Yeshiva University News » Hurricane Sandy

Meet the Muskmakh: Rabbi Tsvi Selengut Works to Rebuild Shul and Community Struck by Hurricane Sandy

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the Yeshiva University community will celebrate the ordination of its largest class of musmakhim [ordained rabbis] at its Chag HaSemikhah Convocation on March 23, 2014. The record class of rabbis represents an internationally diverse group, hailing from five continents and more than 50 North American cities. While most will remain engaged in either full-time post-semikhah Torah study or religious work—Jewish education, the pulpit, outreach or non-profit work—many will pursue careers in other professions, including medicine and law.

In the weeks leading up to the celebration, YU News will introduce you to several of these remarkable musmakhim

Rabbi Tsvi SelengutRabbi Tsvi Selengut, a native of Teaneck, NJ, was only three months into his first full-time position in the rabbinate when he faced the challenge of a lifetime.

Selengut had planned to pursue semikhah [rabbinical training] since his teenage years. “Increasingly, people feel their lives lack meaning,” he said. “There is a real thirst out there for spirituality and satisfaction. Being a rabbi allows you to reach out and help people find the meaning that they want and need.”

After graduating from YU’s Sy Syms School of Business with a degree in marketing (“which has actually come in very handy as a rabbi,” he noted), Selengut enrolled in RIETS to assemble the tools he would need for a successful career as a pulpit rabbi. Read the rest of this entry…

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On Four CJF Winter Missions Around the World, YU Students Get Closer Look at Jewish Leadership

More than 90 Yeshiva University students spent this winter break engaged in the hands-on study of—and contribution to—vastly different Jewish communities around the world.


A student on the CJF’s “Counterpoint Israel: Winter Camp” mission teaches English at an educational camp in Kiryat Gat.

As participants on winter missions organized by YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, students traveled to Kharkov and Sumy in the Ukraine; Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat and Dimona in Negev region of Israel; areas of New York that were heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy; and cities across the Midwestern United States to make an impact and hone their leadership skills.

Read the rest of this entry…

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Students and Recent Graduates Kick Off Summer Break with Sandy Aid Mission

It’s been more than seven months since Hurricane Sandy struck the greater New York region and some areas continue to suffer the storm’s ravaging effects. When Elana Polster, a Presidential Fellow at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future, heard that volunteers were still needed to assist in the recovery, she mobilized 10 students and recent graduates from YU and partnered with Nechama, a disaster relief organization, to run a four-day mission to Long Island where students worked to rebuild damaged homes.

YU students prime and paint Lindenhurst house damaged by Sandy

A group of YU  students and recent graduates primed and painted this house damaged by Sandy in Lindenhurst, NY.

“What intrigued me about this mission was that months later, there was still work to be done and I wanted to help,” said participant Yitzy Frankel, a new Yeshiva College graduate. “It was really shocking to drive down there and see the water, houses and devastation that still remained.” Read the rest of this entry…


Donations, Volunteers Needed in Sandy’s Hardest-Hit Regions

Monday’s chilly morning found 20 Yeshiva University students running up and down a 17-story building in Far Rockaway. Accompanied by Shay Schachter, assistant rabbi of Far Rockaway’s White Shul, the students carried hot food, donated by Chap-A-Nosh caterers, up a high-rise for handicapped senior citizens. “These people have been without food for several days,” Schachter explained. “They were sticking out their hands as if they had never seen food.” Others lacked basic medications, he said.

And while New York and its outer-lying regions begin to show signs of life, hard-hit areas like the the Five Towns, the Rockaways, Belle Harbor and Seagate will require a slow recovery period—the extent of the damage is simply shocking. “Most people don’t realize just how devastating this storm was,” said Schachter ’11R, ’11A. “I met with FEMA agents yesterday in Far Rockaway and they themselves were speechless about the amount of damage they saw. And even just in my shul—homes, businesses, hundreds of thousands of dollars, all lost. We’re getting constant calls for emergency medical care and it’s a miracle we’ve been able to respond in time to all.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Charlie Harary: Sandy Brought Her A Game, Now It’s Time to Bring Ours

Tuesday, October 30, 2012. 12:00 am EST

Hello, 911?”

“Yes. How can we help?”

Charlie Harary, clinical professor of management and entrepreneurship at Sy Syms.

“There is water outside my house and it is rising fast. It’s already on my first step and I see water bubbling in the middle of the street. I’m not sure what’s happening but I’m scared that my house may fill up with water in the next few hours.”

“Sir, we are looking at your location and our emergency personnel can’t make it down your block.”

“But I have five little children here? What am I supposed to do?”

“We’re sorry sir. We can’t help you. Good luck.”


There I was, staring out my bedroom window with the phone at my ear as water was rushing up my front steps. In the other room, my wife and five children were sound asleep. I stood there overwhelmed. I turned to God and asked for help. Then I ran down the stairs.

Welcome to Hurricane Sandy, one of the worst hurricanes to hit the Northeast Read the rest of this entry…

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Dear Yeshiva Family,

I hope that you, your families and your loved ones are all safe and well. Having borne the brunt of Sandy’s initial impact, I want to report to you on Yeshiva’s response on an institutional and communal level.

One of the great pleasures of my position is the opportunity I have to work with extraordinary professionals who demonstrate exceptional goodwill. This manifests itself every day in myriad ways. However, it must be said that in times of stress and crisis, true colors always show even more clearly than before.

The performance of the staff of Yeshiva University during the Sandy superstorm cannot go unmentioned. This past week brought out the very best of our team here at Yeshiva and we have never been more aware of their professionalism and dedication. We speak often of a “Yeshiva community” or a “Yeshiva family”—those ideas have gained renewed meaning and significance throughout this ordeal.

YU students distributed food, water, batteries and flashlights to residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, have volunteered throughout New York City and are continuing to respond to Jewish and non-Jewish organizations regarding volunteer opportunities as they arise. Specifically, we will be sending more students to continue working on Long Island in various communities over the next few weeks. We have been in touch with communities in the tri-state area to assess their needs and see where we can be helpful. In addition, we are developing a supplies drive, hopefully to include not only our student body, but the entire community. We are collecting items being specified by shelters and other relief organizations and will distribute more information about this drive as it becomes available.

On behalf of this entire institution I express profound appreciation to members of various departments within Yeshiva, who in some cases even placed themselves in harm’s way to ensure that each and every student would be cared for. In many cases, they stayed on campus, working above and beyond the call but always with a smile, ensuring that our community stayed strong and positive during this severe test.

I must also thank those from our wonderful Washington Heights community who eagerly provided home hospitality for hundreds of our students who were in need of it.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge the student body of Yeshiva which rose to the occasion and dealt with a range of challenges gracefully and with good will. Though the winds have calmed, the pain continues in the broader New York community and beyond. Our students have answered the call by volunteering on various disaster relief missions in the area. In perhaps the greatest testimony of who we are here at Yeshiva, so many of our students have become involved in showing the same caring to those still in distress as was shown to them.

We must remember that education is about more than just an intellectual pursuit but becoming a whole person with a mandate to matter in the world—and our students and community could not have modeled that idea better this week.

If there is any way we can help you or your community, please do not hesitate to contact us. For all communal needs please contact Elana Honick at


Richard M. Joel

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