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YU Israeli Summer Camp Service Learning Initiative to Serve 300 Underprivileged Campers

The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) announced today that its Counterpoint Israel Program, a month-long service-learning initiative that aims to empower the next generation of Israeli youth via an exciting, Jewish values-driven summer camp experience, has tripled in size with the addition of three new camps in Beer Sheva, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi.

With the program returning to the communities of Arad and Dimona as well, Counterpoint Israel will serve 300 Israeli campers from varied socio-economic backgrounds in five student-run camps from July 3 – August 5.

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Navi Teachers from Across Tri-State Area Convene to Share Ideas, Discuss Technique

How do you teach Sefer Yeshayahu [Book of Isaiah]?

Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster, assistant professor of Bible at YU, presents methods to enhance understanding of Yeshayahu's vision by comparisons to Asyrian culture.

Fourteen yeshiva high school teachers came together on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus in late March to ask each other and themselves that question, under the auspices of YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership. Hailing from a range of schools across the tri-state area, the teachers were united by the subject they all taught (Navi, or The Prophets), their desire to enhance their own approach, and the opportunity to learn from others.

“The purpose is to expand teachers’ thinking about what’s possible in the classroom and to help them clarify their own particular focus,” said Dr. Scott Goldberg, director of the YU School Partnership. “Even though their individual schools are so different, it’s productive and important for them to talk about Navi together. They can relate to each other, but the diversity creates a great learning environment.” Read the rest of this entry…


Jewish Matchmaking Alliance Holds Inaugural Conference at Yeshiva University

Representatives from 12 Jewish matchmaking organizations from North America and around the world met on Wednesday, April 25 on Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus for the inaugural meeting of the Jewish Matchmaking Alliance (JMA). Developed as the brainchild of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future’s (CJF) YUConnects and SawYouAtSinai, JMA has drawn enthusiastic support from various matchmaking organizations. Its stated mission is “to increase collaborative efforts by leading organizations in developing constructive projects, professionalize education and pool resources geared towards enhancing opportunities available for the Orthodox Jewish singles population.”

YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Mordechai Willig, opened the conference with words of inspiration to all those working for this important common goal. At the meeting, each organization shared its successful program initiatives and ideas, and its approach to addressing the singles issue. Subsequently, attendees participated in facilitated conversations examining common obstacles in matchmaking, dating and event planning.

“While many matchmaking organizations may focus on different age groups and religious preferences, there are several commonalities in the dating and matchmaking process across the spectrum,” said Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, director of YUConnects. “The meeting was a wonderful platform to start making inroads together in the dating arena. By working together to bring singles together, so much can be accomplished. It was a dream come true and a real kiddush Hashem.”

Participants came from across the Tristate area and Toronto, as well as Australia, Montreal and Israel, via conference call. Organizations represented at the conference included Chabad, Gateways, JSMatchpoint, Kesher, National Council Young Israel, Neve Kesher, Orthodox Union, Sasson V’Simcha (Canada), Sasson V’Simcha (Israel), SawYouAtSinai, Shalom Task Force, Sheefa Links and YUConnects.

“JMA brings together an incredible amount of experience and expertise—more than any of us can access individually,” said Rabbi Mendel Kastel, CEO of The Jewish House in Sydney, Australia. “…JMA will help raise the profile of this very important issue.”

One hot-button discussion topic was the need for consistency and the possibility of standardized certification in matchmaker training across the gamut of organizations. Matchmaker education can include interviewing skills, addressing sensitivity or concerns of clients, while assisting them in navigating relevant technology and databases, and recognizing when to refer individuals to a therapist.

Other topics included community training programs for singles and peer matchmakers, running joint singles events, the need for community financial backing, and how to best facilitate the matchmaker-client relationship.

“This is a fantastic first step,” said Suzy Schwartz, assistant dean of the CJF. “Networking and collaboration have already begun,  conversations started about joining together to share best practices as well as deficiencies, and everyone in attendance hopes that together we will be more successful than working alone.”

SawYouAtSinai founder Marc Goldmann agreed. “The open discussions… general networking that created immediate dividends, and the chizuk that everyone in the room received was incredible to witness,” said Goldman.

The JMA plans to hold meetings on a quarterly basis, hosted by alternating organizations. Learn more about


Yeshiva University Hosts Feb. 9 Jewish Job Fair for Communal and Educational Careers

Today, more than ever, there are exciting opportunities in Jewish communal and educational careers. For those interested in joining or learning more about this exciting field, Yeshiva University will host its annual Jewish Job Fair on Thursday, February 9 at Furst Hall on YU’s Wilf Campus, 500 West 185th Street, New York City. The conference is open to YU students and alumni beginning at 6 p.m. and to the general public from 7 – 9 p.m.

“In a society which has sanctified the needs of the individual, it is wonderful to see young people who possess an ever increasing thirst to live lives of meaning,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future. “The Jewish Job Fair allows our students, alumni and the greater community, to learn about the professional opportunities available and which are appropriate for their talents and to enable them to live meaningful and productive lives.”

Dozens of Jewish day schools and community organizations from across the country will be in attendance to accept and review resumes and conduct interviews. Participating organizations include Camp Shalom, Manhattan Jewish Experience, Yachad, Areyvut, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Nefesh B’ Nefesh, OHEL, 92nd Street Y, and Yeshiva University. More than 35 day schools will be participating including SINAI Schools, Yavneh Academy, YULA Girls High School, SAR Academy, Hillel Day School of Boca Raton, Manhattan Day School, and Fuchs Mizrachi School.

In addition to teaching positions and other career prospects, the fair offers a wide array of opportunities, including fellowships and scholarships for master’s programs and internships.

“In the past decade, the number of YU graduates pursuing careers in Jewish education has increased exponentially,” said Dr. Scott Goldberg, director of YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership. “Schools and organizations in our community now have access to the best and brightest in the Orthodox community to be role models in their classrooms and organizations.”

The fair is free and open to the public. For more information, to register your organization or school, or to submit a resume, visit


Students to Visit West Coast Jewish Communities on CJF Coast to Coast Program

Twenty Yeshiva University students will explore Jewish life in one of the world’s most technologically advanced regions as they participate in the Center for the Jewish Future’s (CJF) fifth Jewish Life Coast to Coast program.

The 10-day program, run with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, kicks off January 12 in Palo Alto and will take undergraduates across the West Coast to meet with Jewish entrepreneurs, interact with diverse communities and lead educational programs in schools, synagogues and college campuses. Their itinerary includes a tour of Palo Alto’s Googleplex and visit to Stanford University as well as the Jim Joseph Foundation in San Francisco and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. Discussions will reflect the unique challenges and inspirations of being Jewish in a highly creative and forward-thinking environment, with topics like “Life as a Jewgler,” led by Google employee Eleanor Carmeli; “What is Innovation in the Jewish Community?” by Rabbi Joey Felsen, of the Jewish Studies Network; and “The Modern Jewish Family,” a community panel at San Francisco’s Congregation Adath Israel.

“I think these experiences are invaluable for the students,” said Josh Strulowitz ’00YC, ’04R, rabbi of Adath Israel. “My hope is that it opens their eyes to the value of other communities and the possibility that one day they might be able to be a part of growing such a community. YU’s greatest resource is its tremendously impressive student body. The more YU students spread out throughout the country, the stronger it will make the national Modern Orthodox community and YU as well.”

Students will get a wide range of perspectives about Jewish experience on the West Coast during conversations with community members, including San Francisco author Arye Coopersmith and Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt, who leads Congregation Schara Tzedek in Vancouver. As they work their way through Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Vancouver, the group will also spend time learning about community day schools, synagogues and foundations, and volunteering at local organizations. They will return to New York on January 22.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF, will join participants on the trip, serving as a mentor. “Programs like this offer our students a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of Jewish life outside the Tri-state area,” said Brander. “As future religious and lay leaders of the Jewish people, it is important for our students to be exposed to, and engaged with, smaller communities.”

Since its launch in 2007, Jewish Life Coast to Coast has traveled down the East coast, through the Midwest and across the South. This will be the program’s second visit to the West, with a new focus on the effects of the area’s creativity-infused atmosphere on Jewish life there.

“We’re going to communities that are very innovative, modern and open-minded, and with that you get unique challenges,” said participant Mindy Sojcher, a Jewish education senior at Stern College for Women. “I think what’s interesting is that these changes may start on the West coast but eventually they will probably be present in communities across America. We need to learn from each other.”


Studying Community Organization, Wurzweiler Class Examines Occupy Wall Street Firsthand

Two weeks ago, a class from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work traveled to Lower Manhattan to observe the organizational structure and leadership dynamics of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park.

Dr. Saul Andron

Dr. Saul Andron's class is studying the organizational structure of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Instructed by Associate Professor Dr. Saul Andron, the Hausman Chair in Communal Social Work, the community social work course of second year students jumped at the opportunity to witness firsthand the organization of the protests on the ground and get a sense of its strategies and tactics and successes to date, as well as the challenges facing this social movement going forward.

From art and history courses visiting museums to scientific collaboration with other research institutions, the outing served as one of the many examples of a Yeshiva University class maximizing its setting in New York by using the city as a real-time learning laboratory to complement class instruction and course material.

Occupy Wall Street“We are learning about social work from the macro practice perspective, specifically dealing with communities, neighborhoods and organizations,” said Dr. Andron at a recent class debriefing on their Lower Manhattan excursion. “We together felt that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. We needed to check out Occupy Wall Street.”

The intricacies of the protesters’ organizational structures proved especially intriguing to the aspiring social workers. They spent their debriefing class dissecting all of the moving parts of the ongoing protests and applied concepts of community organization to better understand the developments on the ground. One student expressed amazement at the sanitation and food distribution operations. Another pondered over how the protestors managed their funds. Finally, the class emphasized and marveled at how the movement brought together disparate groups of people around a common cause.

One student, Melanie Goldberg, greatly appreciated her experience at the protests. “It was great to see so many of the concepts we are learning in class actually employed in the world,” she said. “We are learning about mobilizing locals and how to teach people to use their voice. To see that first-hand offered a great real world scenario to what we are learning in class.”

Occupy Wall Street organizers set up a makeshift library at Zuccotti Park.

Organizers set up a makeshift library at Zuccotti Park.

Her classmate, Alice Blass, pointed out the connection between what she learned from the atmosphere of the protest and the discipline of social work. “One thing we always discuss is that it is important for people to find their voice and be able to express themselves in a way that will yield positive results. This is what we saw in Zuccotti Park.”

The tour of the protests was just one of many experiential and hands-on classes conducted by Dr. Andron and other Wurzeiler faculty. In the past, he has brought students to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild homes in communities destroyed by the devastation and to the annual General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America to expose his students to innovative Jewish communal structures and program models.

With his passion for experiential learning and the enthusiasm of his students for further studying the Occupy Wall Street protests, Dr. Andron hopes to return to Lower Manhattan with his class to examine the development of this movement unfolding in Yeshiva University’s backyard.


YU Students Pitch In with Disaster Relief, This Time Closer to Home

Yeshiva University students spent time over the weekend of September 8-11 in New Jersey homes struck by Hurricane Irene, offering much-needed disaster relief.

The cleanup effort was coordinated by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) in partnership with NECHAMA—a national Jewish voluntary organization that provides cleanup and recovery assistance to homes and communities affected by natural disasters—and sent more than 25 students to  help.

“We’ll go to any place where we can provide help,” said Gene Borochoff, one of the founding members and vice president of NECHAMA. “The people in so many of the communities we work with have never had contact with a Jew before and so we proudly become the face of Judaism.”

With September 11 being designated as a National Day of Service, the CJF decided to dedicate the weekend to reaching out to those in need.

“As soon as we found out that the hurricane was coming to the East Coast, we knew that YU had to get involved,” said Aliza Abrams, assistant director of CJF’s department of service learning and experiential education. “We contacted NECHAMA right away, telling them that we would be here to help out as soon as they arrive.”

On Friday, September 9, volunteers drove to Saddle Brook, NJ to help clean out the basement of a multi-family home which was flooded under five feet of water. The basement was the primary living space for a family who, after the hurricane, were only able to save the clothes on their backs. An elderly Catholic woman living in the flooded property asked the students what day the Jewish High Holidays begin, planning to light a candle in honor of the volunteers.

“We don’t need to travel all the way to New Orleans or Birmingham to help out, we have our own backyards to give back to,” said Ayelet Kahane, a recent graduate of Stern College for Women and current CJF presidential fellow. Kahane worked with Abrams to help organize the volunteer mission.

This marks the third time CJF has partnered with NECHAMA to offer disaster relief. The CJF has previously worked with them in New Orleans, LA after Hurricane Katrina and in Birmingham, AL after a tornado in April.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to help people,” said Danny Alweis, a Yeshiva College senior from Binghamton, NY. “It’s important that YU and the religious community at large shows a presence in other types of communities, especially when it’s in our own neighborhoods.”

Daniel Hoeft, operations manager at NECHAMA, said “working with Yeshiva is amazing. Every student that comes out has done nothing but impress us. They understand why it’s important to roll up your sleeves and work—being out on the ground and not just donating money.”


Center for the Jewish Future, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Beth Din of America Present Day of Learning Dedicated to September 11

Commemorating the 10th anniversary of September 11, Yeshiva University will host a special Abraham & Millie Arbesfeld Yom Rishon panel discussion titled “The Profound Impact of September 11 on Jewish Life.” The Sunday, September 11 event is presented by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the Beth Din of America and will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Weissberg Commons, 2495 Amsterdam Ave. on YU’s Washington Heights Wilf Campus.

Panelists include Rabbi Yona Reiss, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, RIETS rosh yeshiva, and Anat Barber, Planning Executive of the Commission on the Jewish People at UJA-Federation of New York and a former shomeret at Ground Zero. The panel will be moderated by Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of CJF.

“The events of 9/11 remain fresh in our consciousness,” said Rabbi Reiss. “On the 10th yahrtzeit it is important for us to revisit the personal and communal tragedy, the halakhic and hashkafic ramifications, and the insights that can be gleaned from the manner in which so many individuals rallied together to try to make a positive difference.”

After the panel, there will be breakout sessions on topics including “Reflections Relating to the Resolution of the World Trade Center Agunah Cases” by Rabbi Reiss, “Halachot of the 9/11 Agunot:  Corresponding with the Gedolim of Eretz Yisrael” by Rabbi Willig, and “Finding G-d in Times of Darkness” by Rabbi Brander.

“September 11 continues to be a transformational moment in our history as a society,” said Rabbi Brander. “Dedicating the Arbesfeld Kollel & Midreshet Yom Rishon to this national tragedy is just one of the ways we pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The shiurim [lectures] and conversations on 9/11 acknowledge the responsibility of Torah Judaism to engage with the theological and halakhic issues of such challenging contemporary events.”

The event is open to the public and complimentary parking and refreshments will be available. In addition, as part of the National Day of Service, YU invites all participants to drop off unopened cans of food which bear a reliable kosher symbol to benefit the JCC of Washington Heights’ Day of Service Food Drive.

For more information about this program please email


Hundreds attend Yeshiva University’s Sixth Annual ChampionsGate National Leadership Conference Presented by the Center for the Jewish Future

In Orthodox shuls in more than 90 communities across North and South America, Israel, and the United Kingdom this past Shabbat, seats normally occupied by key people were empty. Rabbis, presidents, board members and others—many of those who do the heavy lifting of communal life in their towns and neighborhoods—gathered in Orlando, Florida at Yeshiva University’s National Leadership Conference at the ChampionsGate resort.

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The invitation-only event presented by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) from July 7-10 gave hundreds of Orthodox lay leaders and communal professionals—or, “lay and klei kodesh” [volunteers and professionals engaged in holy work], in the words of YU President Richard M. Joel—a chance to meet, network, compare notes and to consult one another on the challenges they face in their towns and neighborhoods.

“ChampionsGate for us is a recharging station, providing the ideas and fuel for us to return home energized to play the leadership roles our small town requires of us,” said Pace Cooper, a philanthropist from Memphis, Tennessee. “Memphis, a town with only 9,000 Jews, is a strong Orthodox community relative to its numbers. YU spending time strengthening these smaller communities around the country is of extreme value to us.”

The theme of the sixth annual conference was “Community Re-Imagined: Building New Horizons.”

At seminars and panel discussions on topics ranging from the financial sustainability of day schools, to fundraising advice and practical tips for operating not-for-profit organizations, from the challenges of dating and early marriage in modern society, to how to keep families connected to schools and shuls in an increasingly stratified world, presenters sought to provide new strategies for building and strengthening communities. Experts from North Carolina’s world-renowned Center for Creative Leadership facilitated a number of breakout sessions, and YU experts in various disciplines provided confidential consultations to discuss challenges facing individual communities.

University Trustee Ira Mitzner ’81Y, who also chairs the CJF advisory council, first thought to convene Jewish leaders from around the country together in one room in 2006. He and his wife, Mindy, offered YU the use of their new ChampionsGate resort. There were 40 attendees that year. Since then, the ChampionsGate leadership conference has grown into a highly anticipated annual event. With more than 400 participants, this year’s was the largest yet.

“ChampionsGate is an opportunity for community leaders from around the world to discuss critical community issues, meet others with similar opportunities and challenges and come away inspired,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, The David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “It represents one of the ways that Yeshiva University convenes its resources to foster and inspire community, as well as how community helps to calibrate Yeshiva’s vision to empower its students.”

Perspectives at the leadership conference were rich and varied. Featured speakers including University deans, faculty and administrators including Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schachter, University Professor of Jewish History and Jewish Thought and Senior Scholar at the CJF; Dr. David Pelcovitz, Straus Professor of Psychology and Education at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik of the new Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought; and Mrs. Shira Yoshor, partner at Baker Botts LLP, a University trustee and chair of the Stern College for Women Board.

The conference also drew on the expertise and experience of its attendees, with discussions held by figures such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; Rabbi David Stav, founder of the Israeli rabbinical group Tzohar, Rabbi Binny Freedman, director of Isralight; and Rabbi Steven Burg, national director of the NCSY.

The gathering began Thursday afternoon with a brief comedic video by Uri Westrich, Yeshiva College graduate and director of the Maccabeats’ music videos, in which young children portrayed a “typical” shul board meeting.


During a live broadcast from the hotel on Friday morning, radio personality Nachum Segal ’84 YC introduced his international audience to the ChampionsGate Conference during his JM in the AM program. At Friday’s lunch, President Joel announced that an anonymous donor would make a $1 million gift to support YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) where rabbis are trained, tuition-free.

“The overarching power of ChampionsGate is that it models and advances a hopeful vision of community based in Torah U’madda,” said President Joel. “Communities gather to celebrate their successes, share their challenges and resolve to continue their commitment to advancing the values and story of the Jewish people.”

Shabbat was a highlight of the conference. Chazzan Shimon Craimer led the tefilot [prayers], Rabbi Kenneth Brander delivered a passionate sermon (to a congregation that included no fewer than 25-30 congregational rabbis) and conference participants were offered “A Taste of YU Torah,” the option to attend shiurim [lectures] on a breadth of subjects. They included community law of the Dead Sea Scroll sect with renowned expert and YU Vice-Provost of Undergraduate Education Dr. Lawrence Schiffman; or how rabbinic authorities are dealing with the agunah challenge ten years after September 11, presented by Rabbi Yonah Reiss, The Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS. Many conference participants were enthused to have their first chance to learn Torah at YU from Rabbi Soloveichik. His presentation on the halachic subject of levirate marriage was entitled, “The Talmudic Marriage of Henry the VIII.”

“I didn’t realize how much I needed to reconnect with YU,” said Miriam Wallach ’96S of Woodmere, New York. She attended the conference with her husband Stephen ’92 SB, ’95C and found herself moved to tears during President Joel’s remarks at seudat shlishit [the third Sabbath meal]. “It was a wonderful weekend.”

“Yeshiva University represents a broad tent of Orthodoxy,” said Rabbi Elliot Lasson of Baltimore, Maryland, who had been looking forward to ChampionsGate “because it offered the chance to learn from great personalities and network with leaders from other communities, celebrating successes and learning from challenges.

“There is diversity and openness in the YU world, but at the core is commitment to Torah values and the future of the Orthodox world,” added Lasson. “ChampionsGate has had much thought and planning put into it—I know action items and initiatives will emanate from the conference.”


Participants in YU’s Kansas City Summer Experience Volunteer for Disaster Relief Clean-Up in Joplin, Missouri

For the second year in a row a group of Yeshiva University students descended upon the Kansas City Jewish community as part of the University’s Kansas City Summer Experience, hosted by Congregation Beth Israel Avraham & Voliner (BIAV). The program, which ran May 31 through June 26, offered participants the opportunity to integrate with the community, spending their days working at a variety of businesses and dedicating their nights to energizing and learning Torah with the Jewish community.

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This year, however, their plans changed after a tornado hit nearby Joplin, Missouri, on May 21, killing more than 150 people. The group of eight students, led by Tuvia Brander, a recent YU graduate and second-year RIETS student, worked with community members to organize a Red Cross-sponsored disaster relief mission to the devastated area on June 12.

“We have done more than fulfill the mitzvah of tikkun olam,” said Brander. “We have added to the dialog of the community and inspired others to get involved.”
Joining Brander on the Kansas City Summer Experience were YU students Baruch Cohen, Sarit Cohen, Malkie Krieger, Asher Lindenbaum, Gabrielle Moskowitz, Mindy Sojcher and Yaakov Taubes.

“Having the [students] be part of our community for the month has been a special experience,” said BIAV Rabbi Daniel Rockoff. “I am especially proud of the positive example they have set throughout the entire Jewish community as spirited, observant young Jews who are eager to engage the world around them.”

The students, each of whom was provided a mentor and host families, spent the month interning at local businesses including MRI Global — Midwest Research Institute, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City, Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, Kansas City JCC and Metro Title Services. In addition, participants led a nightly Beit Midrash program and organized panel discussions dealing with contemporary religious and halakhic issues.