Yeshiva University News » Director

Nov 18, 2009 — Dr. Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to President Barack Obama for Economic Policy, will be the keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s (YU) 85th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, December 13 at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Prior to his appointment by President Obama in 2008, Dr. Summers served as the Secretary of Treasury under President Clinton and as president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006, making him the first Jewish president in the institution’s history.

YU President Richard M. Joel will confer the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Dr. Summers. He will also confer honorary degrees on community leader and prominent clinical social worker Froma Benerofe, a member of the Board of Overseers of YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work; investment executive Roger W. Einiger, a member of the Board of Overseers of YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine; award-winning actress, singer and playwright Tovah Feldshuh; inventor and entrepreneur Maurice Kanbar; and the renowned Cantor Joseph Malovany, of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue and Distinguished Professor of Liturgical Music of YU’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music.
Dr. Summers began his public service career as a domestic policy economist with the Council of Economic Advisors from 1982 to 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. He then began teaching at Harvard, where he was Professor of Economics for a decade. During this period, he also served as Vice President of Development Economics for The World Bank.

Dr. Summers returned to Washington, D.C. in 1993, where he served as Under Secretary for International Affairs with the United States Department of Treasury. He was named Deputy Secretary of the Treasury from 1995 to 1999, when he was appointed to the department’s top post by President Bill Clinton. His research contributions were recognized when he received the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40, and when he was the first social scientist to receive the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award for outstanding scientific achievement.

Froma Benerofe graduated from Vassar College and received an M.S.W. from Columbia University. A clinical social worker currently in private practice, she has counseled and assisted children and adolescents, victims of interpersonal trauma and domestic violence, survivors of sexual abuse, and parents coping with the needs of their children, for more than 20 years. She serves as a director of the Hadassah Foundation, Westchester Jewish Community Services, UJA, and the Parsons Dance Foundation. Mrs. Benerofe and her husband, Andrew, established the Benerofe Family Scholarship at Wurzweiler.

Roger W. Einiger is President of Hardscrabble Associates, LLC, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Hardscrabble Associates, he spent three decades at Oppenheimer & Co. and its successor companies, most recently serving as Vice Chairman. He joined the Einstein Board of Overseers in 2005 and currently serves as Treasurer and Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, and as a member of Einstein’s Executive Committee. He is also a member of both the Finance and Investment Committees of the YU Board of Trustees. His commitment to Einstein began with his parents, Glory and Jack Einiger, who became active in the earliest days at Einstein, joining the Society of Founders in 1961. His mother continued as a leader of Einstein’s National Women’s Division for many years. He is also on the boards of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City, Jewish Communal Fund, UJA-Federation of New York and the Anti-Defamation League.

Tovah Feldshuh, who has had a remarkable career as an actress, singer, and playwright on stage, television and film, illuminates the Jewish diaspora through her portrayals of strong, complex women. She has earned four Tony nominations for Best Actress and won four Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critics Circle Awards, the Obie, the Theatre World Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Actress for Golda’s Balcony, which became the longest-running one-woman show in the history of Broadway. Film audiences recognize her from such movies as Kissing Jessica Stein; A Walk on the Moon; Brewster’s Millions and Daniel. On television, she received her first Emmy nomination for her portrayal of the Czech freedom fighter Helena in Holocaust. She has taught at Yale, Cornell and New York Universities. She is a supporter of Seeds of Peace, a non-profit, non-political organization that helps teenagers from regions of conflict and is the recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitas Award and the Israel Peace Medal, among others.

Maurice Kanbar, an inventor and entrepreneur born and raised in Brooklyn, has made an indelible impact on American culture. He has changed the way we view films, receive medical injections, socialize after a tough day at the office, zip through traffic, see the world, and pick fuzzy little balls from our sweaters. Indeed, he created New York’s first multiplex theater, and invented the Safetyglide hypodermic needle protector, SKYY Vodka, a new LED traffic light, a cryogenic cataract remover, and the D-Fuzz-It comb for sweaters. His latest inventions include Blue Angel Vodka and Zip Notes. He is also a real estate investor, film producer and author whose book, Secrets from an Inventor’s Notebook, outlines five proven steps to turning your good idea into a fortune. He produced the animated film, Hoodwinked, a offbeat and humorous retelling of the classic tale Little Red Riding Hood, which debuted in January 2006 and is currently completing Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil. A YU Benefactor, Mr. Kanbar established a scholarship fund for deserving law students at Cardozo.

Cantor Joseph Malovany, one of the world’s most accomplished tenors, has served as Cantor of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue since 1973. He began singing at the age of seven and studied at Bilu Synagogue School in Tel Aviv. His musicality was so profound that he became director of the choir at age 12, and his mother sold her wedding ring to pay for the piano. He holds diplomas from the Music Academy in Tel Aviv, and Royal Academy and Trinity College of Music in England, where he is also a Fellow. He holds the Joseph Malovany Chair for Advanced Studies in Jewish Liturgical Music at the Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music. Cantor Malovany is also Dean of the J.D.C. Moscow Academy of Jewish Music, which he helped establish in 1989 with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. He tours extensively throughout the world, singing with major international symphony orchestras, and traditionally sings memorial prayers at Holocaust commemorations at Madison Square Garden and the U.S. Capitol. An honorary president of the Cantorial Society of America, he is a former chairman of the American Society for Jewish Music. Cantor Malovany is the first Jewish cantor to receive the Poland Legion of Honor and also a recipient of the Poland/UNESCO International Prize for Tolerance in 2007.

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Feb 26, 2009 — Dr. Jacob Wisse has been appointed director of the Yeshiva University Museum, as announced by Yeshiva University Provost Morton Lowengrub, PhD. Dr. Wisse, a tenured Associate Professor, has been head of the art history program at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University since 2005. His appointment follows the retirement of Sylvia A. Herskowitz, who served as director for 33 years.

“Jacob Wisse brings the dedication of a scholar, the sensibility of a curator and the experience of a leader to his new role as director of the Yeshiva University Museum. We are delighted that he has accepted this position and look forward to working with him in his new capacity,” said Dr. Lowengrub.

“These are challenging times for cultural institutions,” said Dr. Wisse, “but I am confident that Yeshiva University Museum will continue to flourish, and that through intelligent, creative exhibitions and programming our audience will grow. I look forward to developing and presenting a range of ambitious historical and contemporary exhibitions and educational programs, and to directing the staff in the exploration and interpretation of Jewish art, history, and culture.”

Dr. Wisse, 43, earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. He has a background in museum education and curatorial work. Through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he earned a Curatorial Studies Certificate and was twice awarded the Museum’s Theodore Rousseau Curatorial Fellowship. This past summer, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities summer stipend as part of the NEH’s We the People Project to research “New York City Firehouses: The Legacy of Renaissance Ideals in a Modern Urban Context.”

In his teaching, research and curatorial work, Wisse stresses primary and contextual study of art. He will continue to teach and guide the art history program at Stern College, where he was named Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year in 2005-2006, his first year at the school. At Stern, he has introduced courses that use exhibitions and museum collections to complement the classroom experience, including a summer program in Florence on the art and culture of the Renaissance.

A Montreal native, where he received an extensive Jewish education, Wisse earned his B.A. from McGill University before going on to graduate school, where he specialized in northern European art of the late Medieval and Renaissance eras. His book, City Painters in the Burgundian Netherlands, will be published by Brepols Press in 2009.

Dr. Wisse is a member of the College Art Association, the American Association of Museums, and the Historians of Netherlandish Art, for which he serves as field editor for 14th and 15th century books. He lives with his wife and daughter in Manhattan.

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Dr. James Otteson directs the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College and teaches economics and philosophy.

Nov 6, 2007 — Dr. James Otteson, professor of economics and philosophy and director of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College, has been named the first place winner of the 2007 Templeton Enterprise Awards for his seminal book Actual Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2006). The awards are among the largest in the publishing industry, with the top prize of $50,000 exceeding that of both the Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Awards.

Given by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the prominent national educational organization, the awards are presented annually to scholars under 40 years of age who have produced the very best books and articles in the field of humane economics and culture over the previous two years.

“I am deeply humbled by this highly prestigious award,” said Otteson, a 39-year-old who lives in River Vale, NJ with his wife and four children. “Growing up in a single parent household in Joliet, Illinois, I could only have dreamed of such an honor. But the topic of ethics from all perspectives – historical, political, philosophical, cultural, social, and economic – has always interested me. To be cited for my work exploring this topic and illuminating the processes by which ethics are both informed by and inform these perspectives is truly gratifying.”

Actual Ethics offers a moral defense of the ‘classical liberal’ political tradition and applies it to several of today’s vexing moral and political issues, according to the publisher. “Otteson argues that a Kantian conception of personhood and an Aristotelian conception of judgment are compatible and even complementary. He shows why they are morally attractive, and perhaps most controversially, when combined, they imply a limited, classical liberal political state. Otteson then addresses several contemporary problems – wealth and poverty, public education, animal welfare, and affirmative action – and shows how each can be plausibly addressed within the Kantian, Aristotelian and classical liberal framework. Written in clear, engaging, and jargon-free prose, Actual Ethics gives students and general audiences an overview of a powerful and rich moral and political tradition that they might not otherwise consider.”

Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University, offered high praise for Otteson, who joined YU at the beginning of the fall semester from the University of Alabama, where he chaired the philosophy department.

“We are extremely privileged to count Jim among our most distinguished young faculty and administrators,” Joel said. “He is one of the most outstanding young scholars and thinkers in the country, as evidenced by his selection for the Templeton award. And we know that his keen erudition, creative pedagogy, and commitment to imparting the highest ethical values will have a profound impact on our students, as well as our institution as a whole.”

“There was a strong consensus within ISI and its panel of judges that Dr. Otteson’s important work was the class of the field,” remarked Dr. Rich Brake, director of ISI’s Culture of Enterprise Initiative, which sponsored the book award program. “Jim’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of political economy, his strong concern for the ethical component of economic and political life, and his reminder that the strictures of justice places moral requirements and limitations on both private and public actors in our economy, are a refreshing alternative to the overly empirical and statist biases embedded in most economic studies today. Plus, Actual Ethics was a remarkably easy and enjoyable read,” continued Brake, “that puts at the disposal of the ordinary reader such great thinkers as Aristotle and Kant, and then applies their insights to the pressing economic and political questions of the day in a way that is enlightening and fun. That’s pretty hard to do, but Dr. Otteson pulled it off with ease and elan,” concluded Brake.

Otteson is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame who earned his master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Chicago, from which he also received his Ph.D.

Prior to his appointments at Yeshiva University, he served on the University of Alabama faculty since 1997. He was awarded early tenure in 2002 and three years later was appointed chair of the philosophy department.

Otteson specializes in the history of modern philosophy, political philosophy, and the history of ethics. He has authored nearly two dozen papers and other writings, and lectured around the world on these and related topics. He serves on the editorial and review boards for a number of publications, including the Adam Smith Review, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Political theory, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and the Journal of Scottish Philosophy.

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Rabbi Yona Reiss

Aug 23, 2007 — Rabbi Yona Reiss, a noted Torah scholar, attorney, and jurist who has served since 1998 as director of the Beth Din of America, the largest rabbinical court in the United States, has been appointed dean of Yeshiva University’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. RIETS is one of the leading centers for Torah learning and training for the rabbinate in the world.

Rabbi Reiss’ appointment was announced today by RIETS President Richard M. Joel and the chairman of the RIETS Board of Trustees, Rabbi Julius Berman. The appointment is effective July 1, 2008.

The President’s selection of Rabbi Reiss was made in close consultation with Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, and Rabbi Norman Lamm, Chancellor of YU and Rosh Hayeshiva (Head of the Yeshiva) of RIETS. He received the approbation of the RIETS Board at a special meeting held August 22.

“The Yeshiva is the soul of Yeshiva University. In Rabbi Yona Reiss, we have a leader who will nurture that soul, and advance Torah study and protect Torah values,” said President Joel, who is also President of Yeshiva University. “His integrity, intellect, warmth, and humility will inform his work as he partners with an outstanding rabbinic faculty, to shape the educational direction for the school. There are enormous opportunities and needs for our community, which our students must be poised to lead.”

President Joel took special note of Rabbi Reiss’ academic pedigree. He is a summa cum laude graduate of Yeshiva College, YU’s undergraduate liberal arts and sciences college for men, and went on to receive his law degree from Yale Law School, where he was senior editor of the Law Journal. He received his rabbinic ordination from RIETS, where he also earned the distinction of Yadin Yadin, an advanced juridical ordination.

“I have been shaped in large part by both the educational experience and intellectual philosophy of Yeshiva University,” said Rabbi Reiss, “and I am excited to have the opportunity to play a meaningful role in the Torah education of the wonderful students who represent the future of our community.”

For more than 35 years, Rabbi Charlop has been dean of the seminary. Under his leadership, RIETS experienced enormous growth, graduating thousands of rabbis, educators, and Jewish scholars. He announced recently that he is relinquishing that position effective June 30 2008. He will continue to serve as one of the Masmichim, those who administer ordination exams, and will maintain his special relationship with the Kollelei Elyon (advanced study groups).

Rabbi Charlop will remain full time as dean emeritus of RIETS, and will serve as special advisor to the YU President on yeshiva affairs with cabinet rank.

“Rabbi Reiss is a stellar choice for the deanship of RIETS,” said Rabbi Charlop, who noted that he is gratified to have been a mentor to Rabbi Reiss during his student days at the seminary. “His most important character trait is his integrity, which is known and respected throughout the Orthodox community. Moreover, while he lives in two worlds, the secular and the sacred, he is anchored in the yeshiva.”

Rabbi Reiss said he takes “pride in our wonderful yeshiva that has been guided with such love and devotion for so many decades by Rabbi Charlop. I hope in my tenure to ensure that we continue to maintain our standard of excellence in a fashion that both maximizes the potential of each of our students and serves the multifarious needs of our community, both locally and globally.”

Rabbi Reiss’ appointment was also strongly endorsed by Rabbi Lamm: “This is a marvelous appointment at this point in RIETS’ history. He has a great range of erudition, a broad spectrum of interests, is totally committed to the vision of RIETS, and is a firm believer in Torah Umadda.”

Rabbi Reiss has been director of the Beth Din of America since 1998. The Beth Din, which was founded by and is affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and sponsored by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), is the largest rabbinical court in the country. It handles over 500 cases a year in the areas of Jewish divorce, commercial arbitrations, and mediation.

In his directorship of the Beth Din, Rabbi Reiss has worked to resolve cases of agunot, chained women who cannot obtain a Jewish divorce, and popularize the use of the RCA pre-nuptial agreement as a protection against future agunah problems.

From 1992 to 1998, Rabbi Reiss worked as an associate at the international law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York City. He maintained an association with the firm until 1999. He is a member of the New York Bar Association, a certified mediator for the City of New York court system and a member of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council for New York.

Rabbi Reiss serves on the editorial board of Tradition magazine. A frequent writer on a variety of topics relating to both Jewish and secular law, he has published widely in Jewish publications, as well as the New York Law Journal.

Rabbi Reiss and his wife Mindy have five sons and live in Riverdale, NY.

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Sep 14, 2006 — Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD has been appointed director of Yeshiva University’s (YU) Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies. Rabbi Abadie will coordinate all activities of the Academic Sephardic Studies Program and will also offer courses on Sephardic halakhah (Jewish law) and tradition at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women. The Safra Institute prepares students for leadership roles in Sephardic communities.

The position was last held by the Haham, the late Rabbi Dr. Solomon Gaon, one of the leading rabbinical figures of the 20th century and lecturer on Sephardic culture. He was co-founder of YU’s Sephardic Studies Program.

Rabbi Abadie is a graduate of Yeshiva College and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He was ordained at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and received his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Rabbi Abadie has been a pulpit rabbi since 1984 and since 2003 has been the spiritual leader of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue. Simultaneously he has maintained a thriving medical practice.

A native of Lebanon, Rabbi Abadie grew up in Mexico City. He speaks four languages and has published widely on topics related to Sephardic traditions, philanthropy, medical ethics, and halakha (Jewish law).

The Sephardic student body at YU includes more than 300 undergraduates and 100 graduate students. Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, vice president for university affairs and co-founder with Rabbi Gaon of the Sephardic Programs at YU, serves as consultant to these programs. The Safra Institute has heightened interest in Sephardic studies and courses on Judeo-Persian and Jewish Middle Eastern Studies are now being taught at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

Rabbi Moshe Tessone serves as Director of Sephardic Community Programs and Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim and Rabbi Zvulum Lieberman both are Maxwell R. Maybaum Professors and Sephardic Halakhah.

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Richard C. Bieler

Jan 11, 2005 — Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel today announced the appointment of Richard C. Bieler to the post of Senior Executive Director for Community Affairs, effective immediately.

“Richard Bieler is a skilled and caring professional. He is an important addition to the talented team that will bring the extensive educational and communal resources of Yeshiva University to communities around the nation and Canada. He will play a vital role in developing and nurturing the university’s relations with the alumni of our many colleges and schools and will cultivate the considerable support this initiative will require,” said President Joel.

Rabbi Bieler will establish community councils throughout North America, consisting of community leaders, members of Yeshiva University boards, parents of YU students, and alumni. The councils will help the university to evaluate the particular needs of each community, advance lifelong education, foster leadership training, create support and funding, as well as strengthen partnerships with alumni. He will be a senior professional in the Department of Development, and will have supervisory responsibility for the offices for alumni affairs.

Rabbi Bieler has more than 20 years experience in advancement and outreach to the Jewish community. For the past 14 years, as director of development at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, Bais Ezra, and the Lifetime Care Foundation for the Jewish Disabled, he was a central figure in those organizations’ success and mission to help build and rebuild lives and families, through community education, counseling, foster care, programs in domestic abuse, and in summer camp for children with disabilities. He directed the national fundraising campaign of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America from 1986 to 1990, and was director of special projects at YU from 1982 to 1986.

He is a 1974 Yeshiva College alumnus who received ordination from YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1978 and an MS from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies in 1979. Rabbi Bieler and his wife, Lois, have three children and live in West Hempstead, NY.

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Jan 4, 2005 — Mark Lehrman has been appointed director of YU’s S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program. Mr. Lehrman has been at the university’s Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Israel since 1995 where he was most recently assistant director of admissions. In the past decade, he has led YU’s recruitment efforts in Israel and has helped bring about a significant increase in enrollment in the Israel Program.

In his new role, Mr. Lehrman will work closely with Howard Weisband, senior advisor on Israel affairs, to develop additional services and programming for YU students studying in Israel.

Mr. Lehrman also brings to the job his 22-year experience with camp HASC, both as a head counselor and program director. He is an alumnus of Yeshiva College and Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

Mr. Lehrman and his family made aliyah in 1993. He and his wife, Dena, live in Efrat with their two daughters and a foster child.

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