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The Birthplace of Standup Comedy and One of its Offspring Come Together at Yeshiva University Museum Borscht Belt Event

More than 100 fans of the Catskills braved severe winter weather to warm themselves with a nostalgic evening of Borscht Belt comedy at the Yeshiva University Museum on Monday, February 2, at a program that dovetailed exhibition Echoes of the Borscht Belt: Contemporary Photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld with the viewing of the film “When Comedy Went to School.”  The event, presented by the YU Museum and the Center for Jewish History, was followed by a discussion with Robert Klein, noted comedian, singer, actor and the narrator of the film.

February 2, 2015 Q&A with Robert Klein (Actor, left), Lawrence Richards who conceived and wrote this film as well as a produced it and Mevlut Akkaya (Director, Producer of the film) following screening of the movie When Comedy Went to School at Yeshiva University Museum at 15 West 16th street.

Comedian Robert Klein

The film lightly sketches the development of standup comedy, and the preponderance of Jewish practitioners, in the Catskill hotels during the early and mid 1900s. As cited in the film, 600, hotels, bungalow colonies, and summer camps made their home in the Catskills then, in Sullivan and Ulster Counties, known as the Borscht Belt. These hotels also became, according to comedian Jerry Lewis a “laboratory” for stand-up comedy.

The event, said Dr. Jacob Wisse, director of the Yeshiva University Museum, was inspired by Scheinfeld’s contemporary photographs of Catskill hotels, many of which have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. In their heyday, the Catskills teemed with Jewish patrons seeking a respite from the heat and congestion of city life and a vacation that included good food and entertainment, including the noted Borscht Belt comedy. Read the rest of this entry…

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Inaugural Rabbi Allan Mirvis Lecture Confronts and Contrasts Jewish Leadership Roles

Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, delivered the inaugural Rabbi Allan Mirvis lecture on Sunday morning, December 21, at the Shenk Community Shul on YU’s Wilf Campus. More than 150 attended the presentation, “Kohen, King, Rabbi, Rosh Yeshiva: Models of Jewish leadership from the Maccabees to Today,” part of the Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon and Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon Sunday Torah learning series.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

In his presentation, Rabbi Soloveichik cited rabbinic sources, British coronation customs, and connected the weekly and Chanukah Torah readings and historical and personal anecdotes in comparing the roles of the Kohanim [priests] and Jewish kings with the current roles and actions of roshei yeshiva [professors of Talmud] and shul [synagogue] rabbis. He recounted the short-lived victory of the Hasmoneans over the Seleucids during the Second Temple, with the rededication of the Beit Hamikdash [Temple] in 165 BCE, noting the achievement of Jewish sovereignty “should be a holiday” but that it went “downhill from there” due to the subsequent behavior of the Hasmoneans. Read the rest of this entry…

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Columnist George Will and NYU President John Sexton Discuss “Baseball, Tradition and God” at Straus Center Event

A rapt audience of 200 filled the seats of Yeshiva University’s Shenk Community Shul on Wednesday, December 17, to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will and New York University President John Sexton discuss baseball and its relationship to religion and democracy. The event, titled “Baseball Tradition, and God,” was the latest in a series of “Great Conversations” presented by YU’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought.

George Will, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and John Sexton discuss "Baseball, Tradition, and God."

George Will, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and John Sexton discuss “Baseball, Tradition, and God” at December 17 Straus Center event.

Introducing Will and Sexton as “two extraordinary athletes of the mind,” Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center and moderator of the talk, opened his remarks by asking if baseball is simply a game or does it also teach us about the virtues of love, loyalty, fidelity and faith. He also connected the discussion to Chanukah, citing the clash of Hellenistic and Jewish culture.

Will, a Chicago Cubs fan, said he appreciates baseball for the game itself but asked why we, as a society, care so much. “We attach ourselves to a team and acquire a tribal identity.”

Rabbi Soloveichik said that Cubs fans accept “their fate with good cheer” and that it builds strong character—even if you try hard and long enough you’ll still lose. Read the rest of this entry…

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Yeshiva University and RIETS Present December 25 Yarchei Kallah 

Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) will present a communitywide Yarchei Kallah [gathering for Torah study] Thursday, December 25, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Studies, 515 West 185th Street, New York City.

Sessions will focus on current issues facing the land of Israel, including shemittah [the Sabbatical year], the Temple Mount, halachic [Jewish law] ramifications of Israel’s proposed conversion bill, archeology in Jerusalem, as well as communal and social matters. Read the rest of this entry…

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Michael Gamson, Judith Weiss and Anita Zucker Honored at Yeshiva University’s 90th Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner

Former President George W. Bush was the special guest and keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s 90th Annual Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on Sunday, December 14. More than 750 people came to show their support for the University and to witness YU President Richard M. Joel confer an honorary doctorate upon the 43rd U.S. president.

“What an honor it is to have you as part of the Yeshiva University family,” said President Joel in his introduction of President Bush. “We celebrate you for the steadfastness of your integrity, for your commitment to democracy, and your clarity of vision that only in a democratic society can people achieve and grow and thrive. Put simply, you taught Americans that democracy is a condition for civilization.”

He added, “We applaud you for the loyalty of your friendship and commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

In his keynote address, President Bush said, “Yeshiva University is a prestigious university and I am proud to accept this degree.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Yeshiva University Celebrates Rabbi Dr. Bernard Rosensweig’s 38 Years of Dedicated Service

After 38 years of molding students’ minds and expanding their Torah horizons at Yeshiva College, Rabbi Dr. Bernard Rosensweig, visiting professor of Jewish history, literature and philosophy at Yeshiva University, will be retiring at the end of this semester.  On Thursday, December 11, some 100 friends, relatives and colleagues came to pay tribute and celebrate the beloved educator’s career at a reception held at Weisberg Commons on the Wilf Campus.

“Rabbi Dr. Rosensweig has touched thousands of talmidim [students] with his warmth, wisdom, wit and passion for Jewish history and the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Undergraduate Torah Studies. “He is beloved by students and colleagues. I, myself, was a talmid several decades ago, and have never ceased being a talmid.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Scholars Gather for Symposium on Flood Story’s Depiction in Bible and Film

The recently released movie “Noah” brought together top academic minds on Sunday, November 30, at the Yeshiva University Museum for a symposium titled “Modeling the Flood Story: Midrash and Movie,” presented by the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva College and YU Museum. The scholars analyzed popular Noah movies past and present in the context of the Torah’s account of Noah, interpretations of that account in Midrash [rabbinic biblical exegesis], and the flood story as deciphered in clay cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia.

noah

Panelists Finkel, Steinmetz and Rubenstein

The 2014 movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky, and written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel, was criticized for deviating from the biblical story by Dr. Irving Finkel, curator and an authority of cuneiform on clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum. In contrast, Dr. Devora Steinmetz, who serves on the leadership team for special programs at Drisha, said that the movie made her go back to the text.

More than 100 participants came to hear Finkel, Steinmetz and Dr. Jeffrey Rubenstein, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, discuss the flood story. Dr. Eric Goldman, adjunct professor of cinema at Yeshiva University, presented film clips of three older Noah films and two clips from the 2014 version. The three academics were joined by Rabbi Hayyim Angel, instructor of Bible at Yeshiva University, for a panel discussion on the current film and its deviations from the Bible’s narrative. Read the rest of this entry…

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At YU Event, MK Ofir Akunis Discusses Israel’s Political Environment, Media Bias and the Mideast Conflict

On December 1, Deputy Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister and Knesset Member Ofir Akunis joined Yeshiva University students on the Wilf Campus for a discussion about the political atmosphere in Israel as well as what goes on behind the scenes during these turbulent times.

20141202_ofir_akunis_34“I come from Israel as an ambassador of the truth,” he said.  “Israel is the prime example of a fair democracy, strong economy, beautiful country, and a place of freedom.”

In his talk, Okunis discussed the newly proposed “Jewish State” law, his admiration for the Israel Defense Forces, and addressed media bias against Israel’s actions and policies. Read the rest of this entry…

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Straus Center Presents December 17 Conversation with Columnist George Will and NYU President John Sexton

Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought presents a conversation with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will and New York University President John Sexton on “Baseball, Tradition and God” on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 at Shenk Community Shul, 560 West 185th Street, New York City. The discussion, moderated by Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center, will begin at 7 p.m.

George WIll

George Will

Will is one of the country’s most widely-read political columnists, as well as its foremost conservative voice. His popular twice-weekly column for The Washington Post syndicate reaches nearly 475 newspapers throughout the United States and Europe. Read the rest of this entry…

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Michael Gamson, Judith Weiss and Anita G. Zucker to be Honored at December 14 Gala

Philanthropists and community leaders will gather at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City for Yeshiva University’s 90th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, December 14, 2014. The gala evening is a cherished University tradition that recognizes distinguished members of the YU community who have demonstrated committed leadership and dedication to the University’s unique mission.

YU President Richard M. Joel will confer honorary degrees upon Michael Gamson of Houston, Texas; Judith Weiss of Cleveland, Ohio; and Anita G. Zucker of Charleston, South Carolina.

Hanukkah Dinner

Michael Gamson, Judith Weiss, and Anita G. Zucker will receive honorary degrees at Yeshiva University’s Hanukkah Convocation.

“Yeshiva University shapes the community and is shaped by the community,” said President Joel. “In this year’s honorees, we are blessed with three people who care, who do, who serve as extraordinary role models, and who reflect the best and the ideals of Yeshiva University.” Read the rest of this entry…

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