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Homecoming Brings Yeshiva University Community Together for Day of Fun and Learning

On September 18, more than 600 members of the Yeshiva University community came together for a day of celebration and reconnection at YU’s Homecoming. It was a day with something for everyone: an assortment of college classes and shiurim [lectures], face-painting and carnival games, a club fair, live music, balloon-making, hot pretzels and cold smoothies. Current students and alumni of all ages met old friends and made new ones, sharing memories of their college experience and a feeling of pride and belonging to the larger YU family.

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“Homecoming is an opportunity to bring the extended YU community together on campus to experience all that YU provides for personal growth and learning,” said Barbara Birch, senior director of alumni affairs and annual giving at YU. “Through Torah study, athletic clinics, tzedakah [charity] projects and interaction with the rabbis, professors, administrators and students here today, Homecoming attendees got a real taste of YU and how it can continue to be a part of their lives and their children’s lives.”

The day kicked off with Talmudic lectures and group discussions led by Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter and Professor Smadar Rosensweig as part of the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon and Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon. Weissberg Commons offered a snapshot of current student life on campus by giving attendees the option to find out what each student group was all about, whether that meant taking a personality test at the Psychology Club table or making silly putty with members of the Chemistry Club. The new Heights Lounge in the Glueck Center hosted a Town Hall Meeting with President Richard M. Joel, providing a forum for all members of the YU community to ask their questions in person. In Tenzer Gardens, friends and families relaxed on the grass and enjoyed an engaging set list from the Maccabeats, Blue Fringe and the Y-Studs—all of whom began their musical careers at YU.

“We always mention that we got our start here,” said Dov Rosenblatt ’05YC who, along with fellow alumni Hayyim Danzig ’05YC, Danny Zwillenberg ’03YC and Avi Hoffman ’05YC, formed Blue Fringe in 2001. “We had just gotten back from Israel and spent almost every night in Schottenstein, practicing. What YU represents—a really unique, meaningful marriage of Torah U’madda, the secular and traditional—is something we try to capture in our music as well.”

“Walking this campus today and reuniting with so many colleagues and mentors has been amazing,” said radio host Nachum Segal, ’84YC. “As I walk on the east side of Amsterdam Avenue, south of Belfer Hall, I’m taken back 30 years to the WYUR (YU’s undergraduate radio station) of the 1980s. This is a great day to take pride in the past, present and future of YU.”

For many alumni visiting the campus, family was an important theme of the day. “YU is a big part of our family,” said Gail Elsant ’76S as she sipped a fruit smoothie in Tenzer Gardens. She went on to list the degrees: her husband Marty attended YU, as did her four children and their spouses; her son and son-in-law were both graduates of YU affiliated Rabbi Isaach Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS); and her daughter is in a doctoral program at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. “Now we’re waiting to meet our children here and enjoy ourselves together,” said Elsant. “There’s a continuity of generations at YU.”

Dr. Stuart Shaffren ’74 YC agreed. “My family is a YU family,” he said. “My boys went here, my daughter went to Stern, and my grandkids will come here. It’s the center of Judaism in America.”

That link between generations was especially striking on the hand mural, an idea current student Eli Shavalian ’14YC thought would allow attendees of all ages to leave their mark at YU. “It shows that past alumni, current and prospective students are all united,” he explained. Visitors could dip their hand in paint and press it against a long white roll of paper, then sign their name and graduating year next to the print. Dates along the mural, which will be displayed on campus, ranged from the 1970s to future graduates in the 2030s.

“I think today is a metaphor for Jewish family and Jewish experience,” said President Joel. “It feels like home here because it is home. Yiddishkeit [Judaism] is a celebration and together we are all building a sacred community.”