Nine Undergraduates, Recognized for Academic Achievements, Reflect on their Yeshiva University Experience

Hundreds of students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were presented with their degrees at YU’s 82nd commencement exercises, held at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ on May 30. Nine received the distinction of valedictorian, an honor that reflects exceptional academic achievement. As these accomplished graduates prepare to embark on the next stage of life and apply their talents to a range of careers, including law, medicine, education and finance, they remembered the vibrant Jewish life and rich academic and extracurricular experiences that shaped their undergraduate years at YU.

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Valedictorians Ari Cuperfain, Jonathan Weiss, Dan Schindelheim, Chaim Szachtel, Ayelet Haymov, Sarah Rosenbaum and Meirah Shedlo. Not pictured: Mickael Herszkowicz and Boris Shulkin.

“Yeshiva University has provided my peers and me a place to foster our intelligence and recognize the world beyond the classroom by encouraging us to think outside the box, problem solve, and develop our minds and spirits,” said Ayelet Haymov of Cedarhurst, NY, who received the Dean Harold Nierenberg Memorial Valedictorian Award of the Sy Syms School of Business, together with Jonathan Weiss of Lawrence, NY.

Haymov, who will be working in the fall as a tax auditor at Deloitte & Touche, expressed her gratitude to YU for providing a formative and memorable undergraduate experience. “These past few years have been among the greatest years of my life,” she said. “The qualities we have gained from being in this institution have shaped our lives forever.”

Meirah Shedlo, the valedictorian of Stern College for Women, recalled her experience at YU as being “profoundly transformative.” As a history major, she served as president of the Stern College History Club and editor of Chronos, the undergraduate history journal. “The opportunity to work closely with my peers and professors created an atmosphere of collaboration, allowing me to learn from fellow students and mentors at the top of their fields,” said Shedlo, who hails from Baltimore, MD and plans to pursue a career in public history, research and law. “The preparation I received at YU was unparalleled, offering the values of Torah Umadda as well as a combination of the benefits of a small liberal arts college with extensive academic opportunity.”

Shedlo delivers the valedictorian address at Yeshiva University's 2013 commencement.

Shedlo, Stern College valedictorian, addresses her fellow graduates at Yeshiva University’s 2013 commencement.

Other graduates emphasized the close relationships they were privileged to share with both faculty members and fellow students, which enhanced their undergraduate experiences.

“I decided on YU not only because of the strong academic curriculum combined with stellar religious learning, but also because of the attention they place on their students,” said Ari Cuperfain of Toronto, Ontario, the valedictorian of Yeshiva College. “I remember feeling very intimidated during my first few weeks at YU. However, the compassion I felt from my rabbis, professors and fellow students quickly helped to alleviate my anxieties. Especially with my family living over 500 miles away, YU has really been a second home to me.”

Cuperfain, a chemistry major who was active in the American Chemical Society Chemistry Club and YU’s Writing Center, plans to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry at the University of Toronto, where he is confident that the knowledge and skills he gained at YU will serve him well. “YU’s science curriculum has prepared me well for my continuing education. I have gained both theoretical exposure to chemistry through my lectures as well as hands-on skills from my labwork,” said Cuperfain, who was the recipient of the prestigious Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate NSERC Scholarship.

For Chaim Szachtel, the valedictorian of Isaac Breuer College, the lasting friendships he made and the opportunity to be part of the unique YU community highlighted his time at the school. “The friends I made and the kind of community I experienced in YU has changed my perspective on Judaism and has had a profound impact on me personally,” said Szachtel, a native of Monsey, NY.

Szachtel plans to attend medical school, drawing inspiration from his involvement with College EDge, a student-run organization that helps underrepresented public high school students attain a post-secondary education. “I know that we work to motivate students but the truth is that working with College EDge actually motivates me to become a physician by giving me a tremendous sense of fulfillment seeing the impact I could have on the lives of others,” Szachtel said. “Every student I interact with, both in public high schools and in YU as a resident advisor, pushes me farther along the path to becoming a physician.”

Hailing from Odessa, Ukraine, Boris Shulkin moved to Israel at age seven and later came to YU in search of a “spiritual journey,” said Shulkin, the valedictorian of the James Striar School of General Jewish Studies / Mechinah Program. “YU really helped me find myself,” he said.

Other valedictorians include Sarah Rosenbaum, Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies; Dan Schindelheim, Yeshiva Program/Mazer School of Talmudic Studies; and Mickael Herszkowicz, Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program.