Four Yeshiva University Alumni Share Their Journeys
Daniel Rosen is going places.
More specifically, he’s riding the shuttle from his Cambridge apartment to the Harvard Medical School campus and back every day. It’s a half-hour trip, but Rosen isn’t just looking to pass the time. During his commute, he tunes into an online broadcast of a daily shiur delivered by Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, a rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University. Both the shuttle and the shiur bring him a little closer to his dream. “I want to be the best doctor I can possibly be, a strong community leader, someone who is very involved in the Jewish and scientific communities at large, and who will make a lasting contribution,” said Rosen.
Professionally and spiritually, these are journeys he, along with three other new graduates featured in an ad campaign YU launched last week, began as students here.
Rosen, who is from Teaneck, NJ, was initially intrigued by the school’s access to cutting-edge scientific research and deep Jewish thinkers alike. “It was a place where I could learn Torah from the top religious minds of our generation and conduct research in an environment like the Albert Einstein College of Medicine as part of the Roth Fellowship, as well as shadow physicians in a hospital setting,” he said.
But he discovered that YU was also a community of friends and mentors, growing, learning and sometimes just being together. “My favorite memories are of the celebrations on Yom Ha’Atzmaut, hanging out with all my friends at the barbeque and listening to the band playing,” said Rosen, a graduate of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program. “Or my time on the fifth floor of the library, nurturing my intellectual curiosity with other students who came there regularly to work really hard, study really hard, daven, and sometimes play Jenga.”
Gabrielle Moskowitz, of Los Angeles, CA, who studied accounting, recalls a similar warmth and excitement. “In a Jewish environment, I could be fully involved in many different clubs, whether that was the accounting society or the environmental club or even the soccer team,” she said. “And Stern College is right at the heart of the city that never sleeps. I could go to class on Thursday, study for exams, go to a concert with my friends, and then all of us would stay together in the dorms for Shabbos. It was all there and I was able to dive right in.”
For Moskowitz, now pursuing her masters in accounting at the Sy Syms School of Business, YU was a place of self-discovery, and a place to belong. “You can be you,” she said. “You have the freedom to figure out what and who you want to be in a place where there are people to guide you in a Jewish environment. It’s somewhere to go, to meet new people, to always want to be a part of.”
Yair Frankel, of Hillcrest, NY, has called the University home for six years. As an undergraduate, he studied computer science, interned in the legal department at a hedge fund and soaked up the top-level learning available to him through the Mazer Yeshiva Program. “I didn’t seriously consider going anywhere else,” he said. “I thought about Columbia or Harvard, but realized that my goal was to attend a great university and a great yeshiva—my goal was YU.”
His hedge fund internship sparked an interest in the legal field that became a fascination, and Frankel applied and was accepted to Harvard Law School – but first, he hopes to complete the semikha process at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. “After I graduated, I wanted to learn more, and this was the place to do it,” he said. While he isn’t yet sure how his rabbinic and legal careers will intertwine, Frankel knows the combination will be eye-opening. “Something that is definitely interesting to me is seeing where secular and Torah law differ,” he said. “You can gain a lot of insight into American and Jewish values by contrasting them.”
Debra Strashun, of Hillside, NJ, found that fusion of ethical perspectives deeply meaningful as she pursued her psychology degree at Stern College for Women. “I took some terrific biology and psychology courses taught by scientists and medical professionals who were also rabbis, like Dr. Richard Weiss and Dr. Aharon Fried,” she said. “It was an extremely interesting and advanced level of learning that prepared me for my graduate work at New York University while offering me a Jewish lens into the topics we studied. I liked having that duality.”
Strashun’s multi-layered experience at Stern College helped her develop her own multi-layered identity. “Judaic studies courses like Nechama Price’s ‘Marriage in Halakha’ and Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter’s ‘Acts and Emotions’ class felt extremely relevant to my life and I couldn’t have taken courses like that anywhere else in the world,” she said. “But I also started a Zumba class at Stern last semester with an instructor from the New York Sports Club. I really liked that Stern was the kind of place where I could do both of those things.”
Now enrolled in NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and on her way to becoming an occupational therapist, Strashun is taking that duality with her into a career she hopes will enable her to work with children suffering from sensory processing disorders. It also infuses her view of occupational therapy and Judaism. “Both provide people with tools to live their lives to the fullest, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” she said. “That’s the goal.”