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Yeshiva University Celebrates at 83rd Commencement Ceremony

More than 600 students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were presented with their degrees at YU’s 83rd commencement exercises, held at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Thursday, May 22.

A celebratory spirit was in the air as graduates clad in black caps and gowns chatted excitedly, embracing one another and posing for pictures with friends and family. Blue and white balloons and YU insignia adorned the walls and guests stopped to admire the dozens of posters featuring pictures of students, which lined the entrances to the arena.

“I am so happy to be celebrating today with my family – my immediate family and my YU family,” said Seth Feuerstein-Rudin, who was graduating from Sy Syms School of Business with a degree in business marketing. “It’s bittersweet because I learned a lot here and really developed as a person and I’m sad that my experience is drawing to a close. But I’m also looking forward to being involved in the future and giving back to the school in any way I can.”

President Richard M. Joel challenged the new graduates to value their time and this “momentous moment,” as members of a generation that are “nostalgic for the past, savoring the present and anticipating the future.”

“How do we count time to make sure that time counts?” President Joel asked.

Referencing graduate Josh Hillman, the grandchild of one of the few remaining Schindler’s List survivors, the president emphasized the importance of sustaining and advancing the Jewish story like those of previous generations. “Take that same valued time and consciousness with you and it will remain with you for all your sacred days,” he said. “Our great hope is for you to own your future and make it count.”

The keynote address was delivered by Dr. John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the UJA-Federation of New York, who urged the graduates to find their calling in life by seeking out a fulfilling career that would allow them to make an impact in the Jewish community and beyond.

“Your YU education will be an asset to treasure for the rest of your life. Let us each be able to recognize and hear our calling and respond, undertaking work to strengthen and improve our community, our nation and the Jewish people… Act as if you can change the world, or at least part of it, because you can.”

President Joel conferred an honorary doctorate upon Ruskay, as well as upon Joshua Gortler ’54YUHS, ’58YC, ’60W, president of The Kline Galland Center Foundation, and YU benefactor Dorothy Schachne, who along with her husband endowed the David I. and Dorothy Schachne deanship at Wurzweiler and created several scholarship funds at YU. Dr. Morton Lowengrub, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, received the Presidential Medallion for his more than 15 years of service as a leader of the YU academic team.

“Dr. Lowengrub is a consummate mathematician who has scaled the totem pole in intellectual acuity,” said President Joel. “He recognized the magical transformative power of education and dedicated his life to enabling thousands of students to explore the meaning of life.”

In her address to fellow graduates, Malia Weiss, one of two valedictorians from YU’s Sy Syms School of Business, reminded the Class of 2014 that despite the challenging life decisions they would face after graduation, the unique values-based education they received at YU left them equipped to make those tough calls.

“Yeshiva University is an oasis of Judaism and morality, while also extending the best the secular world has to offer in terms of education and career advancement,” she said. “YU has provided us with a decision-making structure and a moral compass. We benefit from the values, the culture and the tradition of Judaism, which YU has helped instill in all of us. These Jewish values form the lodestar that guides us as we pursue success in our life plan.”

The ceremony also featured live coverage from The Shield News Team, YU’s student-run broadcast news channel. After a prepared video that highlighted the “senior story” and featured students discussing their unique experiences at YU, the screen cut to a live shot of the graduating student anchors, Ben Scheiner and Shimra Barnett, signing off for the last time.

For the Cohen family of Stamford, Connecticut, commencement was a unique three-generation milestone. Stern graduate Sara Malka Cohen ’14S was joined by her father, Rabbi Daniel Cohen ’89YC, ’94R, ’96A, who was celebrating his 25th reunion, and her grandfather, Rabbi Herbert Cohen ’64YC, ’70F, ’70R who traveled from Israel to mark his 50th reunion.

“This celebration means so much to us, and it’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Rabbi Daniel Cohen, who leads Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford. “YU has always been part of our family, and we are committed to the values of Torah Umadda. I grew up in a home where we tried to see the world in all its holiness, with a strong commitment to halacha and spiritual growth. My father made the effort to be here today because that is what the commandment of pru u’rvu [be fruitful and multiply] is all about: not just about children but about grandchildren who embody the same values that you do, ensuring the continuity and the perpetuity of multiple generations.”

The reunion classes of 1954, 1964, 1974 and 1989 were recognized at the graduation ceremony for their 60th, 50th, 40th and 25th reunions. In all, more than 1,400 undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, as well as graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, will be awarded degrees from YU during its commencement season.