Yeshiva University News » 2013 » June

Rabbi Kenneth Brander Appointed Vice President for University and Community Life

Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel has appointed Rabbi Kenneth Brander as vice president for university and community life. For the past eight years Brander has served as the inaugural David Mitzner Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).


Rabbi Kenneth Brander has been appointed vice president for university and community life.

“The work of the CJF under Rabbi Brander’s leadership has been momentous,” said President Joel. “In addition, he has served for the last two years as special advisor for undergraduate admissions, where he has added much value to our efforts together with a great team of professionals.”

As vice president for university and community life, Brander will be responsible for the broad areas of community service, undergraduate admissions, student life, and YU strategies and programs in Israel. He will retain the CJF deanship pending appointment of a successor.

“Providing our students with opportunities to be inspired both inside and outside the Beit Midrash or classroom is inextricably linked to our work in support of Jewish communities, and their professional and lay leaders,” said Brander. “I hope to serve in a supportive role working alongside our wonderful faculty, roshei yeshiva, community professionals, administrators and treasured student body to help facilitate this wonderful synergy. Furthermore, the opportunity to help assist in developing a vision for our efforts in Israel both as a Torah institution and a research university is an exciting one. I am most appreciative to President Joel and the Board of Trustees for their confidence in me.”

Brander is the rabbi emeritus of the Boca Raton Synagogue, founding dean of the Boca Raton Community Kollel and founder of the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. During his 14 years of service to the Boca Raton community, he oversaw its growth from 60 to some 600 families. He is a 1984 alumnus of Yeshiva College and received his ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in 1986.

He resides in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife Ruchie. They are the proud parents of Tuvia and Miriam, Yoni and Yehudit, Tehilla, Yosef, and Yitzchak.

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YU School Partnership and Ramaz Co-Host Jewish Philosophy Yom Iyun for High-School Teachers

As part of its mission to convene Jewish day school educators for the purpose of collective learning, the Institute for University-School Partnership at Yeshiva University in collaboration with Ramaz and several New York area Jewish day schools hosted their first-ever Yom Iyun on Jewish Philosophy on June 11. Fifty five high-school educators from nearly 20 schools gathered to address the philosophical questions most commonly raised by students.

This program was co-sponsored by DRS Yeshiva High School, The Frisch School, The Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA) / Yeshiva University High School for Boys, SAR Academy, The Ramaz School and The Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls.

The program began with keynote speaker, Dr. David Schatz, YU professor of philosophy, discussing the concept of Hashgacha Pratis [Divine Providence] and continued with a number of presentations, including Rabbi Elly Storch of DRS on free will; Dr. Shira Weiss of Frisch on conflicts between the divine command of Akeidat Yitzchak and human morality; Rabbi Kenny Schiowitz of Ramaz on the evolution of Torah she’baal peh; Rabbi Noam Stein of The Margolin Hebrew Academy and Feinstone Yeshiva of the South on addressing ethically challenging topics in a liberal age; and Rabbi Gavriel Bechhoffer of MTA on questions about the world’s purpose. RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mayer Twersky closed the day by sharing approaches to educating towards greater faith.

The forum provided teachers with a rare opportunity to explore common challenges with peers and colleagues. “I believe that the thing that attracted so many people and that made the teachers enjoy the day so much was the topic,” said Schiowitz, who organized the program. “Teachers recognize the fact that it is not sufficient to simply teach the texts of the Talmud and Tanach. We need to address the philosophical questions of belief that students struggle with. Convenings such as this one will better prepare our teachers for this challenge.”

Recordings of a number of the presentations are available online.

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Counterpoint a “Winning Formula” for Identity Building and Communal Development; Initiative to Serve 300 Israeli Campers

Sixty undergraduate students from the United States, United Kingdom and Panama will serve as counselors in Israel on the eighth annual Counterpoint Israel Program of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

The month-long immersive service-learning initiative aims to empower the next generation of Israeli youth via an exciting, Jewish values-driven summer camp experience while simultaneously instilling a sense of civic responsibility within its YU student volunteers. With the program returning to the communities of Arad, Dimona, Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi, Counterpoint Israel will serve 300 Israeli campers from varied socio-economic backgrounds in five student-run camps from July 2-23.

A recent study conducted by the CJF indicates that Counterpoint, which includes classes given in English and workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports, is not only an unforgettable summer experience but a winning formula for identity-building, communal development and personal enrichment.

“Following last summer’s successful program, we employed surveys, interviews and focus groups with Counterpoint campers and counselors, as well as municipal and regional professionals, in order to collect data that would conclusively prove that which we always thought to be the true, namely that Counterpoint changes lives,” said Kiva Rabinsky, co-director of Counterpoint Israel.

Research Success Technologies, the company that conducted the research, has the facts and figures to corroborate this experiential knowledge.

“Our findings show that Counterpoint is a transformative experience for campers, with the camps providing a learning environment that is different, and in certain ways even more effective, than the school environment,” said Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz, CEO of Research Success Technologies.

“Speaking English and expanding vocabulary is first and foremost a fun and engaging experience. But, as seen in Counterpoint camps, the process also enables campers to find new levels of confidence—acquiring knowledge and skills leaves the campers with a heightened sense of accomplishment. Additionally, the campers report that dialoguing with their American counselors, who are religious Jews, results in the exploration of their personal and Jewish identity—growth of a different kind.”

The study also shows that the municipalities of cities where Counterpoint operates see it as indispensable to their educational systems and are committed to contributing their own resources to ensure the program’s success. Some municipalities have even been inspired to invest in enrichment programming beyond Counterpoint.

Along these lines, the city of Dimona has developed special programming of its own to help the Yeshiva University student volunteers understand the politics and realities of communal living in development towns as well as how to best work with the leaders of such locales. Set to be implemented for the first time this summer, the program will include meetings with young leaders and local student activists and will provide the counselors with an intimate look at life beyond the school walls.

“Counterpoint has made a profound impact on the city of Dimona over the last six years and the municipality wanted to do something to give back to the program,” said Moshe Nachum, director of the Department of Education and Welfare in the municipality of Dimona. “Yeshiva University gives the children of Dimona an educational experience that the city cannot afford them, and the city is now providing the YU students with real world experience that their institution cannot recreate. It is a perfect partnership, a result I hope will be duplicated with the other four cities in the years to come. ”

The final findings of the study focus on the experiences of the student volunteers. As hoped, Counterpoint counselors report positive service experiences in which they develop meaningful relationships with campers and work successfully as experiential educators.

“Counterpoint counselors gain skills and confidence as educators, broaden their Jewish horizons and come to view their service work through a Jewish lens. But most importantly, they are motivated to find professions that will allow them to contribute to the global Jewish community as well as strengthen the connection between Israeli and American Jews,” adds Rabinsky.

Counterpoint Israel is run with support from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Ron Fischer and Lisa Rosenbaum and the Fischer Family Foundation and Repair the World.

The Counterpoint Kiryat Malachi Program is dedicated in the memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson. The Dimona program is run with support from Sharon and Avram Blumenthal. The program in Arad is run with support from the Jewish Federations of Central New Jersey and Delaware and Congregation Beth El – Atereth Israel of Newton, MA. The Be’er Sheva program is run with support from Doreen and Beryl Eckstein and Jennifer and Saul Burian.

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YU Students Connect with Local Jewish Community on Third Service Mission to Ukraine

Just a few weeks after finishing the spring semester, a group of 20 undergraduate men and women from Yeshiva University embarked on a nine day service mission to Odessa, Ukraine, as part of a program coordinated by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future in partnership with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.


The goal of the trip was for the students “to gain a firsthand understanding of the welfare challenges and identity struggles facing the Jewish community following the collapse of the Soviet Union,” said Aliza Abrams, assistant director of the CJF’s Department of Service Learning and Experiential Education, who led the mission. “By engaging in service projects and cultivating relationships with members of the community, the students learned about Jewish life in Odessa and worked to internalize the messages of the people they were privileged to meet.”

“The mission was truly a life-changing experience,” said participant Ariella Agatstein, a senior at Stern College for Women.

A highlight of the trip for Agatstein was meeting an 87-year-old woman named Larissa who was sick, bedridden and living in a rundown one-room apartment. “She told us that her final wish was to visit Yerushalayim,” Agatstein said. “I was in awe by her response and it definitely caused much self reflection. I have the ability to visit Israel any time I want and I take it for granted. She was an inspiration to all of us and I will never forget her powerful words.”


The group visited different Jewish community centers, synagogues, orphanages and various historical sites including Uman, home to the burial place of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev. But more important than those visits was “the opportunity to engage and develop relationships with the Jewish youth of Ukraine,” said Agatstein. “We observed their culture and learned the way that they practiced their Judaism.”

Rabbi Eli Belizon of Fair Lawn, NJ, an assistant Rabbi in the Mazer Yeshiva Program and dean of the YU-affiliated Fair Lawn Beis Midrash Program, accompanied the students on the trip, giving shiurim [lectures] to the group and answering halachic questions as they arose.

“It was an incredible experience and tremendously inspiring to meet so many people who are dedicating their lives to helping other Jews rebuild their Yiddishkeit [Jewishness],” he said. “It was a real trip for the neshama [soul], with nonstop chessed [acts of kindness] and learning Torah, and we were able to create real connections with the people we met.”


The trip was also a great opportunity “to take what we learn from the walls of the classroom and Beis Midrash and implement those same shiurim in a different place to apply them to the activities we were doing,” Belizon said. “For example, when we went to visit an orphanage, we learned about issues of conversion. It made what we were learning real and palpable.”

This was the third visit to Ukraine by YU students in recent years, allowing participants to “strengthen the relationship between the two communities and reminding us as well as the Jews of the Former Soviet Union that we are a part of the global Jewish community,” said Abrams. “We also had a chance to explore what Jewish tradition has to say about service and responsibility to the Jewish people and the world.”

View additional service mission photos.

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Kanarfogel Named E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law; Wins Goldstein-Goren Book Award

Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel, of Teaneck, NJ, has been appointed a University Professor at Yeshiva University, the sixth faculty member in the entire University to be granted this prestigious distinction. His new title, bestowed upon him by YU President Richard M. Joel, designates him as the E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law.

Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel

Dr. Ephraim Kanarfogel

The title of university professor is reserved for those who have achieved outstanding goals in teaching, publications and research.

“It is a great honor, well deserved,” said Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, vice provost for undergraduate education. “Dr. Kanarfogel’s overall contribution to Yeshiva University and his prodigious scholarship and publications make him a fitting holder of a university professorship. His extensive use of unpublished manuscripts and his methodological sophistication have made possible pioneering, original scholarship.” Read the rest of this entry…


School of Social Work Pays Tribute to Faculty Member’s 47-Year Career

In 1958, newly-ordained Rabbi Norman Linzer decided to do something different with the semicha he had just received from Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

Rather than lead a congregation, Linzer wanted to pursue a career in Jewish communal work. So he turned to YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, which had opened its doors the year before, to pursue a degree that would equip him with all the right tools to accomplish his dream.

Linzer has been there ever since.

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Rabbi Josh Joseph Appointed Senior Vice President of Yeshiva University

President Richard M. Joel has appointed Rabbi Josh Joseph as senior vice president of Yeshiva University.

Rabbi Josh Joseph

Rabbi Josh Joseph

In addition to his current responsibilities as chief of staff, Joseph will launch the next phase in the University’s strategic planning process and guide its university-wide implementation. He will also work to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of various departments around the University, developing collaboration opportunities and proper partnerships between and among faculty, administration, staff, students and trustees. Read the rest of this entry…


Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and Dr. Ruth Wisse Discuss Jewish Humor at Straus Center Event

In his introduction of Dr. Ruth R. Wisse, Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik described her as a renowned scholar and courageously outspoken supporter of Israel, as an “eishet chayil” [woman of valor].

“You know what they say about the eishet chayil—she ran off with an officer,” quipped Wisse, playing on the Hebrew phrase’s other literal meaning, “wife of a soldier.”

The line was one of several funny moments at the Yeshiva University Museum, which hosted a conversation between Wisse and Soloveichik about Jewish jokes and Wisse’s newest book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press, 2013) Read the rest of this entry…


Employees Recognized for Their Contributions at Staff Appreciation Day

On Wednesday, June 12, the Human Resources Department presented Staff Appreciation Day on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. Hundreds of faculty and staff participated in the annual picnic that recognizes University employees for all of their contributions.

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Students and Recent Graduates Kick Off Summer Break with Sandy Aid Mission

It’s been more than seven months since Hurricane Sandy struck the greater New York region and some areas continue to suffer the storm’s ravaging effects. When Elana Polster, a Presidential Fellow at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, heard that volunteers were still needed to assist in the recovery, she mobilized 10 students and recent graduates from YU and partnered with Nechama, a disaster relief organization, to run a four-day mission to Long Island where students worked to rebuild damaged homes.

YU students prime and paint Lindenhurst house damaged by Sandy

A group of YU  students and recent graduates primed and painted this house damaged by Sandy in Lindenhurst, NY.

“What intrigued me about this mission was that months later, there was still work to be done and I wanted to help,” said participant Yitzy Frankel, a new Yeshiva College graduate. “It was really shocking to drive down there and see the water, houses and devastation that still remained.” Read the rest of this entry…