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Dr: Jess Olson: The Yazidis and The Armenians of Musa Dagh

The crisis faced by the little-known religious minority, the Yazidis of northern Iraq, captured the attention of western humanitarians. Their capitulation to their pursuers, the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), whose strict interpretation of Islam regards the Yazidis as polytheists, would mean physical destruction. To escape, thousands of these practitioners of an obscure faith, who have dwelt in the Ninveh region for centuries, encamped on the desolate summit of Mount Sinjar, desperate for rescue by a foreign power.

Dr. Jess Olson

Dr. Jess Olson, associate professor of Jewish history

A remarkably similar story was told a little over eighty years ago by German-speaking Jewish novelist Franz Werfel, in his blockbuster novel The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. Virtually unknown today, the 900-page novel was widely read when it appeared. Just in time to serve as a prescient critique of Nazism, it was optioned by studio giant MGM in 1934 to produce an epic film starring a young Clark Gable, then on his way to winning an Academy Award for It Happened One Night.

Werfel’s inspiration was a footnote to the Turkish anti-Armenian atrocities of World War I. In June 1915, receiving news of mass expulsions and murder, the inhabitants of six Armenian Christian villages on the Mediterranean coast collected their few possessions and weapons, and fled to the summit of Musa Dagh, highlands on the coast of the Mediterranean, to escape the approaching Turks. The leader of the revolt, Moses Der Kalousdian, a European-educated Armenian gentleman, rallied the spirits of the villagers, held off assaults on their stronghold until, on the verge of capitulation, they were rescued by a passing French warship.

Although the revolt of 4,200 Armenians at Musa Dagh received scattered attention in the press, it was a small event in a much larger conflict. Read the rest of this entry…

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President Joel and Rabbi Penner Address Undergraduate Torah Studies Students on Wilf Campus

Undergraduate Torah Studies on the Wilf Campus officially kicked off on Monday, August 25 with an opening kennus to mark the beginning of a new zman at the Yeshiva University.

The kennus, which took place in the Lamport Auditorium, featured remarks from President Richard M. Joel and Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS),  all connected to the themes of ahavat Yisrael and the upcoming month of Elul.  In attendance were students, Roshei Yeshiva, faculty, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Henry Kressel.

“On the one hand, the zman already started because this morning the beit midrash was louder than ever before,” said Rabbi Penner. “But to establish something kodesh, we must have this special kennus.” Read the rest of this entry…

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YU’s Eric Goldman to Co-Host Turner Classic Movies’ Month-Long  Showcase of Jewish Cinema

This September, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) proudly presents The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film, a month-long showcase of movies focusing on Jewish history and heritage as portrayed on screen. Airing Tuesdays throughout the month, the showcase will feature introductions by TCM host Robert Osborne and Dr. Eric Goldman, adjunct professor of cinema at Yeshiva University and an expert on Yiddish, Israeli and Jewish film. Goldman is the founder and president of Ergo Media, a distributor of Jewish film, and is the author of two important books on the topic, The American Jewish Story Through Cinema (2013) and Visions, Images and Dreams: Yiddish Film Past and Present (2011).

Eric Goldman

Eric Goldman will co-host The Jewish Experience on Film in September.

“Movies can provide a terrific lens on Israel and the Jewish people,” said Goldman. “What a terrific opportunity to have this series on TCM.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Yeshiva University and RIETS Family Mourn Passing of Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz zt”l

Yeshiva University and its affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) are saddened by the loss of Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz, who passed away on August 19. The longtime senior Rosh Yeshiva was 104.

Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz zt"l

Rabbi Gershon Yankelewitz zt”l

“Rabbi Yankelewitz by his nature and learning so represented both our history and our destiny,” said YU President Richard M. Joel. “For over half a century he taught his students how to learn and how to live. We will always remember him.” Read the rest of this entry…

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With Latest Publication, Dr. Stuart Halpern Edits 10th Book for YU Press

mitokh haohel coverA third book in the Mitokh Ha-Ohel series featuring collections of essays by Yeshiva University faculty is being released this week. The first of a three-volume series on prayer, From Within the Tent: Essays on the Weekday Prayers from the Rabbis and Professors of Yeshiva University (The Michael Scharf Publication Trust of RIETS/Yeshiva University Press and Koren Publishers, 2014) is a compilation of writings from over three dozen YU faculty members — including Roshei Yeshiva, deans and professors — who draw upon a range of diverse sources to help readers gain a better understanding of the weekday prayers.

The book was edited by YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman, who is also a professor at Sy Syms School of Business and executive editor of YU Press, and Dr. Stuart W. Halpern, who serves as an academic advisor on YU’s Wilf campus, assistant director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and assistant director of Student Programming and Community Outreach at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

For Halpern, the release marks a personal milestone, as this is the 10th book he has edited for YU Press over the last five years. Read the rest of this entry…

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Wurzweiler School of Social Work Celebrates Dr. Joyce Brenner’s 27 Years of Service to its Block Program

Upon her retirement, Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work celebrated Dr. Joyce Brenner’s more than 27 years of service to its Block Program in Israel by naming her the first recipient of its Distinguished Alumni Award at the Block Program Commencement on July 23.

2014 WSSW Block Program Commencement

Dr. Joyce Brenner delivered the keynote address at this year’s Block Program Commencement

“Dr. Brenner has literally been a part of Wurzweiler from its beginnings in 1957, entering our Masters of Social Work program in 1962,” said Dr. Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, Dorothy and David Schachne Dean of Wurzweiler. “She has single-handedly developed and strengthened the relationship between Wurzweiler and the Block Israeli Field Work Program for 27 years. She is the face of Wurzweiler in Israel and a respected leader of the social work profession as well. Dr. Brenner has earned the Distinguished Alumni Award, as she leaves a legacy of hundreds of professional social workers serving the people of Israel and the U.S.”

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Yeshiva University’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music Publishes Journal, Releases Double Album

The 32nd edition of the annual Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy, edited by Cantor Bernard Beer, director of Yeshiva University’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music, has recently been published, and the school has also released its first album in the Nusah Legacy Recordings Project.

Now in its 32nd year, The Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy has achieved national recognition as a model of scholarship that fills a critical need in the Jewish community. Offering essays on all aspects of Jewish music and prayer, its articles are written by distinguished rabbis, cantors, musicologists, physicians, professors, psychologists and educators. Thousands subscribe to the journal and numerous lecturers, writers and laymen use its pages as a source of reference.

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Students in Yeshiva College Summer Course Discredit Claim That Vatican is Hiding Temple Relics

When Yeshiva University senior Ari Rosenberg signed up for a summer school course on the Arch of Titus, he was just trying to fulfill his last history requirement with what sounded like an interesting class taught by Dr. Steven Fine, a professor who was clearly excited about his work and sharing it with his students.

Students in Professor Fine's Arch of Titus summer course

Students in Professor Fine’s Arch of Titus summer course

“What I did not know was how fantastic a professor he really is and how stimulating the course would be,” said Rosenberg, a history major at Yeshiva College who hopes to attend medical school.

Fine is a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva College and Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and director of the Center for Israel Studies and its Arch of Titus Project. In 2012 he led an international team in the discovery of the original yellow paint that was used to color the Arch of Titus menorah nearly 2,000 years ago.

The summer course focused on the Arch of Titus, one of the most significant Roman monuments to survive from antiquity, from the perspectives of Roman, Jewish and Christian history and art. Built in 81 CE, it commemorates the Roman victory over Judea a decade earlier, an event that Jews mourn each year with the Fast of the Ninth of Av—Tisha B’Av, which falls this year on August 4-5. The course examined the contexts for the construction of the monument and the continued reflection that it has evoked, especially since its menorah relief was chosen as the symbol of the State of Israel in 1949. Read the rest of this entry…

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Lieberman Appointed Joseph Lieberman Chair in Public Policy and Public Service at Yeshiva University

Picture 038Former United States Senator Joseph Lieberman has been appointed the Joseph Lieberman Chair in Public Policy and Public Service at Yeshiva University for the 2014-2015 academic year. During that time, he will teach one undergraduate course and give three public lectures, on topics ranging from Judaism and public service to the Middle East, at schools throughout the University.

 “We are thrilled to welcome Senator Lieberman, whose public life and values serve as a model for our students, especially those who aspire to careers in public service while embracing Orthodox Judaism,” said Dr. Selma Botman, university provost and vice president of academic affairs. “Interaction between Senator Lieberman and the students will be a truly transformational experience.”

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Frenkel Receives $375,000 NSF Grant to Support Three Years of Joint Research with Hebrew University

Dr. Anatoly Frenkel, professor of physics at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, will serve as principal investigator on a three-year $675,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for internationally collaborative study of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals, tiny synthetic particles containing metal impurities whose properties have intriguing implications for the electronics, solar energy and biological fields.

Anatoly FrenkelFrenkel will work in tandem with Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Dr. Uri Banin, Alfred & Erica Larisch Memorial Chair at its Institute of Chemistry. The grant is administered by NSF, which awarded $375,000 to Frenkel’s group, and the Binational Science Foundation in Israel, which awarded $300,000 to Banin’s.

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