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Bequest by Herbert S. Denenberg Trust Establishes Two Yeshiva College Chairs

On February 5, Yeshiva University marked the investiture of two new chairs in Judaic studies at Yeshiva College, endowed through a generous bequest from the Herbert S. Denenberg Trust.

Dr. Yaakov Elman, professor of Judaic studies at Yeshiva College and YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, was appointed the Herbert S. and Naomi Denenberg Chair in Talmudic Studies, named for Denenberg and his wife. Dr. Moshe Bernstein, professor of Bible and Jewish history at Yeshiva College, was appointed David A. and Fannie M. Denenberg Chair in Biblical Studies, named for Denenberg’s parents.

“Today we establish two chairs in areas central to what YU is all about—the passionate intellectual study of both Bible and Talmud,” said President Richard M. Joel at a ceremony held in the Heights Lounge of the Mendel M. Gottesman Library on YU’s Wilf Campus. “The most important thing we have is the intellectual, ethical and moral capital that comes from our faculty. A chair which enables us to encourage our finest faculty is in so many ways our signature—to celebrate two such gifts is almost unprecedented and indeed wonderful.”

Herbert Denenberg, who passed away in 2010, was known for his fierce consumer advocacy. As Pennsylvania insurance commissioner and later as a consumer reporter for WCAU-TV, Denenberg championed the cause of the common man. On his popular show, “Denenberg’s Dump,” he evaluated the safety and honesty of countless products, pitching those that didn’t meet his quality standard into the titular trash. “He gave voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless, influence to those without influence and justice to those denied justice,” said brother, Dr. Michael Denenberg, recalling how Herbert kept a small notebook with him to record the grievances and contact information of people who approached him on the street so that he could pursue and resolve their complaints.

The recipient of numerous degrees from institutions including John Hopkins University, Creighton University School of Law, Harvard University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania, Denenberg led a rich academic career, teaching in colleges such as the Wharton School and Temple University.

His sister, Ann Denenberg Feinberg, noted in a statement read by her niece, Debbie Denenberg, that Herbert’s decision to endow chairs at YU should come as no surprise. “He felt the young people educated here would go out and contribute to the world in a more thoughtful, meaningful and ethical way, having been exposed to the Bible, Talmud and all the other Judaic teachings,” she said. “Herb worked to make the world a better place where people strove together to live in peace and harmony and better each other’s wellbeing. Perhaps some YU graduates will continue Herb’s work.”

Elman is intensely involved in both graduate and undergraduate teaching. His research has created a new field using the literature and culture of the Persian rulers of Babylon to shed light on the Babylonian Talmud and the history of rabbinic Judaism. In addition, Elman travels regularly to Harvard University, where he serves as associate at the Center for Jewish Studies.

“I would like to thank the Denenbergs and Glushakows for helping YU to do what it does so well—integrating the past and present to create a meaningful future,” said Elman, who noted a kinship between his scholarship and Denenberg’s work. “The Babylonian Talmud and the rabbinic figures of the time were very much concerned with consumer protection.”

Bernstein has taught Bible, biblical interpretation and Jewish history at Yeshiva University for over 30 years. He also teaches Aramaic and Dead Sea Scrolls at New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, where he holds the rank of adjunct distinguished scholar.

“I thank the Denenberg-Glushakow families for supporting my research and my teaching, and I look forward to honoring them in return, as my scholarship in the field of early Jewish biblical interpretation will be linked in the future with the names of Herbert Denenberg’s parents,” said Bernstein. “For us as Jews, the study of the past and its sacred texts is valuable well beyond the famous line that history should be studied to avoid repeating it. Spreading Jewish knowledge in both its broadest and most sophisticated sense is what we do here at YU, and the chairs that have been established today by the Denenberg and Glushakow families will further strengthen and support, in significant ways, a unique and distinctive feature of YU: the program in academic Jewish Studies at Yeshiva College.”

A two-volume collection of Bernstein’s research, Reading and Re-reading Scripture at Qumran, will be published by Brill Press in May 2013.

For more information about supporting Yeshiva College, contact Alan Secter at 212.960.5481 or secter@yu.edu.