Yeshiva University Scholars Reflect on the Daf Yomi Phenomenon

Last night some 90,000 people gathered at the MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey for a ceremony celebrating the 12th completion of the daily reading of the Talmud (Siyum ha-Shas). The event followed similar ceremonies, in Jerusalem,Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, London, Melbourne, and other cities and communities around the world, in which thousands more participated in person or via closed-circuit TV.

Tens of thousands celebrated the conclusion of the a seven-and-a-half-year Daf Yomi cycle on August 1.

These events honor the conclusion and re-commencement of a seven-and-a-half-year cycle in which people—individually, with partners, or in groups—learn a folio page (two facing pages) of the Babylonian Talmud each day in a tradition known as daf yomi, “a page a day.”

The tradition was established by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Hasidic rebbe of Lublin. Rabbi Shapiro proposed the idea to the Agudath Israel convention in Vienna in August, 1923, and the enterprise was launched with much fanfare the following Rosh Hashanah. Over the course of the 12 cycles completed thus far, the number of learners has burgeoned to many tens of thousands around the world.

To mark the occasion, Jewish Ideas Daily invited several prominent thinkers, including Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter and Moshe Sokolow to reflect on the phenomenon of daf yomi and their own engagement with the practice.

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YU Certificate Program Professionalizes Field of Experiential Jewish Education

They work for Hillel, NCSY, Maimonides, Birthright and other Jewish organizations. They range in education and background experience from recent college graduates to seasoned non-profit veterans. Between them, they have accompanied hundreds of people of all ages on Jewish journeys across the globe, engaging in volunteer work and teambuilding exercises, reflecting on issues of Jewish identity and community, and inspiring others to live meaningful lives centered on Jewish values.

Using their iPads, program participants learn about multi-disciplinary engagement and technology integration.

They are experiential Jewish educators, and thanks to a new certificate program created by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future and funded through a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, they are embarking on an educational journey of their own.

“The field of experiential Jewish education is still in its early stages, with significant opportunities for improvement and important lessons to be learned,” said Dawne Bear Novicoff, senior program officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation. “YU’s Certificate Program is an excellent new training model for the field and will help share best practices that educators can apply directly to their work.”

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Choosing Good over Evil: RIETS Alumnus Cary Friedman on the Lessons We Can Learn from Batman

It’s important to acknowledge this straight from the beginning: I love Batman.

Rabbi Cary Friedman '95R is the author of Wisdom from the Batcave

In fact, no one loves him more than I do. He and I have a history that goes back more than four decades. But, increasingly, I rarely recognize the character in the comics and movies they keep calling “Batman.”

That shouldn’t be too surprising if you know anything about Batman and his portrayal in various media over the last several decades or if you know anything about human nature and the culture in which we live—a culture whose values and mindset are reflected in and expressed through its pop culture. Instead, the Batman I know and love is the Batman who inspires me and stands for a whole lot of greatness.

Since the mid-1980s, there’s been a tug of war between two different groups of comic book creators, and it’s a struggle for the soul of the Batman character. Consider it a battle between the traditionalists and the reformers. Suspend your eye-rolling disbelief for a moment and follow me on this.

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YU Museum Exhibit Details the Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine

The memo on display at the Yeshiva University Museum exhibit Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860 – 1960 is short and to the point:  “Never admit more than five Jews, take only two Italian Catholics, and no blacks at all.” The document was signed by Milton Charles Winternitz, dean of Yale Medical School from 1920 to 1935.

The College of Medicine's namesake, Albert Einstein, with a model of the institution that proudly bears his name.

The College of Medicine's namesake, Albert Einstein, with a model of the institution that proudly bears his name.

Having fled the growing anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe in the years preceding World War II, multitudes of Jews that emigrated to the United Sates were met with such informal yet widely enforced quotas, used at the time to limit the number of Jews, African Americans and other ethnic groups admitted to medical schools and other fields.

In response to this, Yeshiva University President Dr. Samuel Belkin began to advocate and plan for a medical school under Jewish auspices that would be run without quotas based on racial or religious prejudices. That medical school would come to bear the name of the famous Jewish scientist and philanthropist Albert Einstein, whose primary wish was that the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University would support and welcome all creeds and races. The history and motivation behind the establishment of the College of Medicine is detailed as part of the museum’s multi-media exhibit.

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Reflections on Henry Wittenberg, Olympic Gold Medalist and YU Wrestling Coach

As the 2012 Olympics kick off in London, YUNews looks back at Yeshiva University’s very own London Olympian—a Jewish American wrestler named Henry Wittenberg, who took home the gold in 1948.

Wittenberg, top, won gold at the 1948 London Olympic Games. (© International Olympic Committee )

It was no easy win. Wittenberg, who was 30 at the time, had already missed his prime competitive years—the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War II, in which he served in the Navy. At the 1948 London Games, Wittenberg tore muscle tendons in his chest in the semifinals and his coach didn’t want him to wrestle in the final rounds. But the wrestler fought on to win first place in the light heavyweight freestyle competition and received a hero’s welcome upon his return to New York.

Four years later, with a push from his wife, Edith (who wanted to see Finland), Wittenberg would compete again at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and win the silver, becoming the first American wrestler to medal at successive Olympic Games since 1908. He would go on to become Yeshiva University’s first wrestling coach.

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Rabbi Yona Reiss: Why the Siyum HaShas is Good for Jewish Unity

When Rabbi Meir Shapiro zt”l introduced the Daf Yomi learning cycle in 1923, little was it recognized that he was about to affect a major transformation in the enterprise of Torah learning throughout the world.

On August 1, thousands will celebrate the completion of a seven and a half year cycle of Talmud study.

Now, almost 90 years later, the learning of Daf Yomi is one of the most visible symbols of Torah study throughout the Jewish community. Shiurim, kollelim and study groups abound that are immersed in the daily dissection of the Daf.

A recent retrospective on the life of Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l quoted him as having said that if not for his daily Daf Yomi routine, there were days when his necessary preoccupation with communal affairs might have prevented him from having a regular period of Torah study. Indeed, Daf Yomi has injected a sense of daily learning constancy for countless adherents.

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Dr. Carmen Ortiz Hendricks Appointed Dean of Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work

Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel has announced the appointment of Professor Carmen Ortiz Hendricks as the Dorothy and David I. Schachne Dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

Carmen Ortiz Hendricks has been appointed dean of YU's Wurzweiler School of Social Work

Hendricks came to Wurzweiler in 2005 as professor of social work and associate dean. She has been serving as interim dean of Wurzweiler for the past year. In that time, she has worked with faculty, chair Froma Benerofe and the Board of Overseers, President Joel and Provost Mort Lowengrub to advance the school in critical directions: increasing enrollment, fundraising for scholarships and special projects, working with the Jewish Community, partnering with the Washington Heights community, and collaborating with other departments throughout the University.

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Ten YU Students Selected for Summer Undergraduate Research Program at Einstein

Many college students spend their summer vacations on the beach, at a camp or relaxing at home, enjoying a well-earned break from research papers and exams.

Bella Wolf, a University Undergraduate Summer Research Scholar, hopes to pursue a career in ophthalmology.

Some, like Bella Wolf of Woodmere, NY, dissect mice eyes.

“I hope to go to medical school and become an ophthalmologist, so I feel very fortunate that I have been given the opportunity to work directly with mice eyes to help determine the DNA pathways that leads to lens transparency and the ability to see clearly,” she said.

The Stern College for Women junior is one of ten Yeshiva University undergraduates participating in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), an advanced biomedical research program at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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Einstein Study Finds Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment Doubles Risk of Death

Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center have found that people with a form of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease, have twice the risk of dying compared with cognitively normal people. Those with dementia have three times the risk. The findings are being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver this week.

Amnestic MCI is a condition in which people have memory problems more severe than normal for their age and education, but not serious enough to affect daily life. (Another form of MCI, nonamnestic MCI, is characterized by impaired thinking skills other than memory, such as trouble planning and organizing or poor judgment.) According to the Alzheimer’s Association, long-term studies suggest that 10 to 20 percent of people aged 65 and older may have MCI.

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Yeshiva University Program for Jewish Genetic Health Launches Blog

How is the field of genetics going to change the world of medicine? What kinds of situations do genetic counselors face on a daily basis? What kinds of ethical concerns should be taken into consideration before exploring the “slippery slope” of genetic engineering? What is halakhically permissible under Jewish law?

These are just a few of the questions that will be answered in The Gene Scenea new blog from The Program for Jewish Genetic Health, a joint initiative between Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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