Yeshiva University News » Leadership

President Richard M. Joel on Banayich and Bonayich: Two Halves of a Nuanced Whole

This past Sunday, I joined thousands of celebrants in Yeshiva University’s Lamport Auditorium for a most joyous occasion, as a record 230 of our young rabbinical students received their ordination, from our Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

13380712214_f4ef10fb63_zThe atmosphere at this quadrennial Chag HaSemikhah event, attended by more than 3,000 people on our Wilf Campus, was simply electric; the potential energy latent in the collective capacity of these young men reverberated in the room, throughout our campus, and around our Jewish world.

The moment was not merely memorable – it served as a dramatic demonstration of Jewish vibrancy and Torah vitality in our day, a ceremonial call to arms for the incoming leadership of our people. Read the rest of this entry…

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Course Taught by President Joel Offers Students Firsthand Lessons in Leadership

Always take the blame—but be sure to hand out credit. Answer all your mail. Have a lot of ideas—but remember, not all of them will be great ones.

President Richard Joel introduces Stephen Trachtenberg to his “Leadership in the Nonprofit World” class.

These were just a few helpful pointers guest speaker Stephen Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University, offered Yeshiva University students during class on a chilly Wednesday night in December. Trachtenberg noted he usually gives that advice to newly-appointed university presidents—not undergraduate students, per se. However, in the Sy Syms School of Business course designed to place students squarely in the shoes of nonprofit greats, his remarks provided insight into a question the group had been considering for almost a semester: What does it mean to be a leader in the nonprofit world? Read the rest of this entry…


In Its Ninth Year, YU’s Presidential Fellowship Expands Impact and Programming

They’re recruiting high school students in Los Angeles, preparing speeches for University leadership, and running programming around the country—and that’s just their first month on the job.

The 2012-13 Presidential Fellows

The 2012-13 cohort of Yeshiva University’s Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to business. The highly competitive program selects top graduates to spend 11 months working in departments across the institution. Fellows are mentored by senior staff and work on projects integral to the University while honing their professional skills in weekly graduate seminars with leaders from many backgrounds, including philanthropists Michael Steinhardt and Ronald Stanton, author A.J. Jacobs and human rights activist Brooke Goldstein. Read the rest of this entry…


CJF Service Learning Missions Take Students Across the Globe to Educate and Inspire

With a double course load, internships in science, finance and fashion design, and extracurricular activities that range from organizing a medical ethics conference to acting in a dramatics society production, you would probably expect to find Yeshiva University students at home over their summer vacation, seizing a much-needed opportunity to sit back and relax.

34 YU students participated in the sixth annual Counterpoint Israel program.

Instead, 34 YU students participated in the Center for the Jewish Future’s (CJF) sixth annual Counterpoint Israel program, in places like Dimona, Arad and Yemin Orde. From July 12 to August 18, students served as counselor-teachers in summer camps for impoverished Israeli youth, organizing classes that would enhance campers’ English skills and their connection to core Jewish values as well as boost their self esteem. They also created workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports to foster a fun experience and a positive self-image among the children.

The Yemin Orde program, which was run as an overnight camp, had an additional focus: addressing the needs of Israeli teens affected firsthand by the devastation of December’s forest fires in Carmel.

“The teens in this town are tough, proud and remarkably open to learning more and creating new relationships,” said Chesky Kopel, who is double-majoring in history and English literature at Yeshiva College and worked in the Dimona camp. “Part of the intention of the program is to help us better understand the history and challenges of the Negev and what still needs to be done here, in terms of the communities and resources in this region. I feel that my friends and I are gaining so much from these children and hopefully they’re getting something from us as well.”

Israel wasn’t the only country where YU students made an impact. Following the success of last year’s inaugural Counterpoint Program to Brazil, a group of eight YU students returned to Sao Paulo from August 3 through August 18. They conducted two weeks of interactive Jewish identity seminars and workshops, including a memorable Tisha B’av program and a Shabbaton for local high school students. Students also met with local rabbis, lay leaders and members of the Sao Paulo community during their stay.

Eight YU students took part in the second Counterpoint Brazil program.

Adam Berman, a recent graduate and valedictorian of Yeshiva College, found the Shabbaton especially powerful. “By being with our students for a meaningful four-day Shabbaton, we were able to show them that religious university students also know how to have fun in addition to teaching Torah and running educational programs,” said Berman. “By showing them a way to be both religiously committed and part of modern society, we provided these students with a model by which they can also live their lives.”

Back home in the United States, 27 undergraduates participated on a service mission to New Orleans, Louisiana and Birmingham, Alabama, which gave students an opportunity to witness and aid in the rebuilding of communities ravaged by natural disasters. Conversations with communal leaders in New Orleans, including Arnie Finkelow, former executive vice president of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, provided students with a framework to think about the tragedies. In Birmingham, they assisted with necessary clean up and repairs to damaged homes.

For Faygel Beren, a senior majoring in biology at Stern College for Women, the mission built a deeper understanding of the critical role teamwork plays in all aspects of life. “We were carrying heavy things all day long and working really hard, but everyone encouraged each other and helped each other out,” said Beren. “What’s really amazing is that none of us could do any of it alone—it had to be a group effort. It reinvigorated me with the idea of achdus [unity], and I felt that as students at YU, we were doing exactly what we were meant to do.”

Students on the YU Kansas City Summer Experience volunteered for disaster relief clean-up after a tornado hit Joplin, MO.

In addition to the Counterpoint programs and service missions, the CJF and YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) hosted an assortment of learning and internship programs in cities across the United States, including Kansas City, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; Los Angeles, California; Teaneck, New Jersey; Chicago, Illinois; Stamford, Connecticut; and Atlanta, Georgia. Ranging in length from two to six weeks, these summer internships and kollels [Torah Study programs] offered students the chance to develop their own Torah learning through rigorous daily study and shiurim [lectures], while enriching their host communities by sharing that knowledge.

Various supporters made these missions possible, including the Zusman Family, Sharon and Avram Blumenthal, the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel of Newton, Massachusetts, the Jewish Federations of North America, and Repair the World.

Check out pictures from all the CJF Summer Missions here.


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.


April 8 College EDge Program to Assist Local Public High School Students with College Admissions Process

In an effort to assist local high school students with the college admissions process, Yeshiva University students will present their first annual College EDge Seminar and Fair Day on Friday, April 8 on YU’s Washington Heights Wilf Campus.

The focus of College EDge—created by Jonah Rubin, a pre-med junior at Yeshiva College—is to help educate and inform underrepresented public high school students on their college options and how to properly prepare for and gain admission into the schools of their choice.

The half-day program will include opportunities to meet with representatives from the community, as well as CUNY, SUNY, Ivy League schools and Yeshiva University—with seminars and panel discussions on the admissions and financial aid processes. The day will also feature student-led tours of YU’s campus—giving students a firsthand look at a college environment. Additionally, members of the Wilf Campus Writing Center will run a program on how to effectively write personal statements.

“Many of these students plan to attend college but lack crucial knowledge of its organizational structure and demands,” said Rubin. “We hope that College EDge will provide participants with a better handle on the steps they must take to achieve their ambition of going to college and help breach the intangible barrier between YU and its neighboring community.”

To learn more about College EDge visit


Aug 31, 2010 — The seventh cohort of Yeshiva University’s Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership, a program that prepares top graduates for leadership roles through mentorship, graduate study and hands-on experience, began its yearlong tenure in roles across the University this month.

The Presidential Fellowship, established by President Richard M. Joel in 2004, pairs each of this year’s 16 fellows with a senior mentor in departments that span the institution, from the Office of the President to the YU Museum. Fellows will have the opportunity to learn leadership techniques in situ as they observe and work closely with their mentors. They will also contribute to the University, in both departmental capacities and beyond, as they develop innovative initiatives and work on projects of importance to YU.

In addition, these handpicked new alumni, selected through an intensive screening process based on academic performance, campus leadership and involvement within the Jewish community, will learn about YU from the inside out. That includes everything from brainstorming solutions to the most pressing crises facing the Jewish world today to studying management techniques for nonprofits and learning about organizational infrastructure.

“The program has motivated its participants to reflect on the positive experiences they have had at Yeshiva University and examine the opportunities in the Jewish community—in both lay and professional capacities—in light of their interests and skills,” said President Joel. “The fellowship inspires them to reach for the nobility and responsibility that come with leadership.”

For some, the fellowship presented the perfect opportunity to put their appreciation of a meaningful undergraduate experience into action. “Yeshiva University gave me so much to be thankful for,” said Zehava Birman of Brooklyn, NY and a graduate of Stern College for Women who will be working in the Center for the Jewish Future’s Leadership Training department. “Not only was I not ready to leave YU, but I wanted to give back to the University and the Jewish community as a whole.”

Jennifer Poliak of Hollywood, Florida, wanted to enhance the leadership skills she had already cultivated as a student. “Aside from being a rigorous school, YU allows for its students to be involved and spearhead programs and projects,” explained Poliak, who studied political science for her undergrad and will work in the Office of the General Counsel. “Being a presidential fellow fosters this same sense of responsibility.”

Alumni of the fellowship have certainly proved that true. They have gone on to work in every field from Jewish communal service with the Orthodox Union and the UJA-Federation of New York to key positions at firms like Ernst & Young and Goldman Sachs. Other fellows have pursued graduate study in public service, psychology, law, dentistry, medicine, the rabbinate and fine arts.

The fellowship is directed by Rabbi Josh Joseph, YU vice president and chief of staff, and coordinated by Elysia Stein ’04S, a former presidential fellow.

The 2010-11 Presidential Fellows are listed below, along with their placements:

• Susan Berger, The Beatrice Diener Presidential Fellow; Stern College for Women, Office of the Dean
• Zehava Birman, The David Mitzner Presidential Fellow; Center for the Jewish Future, Leadership Training Department
• Rachael Fried, The Ronald P. Stanton Presidential Fellow; Office of Communications and Public Affairs
• Daniel Gordon, The Toni and Irving Rosen Presidential Fellow; Office of the President
• Clara Hersh, The Jesselson Family Presidential Fellow; Yeshiva University Museum
• Evan Hertan, The Robert M. Beren Presidential Fellow; Yeshiva College, Office of the Dean
• Deena Klein, Presidential Fellow; Office of Student Affairs, Beren Campus
• Judah Leeder, Presidential Fellow; Office of Grant Support
• Benjamin Mizrahi, The Sy Syms Presidential Fellow; Sy Sym School of Business, Office of the Dean
• Eitan Novick, The Doris and Aaron Turk Presidential Fellow; Office of the Provost
• Joseph Offenbacher, Presidential Fellow; Office of Student Affairs, Wilf Campus
• Jennifer Poliak, The Robert M. Beren Presidential Fellow; Office of the General Counsel
• Ester Stiefel, The David Mitzner Presidential Fellow; Center for the Jewish Future, Office of the Dean
• Daniella Weprin, The Eisenberg Presidential Fellow; Department of Institutional Advancement
• Sam Weprin, The Ronald P. Stanton Presidential Fellow; Office of Admissions
• Aliza Wolynetz, Presidential Fellow; Office of the Vice President for Business Affairs

To sponsor a fellow or for more information, please contact Susan Meyers at 212-960-0885 or


Rabbi Kenneth Brander on Today’s Youth’s Views on Individuality, Community and the Future of Jewish Leadership

Rabbi Kenneth Brander is the David Mitzner Dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. The CJF will be convening leaders of the Jewish community from July 29 to Aug. 1 for the Fifth ChampionsGate National Leadership Conference in Orlando, Fla.

It comes as no surprise that in a world where many neglect the importance of community, iPhones, iPods, iMacs and iPads constantly and consistently appear as the trendiest gadgets. These devices represent a culture that desires to deconstruct the power and purpose of community, placing all importance on the needs of the individual.

Despite this societal disposition, I believe the young people of this generation possess an ever-increasing eagerness to live lives of meaning. With all the serious setbacks brought on by our new economic realities, the “Gen-Y” generation has still had the opportunity to amass so much material stuff and travel with unprecedented frequency.

Yet, they still feel hungry to live meaningful lives. Indeed, as just one example, the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future sends close to a thousand young adults on various service-learning experiences across the globe annually and cannot keep up with the demand on the part of even more students to participate. Organizations around the country that work with young adults have seen a similar phenomenon and are working in partnership to create structures enabling all of us to respond to this yearning.

Read full article at The New York Jewish Week…


Oct 5, 2009 — In celebration of Torah excellence, Yeshiva University’s (YU) Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) will honor dedicated leaders and educators of the Jewish community at its Annual Dinner of Tribute on October 27 at The Grand Hyatt in New York City.

Honorees include Dr. William and Debbie Schwartz, Guests of Honor; Dr. Alvin I. Schiff, Lifetime Achievement in Jewish Education; and Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, Rabbinic Leadership Award. The dinner will also include the formal investiture of Rabbi Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

RIETS will also pay recognition to members of its fiftieth, fortieth and twenty-fifth anniversary classes (1959, 1969, and 1984).

A YU graduate and member of the RIETS Board of Trustees, Dr. Schwartz is the founding president of the Rockland County Jewish Federation; a former vice president of the Adolph Schreiber Hebrew Academy of Rockland; a former member of the board of the Community Synagogue of Monsey; and a former campaign chairman of the State of Israel Bonds Doctors Division for Rockland County. Debbie serves as a vice president of the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization and is a former member of the Board of Directors of Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

An internationally recognized authority on education, Dr. Schiff, distinguished professor of education emeritus at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, has been a visiting professor at prestigious universities around the world. In 2005 he was awarded the Israel President’s Prize for his contribution to the enhancement of Jewish life, for inspirational educational leadership, influential Hebraic scholarship, prolific research and writing and for the founding of important institutions of Jewish life.

Rabbi Neuburger, spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Avraham in Bergenfield, NJ, serves as rosh yeshiva at the Yeshiva Program/Mazer School of Talmudic Studies, an undergraduate school for Talmudic studies at YU. A Toronto native, Rabbi Neuburger received semicha [rabbinic ordination] from RIETS in 1979.

Founded in 1896, RIETS is the leading center for education and ordination of Orthodox Rabbis in North America. To learn more about the RIETS Annual Dinner of Tribute, make a reservation or to participate in the Scroll of Honor call 212-960-0852 or email


May 15, 2009 — This Shavuot, National Synagogue of Washington, D.C. and Ahavas Torah of Silver Spring, MD will offer talented young Jewish women the opportunity to serve as scholars-in-residence as part of the Women’s Leadership Initiative’s first-ever scholar-in-residence program. The Initiative, part of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), seeks to empower, educate and train female students of the university towards the objective of assuming professional or lay leadership roles within the Jewish community.

The Women’s Leadership Initiative, made possible in part by a grant from the Covenant Foundation, offers Orthodox women a comprehensive and structured process of leadership development within the Jewish community through mentorships, professional training and a wide-range of activities and programs designed to engender a sense of empowerment and communal responsibility.

“There is a need within the Jewish community for talented, trained and well-educated female role models,” said Daphne Fishman Secunda, director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative. “Our goal is to both inspire new leadership and to create new and emerging opportunities.”

As part of the Initiative, a select group of students, known as Women’s Leadership Fellows, are exposed to female Jewish leadership models in various professional and lay capacities. Fellows hoping to enter Jewish professional fields are offered seminars throughout the year on a wide array of topics, such as public speaking, adult education, communal counseling and shiur [lecture] organization.

“My entire community and I are very supportive of expanding opportunities for women to learn and teach Torah,” said Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz of Ahavas Torah, located in Silver Spring’s Woodside neighborhood. “We applaud CJF for making these opportunities available.”

The scholars-in-residence, Malka Adatto of Seattle, WA; Vera Wexler of Silver Spring; Talia Cottrell of Teaneck, NJ; and Rebecca Winter of Toronto, ON, will deliver lectures on Torah and Halakha to teens and adults over the Shavuot holiday. The young women are all either currently enrolled in or are graduates of Stern College for Women’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS), a two-year program which aims to develop an elite cadre of female scholars of Talmud and Halakha.

“The entire congregation was excited to learn that the scholars were coming to D.C.,” said National Synagogues’ Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, YC ’95 RIETS ’99. “These women serve as positive role models, demonstrating that an Orthodox woman can be a spiritual and intellectual leader in an Orthodox setting.”

To learn more about the Women’s Leadership Initiative contact Daphne Fishman Secunda at 212-340-7700, ext.430 or email