President Richard M. Joel Reflects on his Recent Visit to the White House

Last week, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama and his Chief of Staff Jack Lew in the White House as part of a delegation of the Orthodox community convened by the Orthodox Union.

We enjoyed a full and frank discussion with the president on a range of issues of concern to us as Jews and as Americans. We were, of course, treated cordially, and the conversation was nuanced. We discussed issues that included the balances between rights in a pluralistic society and religious liberties, the role of values in American society, affordability of education, Israel and Iran. The president and chief of staff were articulate, forthright and engaging. I’ll leave the policy discussions to others.

I have a few personal reflections to share.

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The New York Jewish Week on a YU Professor of Talmud’s Encounter with Death

In Ernest Hemingway’s Havana days, several young men from New York approached the gatehouse of the great writer’s home, telling the guard: “Will you please tell Mr. Hemingway that three rabbis are here to see him?”

Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University

Hemingway was at home with Mary, his wife, and the American ambassador to Cuba, and he was not expecting rabbis, and they were barely rabbis at that, still dewy from their recent ordination at Yeshiva University. Hemingway let them in, for the sport, if nothing else.

One of the rabbis was Benjamin Blech, an English major. Blech remembers, “He started to talk to us, to see if it was worth his while. After about 10 minutes it was as if a cloud lifted and he said, ‘OK, I’ll talk to you guys.’”

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Five Undergraduate Students to Pursue Advanced Research as Part of Fifth-Year Program

Five Yeshiva University students will perform advanced undergraduate-level research this year as part of the Henry Kressel Research Scholarship. The scholarship—established in 2008 by Dr. Henry Kressel, chairman of the YU Board of Trustees, managing director of Warburg Pincus LLC and a Yeshiva College graduate—offers students the unique opportunity to craft a year-long intensive research project under the direct supervision of YU faculty.

Kressel Scholars: Kollmar, Roberts, Joel, Barach and Carl.

This year’s scholarship recipients are: Gilad Barach and Uri Carl of Teaneck, NJ; Kira Joel of Riverdale, NY; Davida Kollmar of Edison, NJ; and Yael Roberts of Potomac, MD.

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Maccabees Win Skyline Sportsmanship Trophy for Third Time in Five-Year History of Award

Yeshiva University has captured the Skyline Conference’s Sportsmanship Trophy for displaying outstanding team sportsmanship during the 2011-12 academic year.

Yeshiva University has won the Sportsmanship Trophy for the third time in five years.

The Skyline Conference instituted the Sportsmanship Trophy in 2007-08 to gauge team sportsmanship among its member schools. The Maccabees compiled 531 points out of a possible 710 points (9 sports), for an overall rating of .748.

“This award is so important because it shows that our student-athletes know how to represent themselves, the University and the Jewish People in a fiercely competitive yet fair, honest and respectful manner,” said Joe Bednarsh, director of athletics, physical education and recreation. “This is the most valued award for our department. We place it above all-star honors.”

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YU Employees Recognized for Their Contributions at Staff Appreciation Day

On Tuesday, June 5, 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.

Appreciation Days are also scheduled for YU employees at other Manhattan campuses: on Thursday, June 14, on the Beren Campus at 151 East 36th Street (Residence Hall Patio) from 12 to 1:30 p.m. and on Wednesday, June 20, at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Brookdale Center Lobby at 55 5th Avenue from 12 to 1:30 p.m.

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Yeshiva University Celebrates Israel with Largest Contingent at Annual NYC Parade

More than 1,500 students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Yeshiva University marched up Fifth Avenue, cheering and greeting the crowds as they celebrated Israel’s 64th year of independence at the annual 2012 Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, June 3.

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Researchers at Einstein and Ferkauf Find “Personality Genes” May Help Account for Longevity 

“It’s in their genes” is a common refrain from scientists when asked about factors that allow centenarians to reach age 100 and beyond. Up until now, research has focused on genetic variations that offer a physiological advantage such as high levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University have found that personality traits like being outgoing, optimistic, easygoing and enjoying laughter as well as staying engaged in activities may also be part of the longevity genes mix.

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Cynthia Wachtell on New York State’s Flawed Public School Standardized Testing

Here is a modest proposal. Let’s have private school students take the same standardized tests that public school students now take each year.

Cynthia Wachtell

Dr. Cynthia Wachtell is the director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at YU.

While we are at it, let’s require private school teachers to be absent from their students’ classrooms for the same number of days as public school teachers, who now must serve as conscripted graders for the standardized tests.

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Ten Undergraduate Valedictorians Recognized for Their Academic Achievements by Respective Schools

More than 750 students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were presented with their degrees at YU’s 81st commencement exercises, held at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ on May 24. Ten received the distinction of valedictorian, an honor that reflects their exceptional academic achievement.

Valedictorians (L-R): Elana Sand, Chana Zuckier, Jennifer Lazaros, Yair Saperstein, Gregory Kupsin, Yehuda Safier, Anosh Moshe Zaghi, Avi Libman and Jesse Bernstein. Not pictured: Sultana Shoshani.

As the new graduates prepared to take their drive, creativity and dedication to a range of exciting careers and challenges, from medical school and finance to academic law and communal leadership, they recalled the close relationships with faculty, vibrant Jewish life and rich academic and extracurricular experiences that shaped their undergraduate years at Yeshiva.

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Rabbi Benjamin Blech: You Don’t Need to be Religious to Appreciate the Dangers of the Internet

Mark Zuckerberg had quite a week.

The 28-year-old founder of Facebook officially became a multi-billionaire and one of the wealthiest people in the world the day his company went public. Then, in a short few days, he watched his net worth diminished by several billion dollars when his company made history as one of the greatest IPO flops.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University

While large IPOs on average trade up by 20% on their first day, Facebook’s flat performance on day one, and nearly 11% decline on day two, set the stage for further declines in what remains an unfinished story about a stock whose future remains highly uncertain to Wall Street and the investment community. In the wake of the unfolding scandal, investors are suing and the entire IPO process is being called into question.

But Zuckerberg still had one more momentous event scheduled for his IPO week. On that Saturday he got married to his longtime sweetheart. From a traditional Jewish perspective, the fact that it was an intermarriage, effectively insuring that the Zuckerberg Jewish lineage would now come to an end, was far more tragic than the fate of a failed stock offering. While there are no fears about the couple’s future financial security, no matter how much Facebook stock continues to underperform, it is fascinating to speculate on their marriage’s chances for long-term bliss based on hubby’s impact on contemporary society’s mores.

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November 2014
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