Yeshiva University News » Chanukah

David Brooks to Keynote December 8 Convocation; Jack Belz, Dr. Susan Horwitz, Harvey Kaylie and William Zabel to be Honored

David Brooks, acclaimed journalist, author and New York Times columnist will be the keynote speaker and receive an honorary doctorate at Yeshiva University’s 89th Annual Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner on Sunday, December 8, at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

David Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks will keynote YU’s Hanukkah convocation.

In addition to Brooks, YU President Richard M. Joel will confer honorary degrees upon Jack A. Belz of Memphis, TN, chairman and CEO of Belz Enterprises and a Benefactor and Trustee of Yeshiva University; Harvey Kaylie of Great Neck, NY, founder, president and CEO of Mini-Circuits International and a YU Benefactor; and William Zabel of Manhattan, founding partner of Schulte, Roth & Zabel and head of the Individual Client Services Group. President Joel will also present the Presidential Medallion to Dr. Susan B. Horwitz of Larchmont, NY, Rose Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and co-chair of molecular pharmacology at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Read the rest of this entry…

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Students Light Up Campus with Communal Celebration

As Jews celebrate Hanukkah all over the world, Yeshiva University’s Wilf and Beren Campuses were alight with exciting events, a festive spirit and a feeling of unity this week. “Our mission is to create a vibrant Judaism and cultivate a strong religious life on campus, and Hanukkah is the perfect time to make that happen,” said Margot Reinstein, president of Stern College for Women’s Torah Activities Committee. “Whether it was through daily communal tefilah with hallel and breakfast, ‘Latkes and Learning’ with Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Willig, baking and decorating Hanukkah cookies to sell for charity, handing out menorahs in Times Square with Chabad, or our unbelievable glow-in-the-dark chagiga that brought more than 400 students together, YU is an unbelievable place to be during the holidays.”

Uptown, nightly communal lightings in the dormitories and a lunch that brought the entire campus together to celebrate with roshei yeshiva, among other events, created a warm and joyful environment.

“This year’s sensational programming culminated on Thursday with one of student government’s biggest events of the year – the annual YU Chanukah Concert,” said Yosef Hoffman, president of the Yeshiva Student Union. Featuring Shalsheles, the Y-Studs, Neshoma Orchestra and “America’s Got Talent” star Edon Pinchot (son of Dov Pinchot ‘90YC), the concert drew students, families and fans from across the tri-state area. “The fantastic lineup of performers and sold-out audience of over 1,000 people made the concert an electrifying experience,” Hoffman said.

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Shalsheles and Edon to Headline December 13 Annual Chanukah Concert

Edon Pinchot headlines YU’s annual Chanukah Concert on Dec. 13.

Edon Pinchot, the teen music sensation who burst onto the scene this year as a semifinalist on the TV show “America’s Got Talent,” and veteran Jewish music group Shalsheles, will headline this year’s annual Yeshiva University Chanukah Concert on Thursday, December 13 at 8 p.m. YU a cappella group, the Y-Studs, will open the show. The concert will take place at YU’s Lamport Auditorium, 2540 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

The concert is organized by Yeshiva University’s undergraduate student councils. Read the rest of this entry…

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YU A Cappella Group Raises More than $80,000 for Bone Marrow Registry

Last week’s eight days of Hanukkah celebrated an ancient Hebrew miracle.

A modern day miracle happened during this Hanukkah festival.

A music group and their YouTube video might save the life of a two-year-old boy.

The Maccabeats, a Jewish a cappella group from Yeshiva University, are named for the Maccabees, the ancient Jewish warriors who fought the Greek army.

The Maccabeats are fighting for 2-year-old Ezra Fineman among others.

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Hanukkah is the miracle of a tiny oil lamp that burned for eight days.

It was these eight men whose YouTube video “Miracle” brought in donations over Hanukkah last week to find a bone marrow donor for Ezra.

The group’s Hanukkah video last year went viral with seven million YouTube hits.

“We thought this year, when we released a video for Hanukkah, why not also do something positive in keeping with the spirit of the holiday and perhaps raise money to save people’s lives,” said Immanuel Shalev, the Maccabeats.

One of them might be Ezra’s.

He was born with a weak immune system.

Only a bone marrow transplant would give him hope of a future.

But no donor registry around the world had a marrow match.

“It was devastating. Because you know that if he has a bone marrow transplant and it’s successful, it would be a cure for him,” said Robin Fineman, Ezra’s mother.

Testing for the cure means getting DNA.

Getting DNA is pretty simple, it’s just a cheek swab, but processing it costs $54.

One registry, Gift of Life, had 15,000 of these samples, but ran out of money to analyze them.

“So the key is to get as much fundraising done as we can to get the 15,000 samples that are now on the waitlist to the laboratory,” said Jay Feinberg, Founder and Executive Director of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.

When the Maccabeats heard about the problem, they recorded “Miracle,” had it on YouTube overnight, and received $80,000 in donations during Hanukkah.

“It’s unbelievable, we rarely see such tremendous fundraising activities happen in such a short span of time,” Feinberg said.

Ezra’s match could be in those 15,000 samples, and you don’t have to be Jewish to be tested.

A post on the Maccabeats YouTube site said: “I’m Muslim and I love this a cappella. However, I was in a bad mood, this video made my day. I hope you guy realize that you are changing lives. I know you changed mine. Let’s hope they’ll change Ezra’s too.”

For more information please visit: www.makesomemiracles.com

This story first appeared on ABC 7.

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Hundreds Attend Annual YU Chanukah Concert Featuring Shwekey, Y-Studs and Shimon Craimer

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Jeffrey Gurock Explains the ‘Maccabees’ Moniker for Jewish Athletics

Jewish athletes from around the world gather every four years in Israel for the Olympic-style Maccabiah Games, not to mention the annual JCC Maccabi Youth Games in America. Most Israeli professional basketball and soccer teams preface their names with “Maccabi” (perhaps most notably the hoopsters of Maccabi Tel Aviv), and the athletic teams from Yeshiva University are dubbed—you guessed it—the Maccabees.

YU athletic teams adopted their current name, "Maccabees", in the 1970s.

Does all of this mean Judah the Maccabee was a superstar athlete back in the day?

Actually, history suggests just the opposite. The story of Hanukkah was one in which the Jews—seeking to “Hellenize”—started to adopt Greek sports, only to have the anti-assimilationist Maccabees buck that trend as well as others that blended Jewish and secular lifestyles.

“Calling Jewish sports teams Maccabees is a contradiction in terms because the historic Maccabees were anti-sports,” Yeshiva University professor of Jewish History Jeffrey Gurock told JointMedia News Service. He explained that the Maccabees’ goal was to “return back [to tradition], go away from these outside influences.”

Instead, Gurock said, the modern usage of the Maccabee moniker can be traced to 1898, when social Darwinist Max Nordau—founder of the Jewish athletic movement—coined the term “muscular Judaism” (muskel-Judenthum) at the Second Zionist Congress. Nordau believed the existence of strong and physically fit Jews could defeat the classic stereotype that Jews are physically weak and instead depend solely on their wit.

The women's teams are known as the "Lady Maccabees" or "Lady Macs".

The great rabbinic figures of the Middle Ages were concerned with physical fitness, but sports remained “something foreign to Jewish culture” at the time, Gurock said. Nordau was looking to emulate Jews who fought against the world and were successful, and historically speaking, that was found most prominently in the story of Hanukkah.

“The only examples we have of Jews who were strong and successful were really the Maccabees,” said Gurock.

From that point on, Gurock said the name Maccabees became a “badge of honor” for Jews pursuing sports. The same year as the Second Zionist Congress, Jews in Berlin founded the Bar Kochba athletics association, after which Jews in Eastern Europe (Galicia, Bulgaria) followed suit, according to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Russia’s Maccabi society joined the fray in 1913, and in the 1930s Poland’s Maccabi federation included 30,000 Jewish athletes in 250 clubs, YIVO said. Before World War II, “probably every European country from Poland on east had some sort of Maccabee team, or Maccabea Club,” Gurock said, representing “an expression of Zionist pride.”

The trend continues today, with numerous Jewish sports teams calling themselves Maccabees or something similar—including the teams at Yeshiva University (YU). That led Gurock to another question: Since YU is an Orthodox institution, shouldn’t it call its teams the “non-Maccabees,” to accurately represent the anti-assimilationist protagonists of the Hanukkah story? Not quite, he answered.

“What we like in modern times [about the historic Maccabees] are not so much their religious values, but their success in competing against the world,” Gurock said.

Though the original Maccabees were against the concept of organized athletics, Gurock noted that they were still the first Jewish group to raise the question of “How can you be Jewish and engage in a foreign cultural activity called sports?” He explained that in ancient times, sports were associated with pagan culture and ritual rites, but in modern times, “the great challenge is to integrate that foreign cultural phenomenon called sports into Jewish culture, so that the two can live side by side, which is often a difficult task.” The Maccabees ultimately decided that mixing sports with their Jewish lifestyle would be too inconsistent, Gurock said.

At YU, the athletic teams themselves—not the school’s administration—decided how they should be named. Originally the “Blue and Whites,” YU’s teams were the “Mighty Mites” from the 1940s-1960s, when they struggled against athletically superior squads, according to Gurock. In the 1970s, the teams adopted their currents monikers: the Maccabees and Lady Maccabees.

“It’s not today a defiance of tradition, it’s appropriating the idea of struggle, of success and virility, and power, which is emblematic of sports,” Gurock said.

The name Maccabees fits, Gurock explained, because the university is particularly proud of its Zionist orientation.

“It’s the only place outside of Israel where before every game both the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah are played,” he said. “So what more can you say?”

This article was written by Jacob Kamaras and first appeared on JointMedia News ServiceDr. Jeffrey S. Gurock is the Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University and author of Judaism’s Encounter with American Sports (Indiana  University  Press, 2005).

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker Delivers Keynote Address, Record $4.1 Million Raised

Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, delivered the keynote address at Yeshiva University’s (YU) 86th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation at The Waldorf=Astoria in New York City on December 12. The mayor implored members of the audience, and the Jewish community at large, to be true to themselves, to their faith and to their heritage.

“This world needs Jews who are manifesting the truth of who they are, who recognize that yes, there is a ‘chosen-ness’ in Judaism but it necessitates in the individual making a choice.”

In an address replete with references to Jewish history and the Torah that brimmed with humor, warmth and wisdom, Mayor Booker sought to outline exactly what that choice means.

“We are in a world that cries out for redemption; there is pain and suffering all around us. Why am I so drawn to Judaism? Because this world needs people who will choose to live those values, instill them in their hearts and manifest them in their actions.”

Recently re-elected as Newark’s mayor with a clear mandate for change, Mayor Booker understands the importance of working with and depending on others.  He noted that his bold vision for Newark could not have been set into motion without vital outside help and cooperation. And he sees in YU opportunities for cooperation and unity and restorative hope that must continue to be carried out.

“We are sitting here in homage not to individuals but to a tradition at a university that at its very core is that mission. Why I am so honored to be here, why I feel the gravity of the gift of kindness that you all have shown me, is because this university is answering that call.”

President Richard M. Joel conferred the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Mayor Booker, and honorary degrees were also awarded to Emanuel Gruss, a prominent investment executive and philanthropist, and Benefactor and honorary trustee of Yeshiva University; business executive Arthur N. Hershaft, a Benefactor and member of the Board of Overseers of YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine; attorney and community leader Murray Laulicht, a YU alumnus and Benefactor and member of the Board of Overseers of the University’s Stern College for Women; and philanthropist and civic leader Laurie M. Tisch, a Benefactor and significant supporter of YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The convocation and dinner, the University’s main annual fundraising event, raised a record $4.1 million this year.

Echoing the words of Mayor Booker, President Joel summed up the evening with these words: “Nights like tonight are so important for those of us who dream about the Jewish future. We must continue working with other people of goodwill to advance civilization; that’s our sacred mission, and that’s what we are celebrating tonight and what we will continue to celebrate in the days and months and years to come.”

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker Implores Audience to be True to Itself in Hanukkah Dinner Keynote Address

Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, and the keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s (YU) 86th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation at The Waldorf=Astoria in New York City, implored members of the audience, and the Jewish community at large, to be true to themselves, to their faith and to their heritage.

“This world doesn’t need ‘Jews.’ This world needs Jews who are manifesting the truth of who they are, who recognize that yes, there is a ‘chosen-ness’ in Judaism but it necessitates in the individual making a choice.”

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In an address replete with references to Jewish history and the Torah that brimmed with humor, warmth and wisdom, Mayor Booker sought to outline exactly what that choice means.

“We are in a world that cries out for redemption; there is pain and suffering all around us. Why am I so drawn to Judaism? Because this world needs people who will choose to live those values, instill them in their hearts and manifest them in their actions.”

Recently re-elected as Newark’s mayor with a clear mandate for change, Mayor Booker knows the importance of working with and depending on others.  He noted that his bold vision for Newark could not have been set into motion without vital outside help and cooperation. And he sees in YU opportunities for cooperation and unity and restorative hope that must continue to be carried out.

“We are sitting here in homage not to individuals but to a tradition at a university that at its very core is that mission. Why I am so honored to be here, why I feel the gravity of the gift of kindness that you all have shown me, is because this university is answering that call.”

President Richard M. Joel conferred the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Mayor Booker, and honorary degrees were also awarded to Emanuel Gruss, a prominent investment executive and philanthropist, and Benefactor and honorary trustee of Yeshiva University; business executive Arthur N. Hershaft, a Benefactor and member of the Board of Overseers of YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine; attorney and community leader Murray Laulicht, a YU alumnus and Benefactor and member of the Board of Overseers of the University’s Stern College for Women; and philanthropist and civic leader Laurie M. Tisch, a Benefactor and significant supporter of YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The convocation and dinner, the University’s main annual fundraising event, raised a record $4.1 million this year.

The dinner portion of the evening opened with a viewing of the hit song and music video “Candlelight,” performed by Yeshiva University’s a cappella group, the Maccabeats. The song has recently been featured on CNN, CBS and many other major media outlets, as well as receiving more than three million views on YouTube.

President Joel then honored the Points of Light, eight people who exemplify YU’s mission, one for each candle of the menorah. They included:

Chanan Reitblat, founder of the Yeshiva College chapter of the American Chemical Society, who is helping to develop a drug to prevent kidney stones and working with special needs individuals for Keshet.

Leah Larson, a Stern college student and founder, editor, and publisher of YALDAH magazine, which she started at age 13.

Michael Goon, a current student at YU affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) serving as a Sanford Lurie Scholar at the Jewish Center and rabbinic intern at the Roslyn Synagogue, who founded “Shabbat Heights Link,” which organizes Shabbat dinners for singles and couples in Washington Heights; he also designed and produced “Peacekeeping: The Game,” a board game that teaches the challenges of intrastate conflict.

Joey Small, who holds a master’s from YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and launched a fellowship program at YU with two tracks – “Give Back” and the “Legacy Heritage Teacher Training Fellowships,” both of which focus on encouraging recent graduates to pursue careers in education.

Tova Fish-Rosenberg, the chairperson of the Hebrew language department at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and creator of the acclaimed “Names, Not Numbers©” Intergenerational Holocaust Oral History Project.

Martin Leibovich, a student at YU’s Sy Syms School of Business, who grew up in Argentina and was heavily recruited by American college basketball programs before eventually transferring to the University, where he has shown a tremendous love of Torah learning and a continued talent for basketball.

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, the chair of microbiology and immunology at Einstein and a major force behind Einstein’s foray into biodefense following September 11, 2001;  he also helped develop a new therapy for metastatic melanoma.

Jaqueline Murekatete, a second-year Cardozo student who, at the age of nine, was the sole survivor of her Tutsi family during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. She founded Jacqueline’s Human Rights Corner and has raised $100,000 for a community center in Rwanda for other genocide survivors.

Echoing the words of Mayor Booker, President Joel summed up the evening with these words: “Nights like tonight are so important for those of us who dream about the Jewish future. We must continue working with other people of goodwill to advance civilization; that’s our sacred mission, and that’s what we are celebrating tonight and what we will continue to celebrate in the days and months and years to come.”

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Social Justice Society Presents Empowerment Benefit Chanukah Concert on Dec. 7

The YU Social Justice Society is holding a Chanukah concert for women. Inspired by the recent global and humanitarian movement to empower women, the concert will raise funds for three different women charities: CAMFED (women’s education in Africa), ORA (Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) and Sharsheret (helping Jewish women with breast cancer.) The ticket bearer decides where their ticket proceeds will go by checking off their chosen charity on the ticket.

The concert will feature Grammy-nominated Neshama Carlebach, who will be singing alongside Reverend Roger Hambrick and members of the Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir. Opening for Ms. Carlebach is YU’s all-female a capella group, the B’notes, and ERA, a female rock band hailing from Florida.

“We wanted to highlight the power women have when they come together for a cause. Women uniting to help other women is a crucial step towards eventual equality. One doesn’t need to look too far to see that in the twenty-first century there still is an unfortunate discrepancy between genders in terms of education, funding for health causes, salary, and societal roles. Women need to keep on standing up against gender discrimination,” said Ilana Hostyk, the organizer of the concert.

The concert will take place on December 7, the sixth night of Chanukah, in Midtown Manhattan.

In recent months, the New York Times, Nike’s Girl Effect campaign, and the UN Global Millennium Project have all highlighted empowering women as the way to solve world poverty and other humanitarian crises. The concert is the YU SJS’s second event in their campaign for women worldwide. They first led a book discussion on Nicholas Kristof’ and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky, and are planning subsequent events, including a panel on how men can help women’s leadership.

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Matisyahu, Maccabeats and Moshav Band Rock Crowd of 1,100 at YU Chanukah Concert

Halfway through his performance in Lamport Auditorium at Yeshiva University’s annual Chanukah Concert on December 2, Jewish reggae sensation Matisyahu stopped and looked out at the crowd of more than 1,100 college students, music fans and families swaying together, arms linked, eyes closed.



“I think we’re ready,” he said. “I think we can light now.”

Beneath a glittering dreidel-disco ball, Matisyahu called up a special needs member of the audience and handed him a candle. A menorah appeared from nowhere. The entire auditorium listened in rapt silence as the boy recited the blessings for the second night of Chanukah, accompanied by a sweet melody on electric guitar.

Along with the Moshav Band and YU’s own Maccabeats, whose recent YouTube video “Candlelight” has garnered more than 2 million hits, Matisyahu played to a packed and excited house. From the a capella group’s opening number to Matisyahu’s last encore, the audience got on their feet and stayed there, dancing in the aisles, waving their hands in the air and shouting along the words to classics like the Moshav Band’s “Come Back” and the reggae star’s “One Day” and “Jerusalem.”

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The concert, organized by the undergraduate student councils, was sold out days in advance and drew music lovers of all ages and communities. Waiting in a line that wound around the block, students from colleges across the tri-state area, jam-band and reggae enthusiasts and families shared their excitement about the night’s acts.

“These performers appeal to the old and young,” said Reva Judas, who brought her twin 18-year-old daughters and 13-year-old son. “We all love the music. This is their Chanukah present.” She wasn’t the only parent to offer that gift. Chaim Abbitan heard about the concert from his wife, a Stern alumna, and decided it would be the perfect treat for 11-year-old daughter, Deena. “We like ‘One Day’,” Deena said, adding: “The Maccabeats have good voices and their music video is really cool.”

The Maccabeats kicked off the night to a standing ovation and chants of “Go Go Beats!” from the crowd. They broke down each component of their single “Candlelight,” which has propelled them on to appearances on “The Today Show,” CBS, NBC and numerous print articles, bringing all the riffs together for a spirited performance of the single heard round the world. The aura of school pride in the auditorium was palpable.

“I think it’s great that the video shows YU students can be cool, fun and creative,” said Noah Jacobson, a member of the Maccabeats. “We get comments on the YouTube page from Germany to South Africa to France and Denmark saying, ‘I’m so proud to be Jewish.’ I think what we all find the most amazing and meaningful thing is knowing that we’ve bolstered a sense of Jewish pride for thousands of people.”

The atmosphere of unity and togetherness only intensified as the Moshav Band took the stage with their new Chanukah tune, “Light Me Up.” “This song is about bringing light into a dark world,” said Yehuda Solomon, the band’s frontman. “We need that message of Chanukah, of spreading light and hope, when there is so much darkness around us.” The group’s frenetic energy and soulful vibe included raucous saxophone solos and interludes on an African drum, culminating in the anthemic “Come Back,” whose chorus, “I can hear my homeland calling me,” had everyone in the audience singing along, reflecting on their own experience of Israel.

“It was a dream,” said Solomon of the concert. “It’s the kind of thing you live for, as a musician. We were celebrating Chanukah with so many of our brothers and sisters, and sharing that message of being proud of who we are, spreading that little bit of light, that bit of hope.”

In the audience were members of Kids of Courage, the charity to which the Chanukah Concert’s proceeds will go. Kids of Courage is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with life-threatening diseases.

“We wanted people to know about this organization, to see how hard they work, how devoted they are and how important it is to bring smiles to these kids’ faces,” said Yoni Kushner, president of the Student Organization of Yeshiva College and one of the night’s organizers. He was amazed by the size and reach of the concert’s appeal. “It tells you a lot about YU that so many people from so many backgrounds came to this event,” he said. “It was a beautiful, meaningful night.”

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