspiration, but also to look back at where you’ve gone over these years and think about where and who you are,” said Rabbi Josh Joseph, vice president and chief of staff and director of the Fellowship, to the group, noting that the program currently has 99 alumni. “You’re bringing us into the next generation.”

At the reunion, President Joel highlighted one characteristic that all members of the Fellowship, regardless of their specialty or later careers, shared. “You were attracted to this Fellowship because you want to struggle with the meaning of the word ‘leadership,’” he said. “It’s about what you see and what you make happen, not just what is.”

Hadassah Rubinstein, '08-'09 fellow in the Office of the President, catches up with Ephraim Shoshani, who served as the '09-'10 fellow in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

Hadassa Rubinstein, '08-'09 fellow in the Office of the President, catches up with Ephraim Shoshani, who served as the '09-'10 fellow in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

Alumni have used their Fellowship training to secure leadership positions across a diverse spectrum of profit and non-profit organizations. Rebecca Stone, a 2005-2006 fellow in the Office of University Life, felt the Fellowship’s educational component helped her identify and hone her strengths as she transitioned from the role of student to professional. “I really felt supported by the seminars, where we focused for instance on emotional intelligence,” said Stone. “That gave me a lot of insight into myself, my abilities and where I needed to go.”

As a fellow, Stone worked closely with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) corps to develop programming for students in Honduras and organized events to raise university awareness of social justice concerns such as the genocide in Darfur. Her efforts with AJWS eventually led to a position in major gift fundraising. Stone is currently the director of community engagement at Encounter, an organization that aims to inform Jewish Diaspora leadership on the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the ground up.

“The Fellowship really set me out on this path and empowered me to get clarity about what I was passionate about and where I could make a difference,” she said. “It enabled me to think strategically about the organizations I think are important and unique and to see myself as a real leader who could choose any path.”

Rabbi Joseph and President Joel present Elysia Stein, longtime coordinator of the program, with the Presidential Fellowship Exemplar of Excellence Award.

Rabbi Josh Joseph and President Richard Joel present Elysia Stein, longtime coordinator of the program, with the Presidential Fellowship Exemplar of Excellence Award.

That empowerment is one of the Fellowship’s legacies for many alumni, along with the development of foundational business skills and an enduring connection with senior staff who cultivate their talents.

“It was my first full-time job after college and it was helpful to have a relationship with a mentor who could guide me through those steps,” said Raffi Rosenzweig, a fellow in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs during the 2007-2008 academic year. “I also very much appreciated having access to Josh Joseph, who always took the time to meet with me and was helpful in discussing my next move.”

Rosenzweig is a current participant of the Legacy Heritage Teacher Training Fellowship. Coordinated through the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration’s Institute for University-School Partnership, the Legacy Heritage program places its fellows in Jewish day schools across the country and facilitates study for a Master’s degree in education over the course of three summers.

As a teaching fellow, Rosenzweig has led Bible and Jewish history classes at Yavneh Academy in Dallas, Texas. In the fall he will begin studies at Harvard Law School. His Fellowship experience made him confident he could succeed in a variety of fields: “Professionalism is helpful in any field, and even though the structure of my job now is different than it was in the Fellowship, that background still applies,” said Rosenzweig. “My time in the communications department also helped me hone my writing skills, which are useful in any job.”

For Esther Goldstein, a 2009-2010 fellow in the Office of the General Counsel, the professionalism and close relationships she cultivated as a fellow played a critical role in obtaining a position at Goldman Sachs. “I definitely think it gave me confidence,” she said. “I knew my mentor believed in me and he encouraged me every step of the way.”  Originally headed for law school, Goldstein realized she was interested in exploring the financial world during her Fellowship. Her mentor, Avi Lauer, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, as well as Joseph and Elysia Stein, the Fellowship’s coordinator, coached her through the interview process.

Former fellows Penny Pazornick, Aviva Miller and Esther Goldstein.

Former fellows Penny Pazornick, '08-'09, Aviva Miller, '09-'10, and Esther Goldstein, '09-'10.

“In my interview with Goldman Sachs, I explained the leadership component of my Fellowship and they were very interested in my experience,” Goldstein said. “It wasn’t just a job. It taught us how to manage time, how to manage work, how to interact with other people in the work place.”

Equally important to these alumni are the camaraderie and connections fostered between fellows. “The Fellowship created friendships that have been with me for the last six years,” said Eli Hagler, a 2006-2007 fellow in the Office of Student Affairs on the Wilf campus. “It creates a bond, whether you were a fellow three years ago or will be one two years from now. There’s a whole network of support.” Hagler is earning his master’s degree in business management from Baruch College. After working as YU’s assistant director of undergraduate admissions, he now serves as assistant director at Yachad, where he has organized fundraising marathons and national shabbatons. “The attention to detail, learning how to run an event and the pieces that go into it—that all came from the Fellowship,” said Hagler.

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Yeshiva University Announces the Appointments of Moses Pava, Michael Strauss and Avi Giloni to School of Business Leadership Team

Dr. Moses Pava

Dr. Moses Pava

Dr. Moses Pava, Alvin Einbender Professor of Business Ethics and professor of accounting at the University’s Syms School of Business, has been appointed director of Syms. In his new position, Pava is responsible for both the undergraduate and graduate programs and will be reporting directly to the provost’s office. Pava, who earned his doctorate at New York University’s Stern School of Business in 1990, has been with the business school since 1988. He has chaired the accounting department for many years and has served as chair of the Executive Faculty Committee. He has published numerous books and articles on business ethics and corporate accountability and is an expert on Jewish business ethics.

Michael Strauss

Professor Michael Strauss

Professor Michael Strauss, entrepreneur-in-residence and clinical professor of management at Syms, has been appointed associate director of student advising and administration at Syms where he has taught business courses for several years. Strauss (MBA, Baruch) is a veteran of both large and small companies, having served in senior management roles at several companies including American Express. He is currently CEO of an advanced start-up company that he founded several years ago, BSafe Electrix, Inc. He is also chairman of Sherwood Consulting Group, Inc., and serves on several boards and advisory boards.

Dr. Avi Giloni has been appointed as associate director for academic research of  Syms. Giloni has been with Syms since 2000 when he earned his doctorate from New York University’s Stern School of Business.  He has chaired the Information and Decision Sciences Department since its inception. His research is in robust forecasting, optimization, stochastic system design and their applications to supply chain management. Giloni has published papers in top-tier journals, including Management ScienceProduction and Operations Management, and SIAM Journal on Optimization.

Dr. Avi Giloni

Dr. Avi Giloni

“The new leadership team is committed to the growth of the Syms School of Business on both the Beren and Wilf Campuses,” said said Morton Lowengrub, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Its focus will be on academic excellence, high quality teaching, and providing students with a user-friendly environment where they can gain the qualitative and quantitative skills they will need to succeed in a highly-competitive business world. The Syms School of Business is committed to the ongoing task of re-imagining undergraduate education.”

Syms continues to pursue accreditation through the AACSB International and has recently received the approval of New York State for its Executive MBA program to be launched next year. The MS Program in Accounting, which has now graduated its second class and is growing in both in quality and numbers, will continue to be under the directorship of Dr. Joseph Kerstein. The Syms School also welcomes Dr. S. Abraham Ravid as the Syms Professor of Finance.

Pava, Strauss and Giloni will work with faculty, students, alumni, the Syms School of Business Board of Overseers, prospective employers and the liberal arts programs to increase synergies with the other undergraduate units of Yeshiva University.

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Yeshiva University Honors Jewish Communal Leaders at June 13 Ceremony in Beverly Hills

More than 425 guests were in attendance for Yeshiva University’s Inaugural Los Angeles Convocation and Dinner on June 13 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. President Richard M. Joel conferred honorary degrees upon Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Mitch Julis, co-chairman and co-CEO of Canyon Partners, LLC; Louis Kestenbaum, philanthropist and YU benefactor; and communal leaders Larry and Barbi Weinberg.

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“We honor five wonderful individuals who join Yeshiva University’s constellation of celebrated thinkers and doers, poets and scientists, leaders and inspirers,” said President Joel. “The highest award a university can bestow is an honorary degree.  We confer such honor on those who we believe are the best reflection of what we wish for our children. They are all now a part of an institution intent on ennobling and enabling the next generation steeped in Jewish History and committed to Jewish destiny to advance Western Civilization.”

Read more about the honorees here.

In addition to the conferring of degrees, the ceremony featured an invocation by Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and a performance by the Maccabeats, YU’s popular a cappella group.

During the dinner portion President Joel paid tribute to Ouriel Hassan, Dr. Helen Nissim, Rivkah Rogawski and Daniel Rubin—four current students and graduates of Yeshiva University with Los Angeles roots. “Your firm commitment to Jewish values and passionate pursuit of excellence has enriched our student body as a whole,” said President Joel.

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Aviva Gubin, Ma’ayan Hachen, Mordechai Kornbluth, Alexandra Michalowski and Nasim Tishbi Selected to Participate in Henry Kressel Research Scholarship Program, Now in its Fourth Year

Five Yeshiva University students will perform advanced undergraduate-level research this year as part of the Henry Kressel Research Scholarship program. The scholarship—established in 2008 by Dr. Henry Kressel, chairman of the YU Board of Trustees, managing director of Warburg Pincus LLC and a Yeshiva College graduate—offers students the unique opportunity to craft a year-long intensive research project under the direct supervision of University faculty.

Standing: Ma'ayan Hachen, Nisim Tishbi and Aviva Gubin. Seated: Mordechai Kornbluth and Alex Michalowski.

Standing: Ma'ayan Hachen, Nisim Tishbi and Aviva Gubin. Seated: Mordechai Kornbluth and Alex Michalowski.

“Our goal is to provide the opportunity for promising students to perform creative research with our outstanding faculty,” said Dr. Kressel.

This year’s recipients are Aviva Gubin, Ma’ayan Hachen, Mordechai Kornbluth, Alexandra Michalowski and Nasim Tishbi.

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

The students’ research, conducted under the guidance of University faculty members, will focus on a variety of subjects.

Gubin, will be mentored by Dr. Lea Santos, assistant professor of physics at Stern College for Women,  and will research Microscopic Origins of Irreversibility.

“Every natural process follows a time arrow,” explained Gubin, who hopes to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. “This means that it cannot be reversed. For example, glass breaks but doesn’t put itself back together… In my research, I want to study the origins of the time arrow using quantum mechanics by using numerical models developed to describe quantum systems made of many particles.”

Kornbluth will research Generalized Supersymmetric Annihilation Operators and Corresponding Coherent States under the guidance of Dr. Fredy Zypman, professor of physics at Yeshiva College.

“YU’s excellent faculty members care about the students’ success and encourage students to take advantage of opportunities in research and other interests,” said Kornbluth, who intends to pursue a doctorate in physics. “Our roshei yeshiva provide role models for us to improve our character, connect us to our Torah heritage and help us mold ourselves to be value-driven individuals. And after gaining the ability to focus on the Talmud for three hours every morning, it’s easy to sit in front of a computer for a few hours, programming my physics simulations.”

Hachen will research the Role of Histone Methylation in Aging and Cognitive Decline with Dr. Joshua Bacon, associate professor of psychology at Stern and Dr. Richard Hunter of Rockefeller University.

Ma’ayan Hachen will study environmental influences on genes with her mentor,  Dr. Joshua Bacon.

Ma’ayan Hachen will study environmental influences on genes with her mentor, Dr. Joshua Bacon.

“I’ll be investigating how age and stress affect DNA stability in rats,” said Hachen. “This past year my grandfather died from Parkinson’s disease and I hope that through a better understanding of the environmental influences on genes, science will move us a step closer to curing aging diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.”

Michalowski will be mentored by Dr. Robin Freyberg, David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in Psychology and assistant professor of psychology at Stern and will be tackling The Effects of Directed Goal Writing on Low Levels of Depression.

Nasim Tishbi, will be working in the lab of Dr. Evan Minzter, assistant professor of chemistry at Stern, and will explore Oxysterols: Can They Sink the Raft? A Study of the Effects of Trace Amounts of Oxidized Cholesterol on Membrane Domains.

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 their topics.

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