Yeshiva University News » Michael Strauss

YU Benefactor Abe Naymark Leaves Lasting Legacy at Sy Syms School of Business

Abraham “Abe” Naymark was a self-made multimillionaire, but one would never know it. Low key and unpretentious until his passing last January, Naymark was also a shrewd businessman and a tough negotiator—traits that helped him achieve a small fortune in his lifetime. With this fortune, he has helped numerous students and faculty members at Sy Syms School of Business through the establishment of an eponymous scholarship fund and the Visiting Faculty and Research Fellowship Program. He gave a total of $2.25 million to YU while he was living as well as through gifts given from his estate posthumously.

Abraham Naymark

Abraham Naymark z”l

“Abe was the type of guy who wouldn’t spend $100 on himself but would gladly give a $1 million check to charity,” said Michael Strauss, associate dean of Sy Syms, who shared a close personal relationship with him. “He was a mentor to me, like a father figure, and a real mentsch with a truly unique personality.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Newly Graduated, Yeshiva University Alumni Find Career, Graduate School Success  

job fair 2As undergraduates, Yeshiva University students learn to balance a rich and vibrant range of academic, extracurricular and spiritual pursuits, dedicating themselves to rigorous Torah and secular study while discovering their passions, championing their beliefs and forming lasting friendships. So it’s no surprise that after commencement, they hit the ground running: more than 90 percent of YU graduates were employed, in graduate school, or both within 6 months of graduation, according to the most recent survey by YU’s Career Center.

“The fact that for the last six years, we’ve been at or above that 90 percent rate is impressive,” said Marc Goldman, executive director of the Career Center. “In particular, full time employment has risen even higher than in past years, with more than 85 percent of those employed working in full time positions—that number rises to more than 90 percent when you look at those who aren’t also in graduate school.”

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Students Learn Practical Business Skills in Course Presented by Financial Training Experts

AMT finance course taught on Beren's campus by German NandeClose to 100 students participated in a financial training seminar May 27-30, presented by Adkins Matchett & Toy (AMT), global experts in training analysts and investment bankers at leading financial companies, hedge funds and corporate law firms.

The intensive four-day, 30-hour class was offered primarily to undergraduate students from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva College and Sy Syms School of Business.

“Several members of the YU Board of Trustees encouraged the school to enhance our analytic offerings in finance, and we are exploring ways to incorporate these vital real-world skills into the curriculum at Sy Syms,” said Michael Strauss, associate dean of Sy Syms, explaining the impetus behind the course. “We believe that all students should take this fundamentals of finance course before they enter the business world.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Business School Honors Students and Faculty at Annual Awards Dinner

Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business celebrated its 27th anniversary and the graduating class of 2014 with a gala awards dinner on April 30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The evening honored students and faculty who excelled academically and professionally, demonstrated exceptional character and exemplify the significant strengthening of Sy Syms.

The accomplishments of the past three years, as noted by Associate Dean Michael Strauss in his opening remarks, include Syms receiving AACSB accreditation in March 2013, one of only 672 out of 10,000 business schools to be so accredited; the creation of the Executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) program, now welcoming its third cohort; an increase in enrollment from 412 to 575 students;  four new tenure track positions; and new courses like “Managing a Growing Business,” which gives students the unique opportunity to work as a consulting team together with a faculty adviser to develop solutions for a business client on a chosen project. Read the rest of this entry…

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Sy Syms Students Gain Consulting Experience at Annual Seforim Sale

A select group of students at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business are enjoying a real-life entrepreneurial experience this semester, thanks to a new course called “Growing a Managing Business.”

Sy Syms Professor Leonard Fuld (center) at the Seforim Sale with students in his "Managing a Growing Business" class

Sy Syms Assistant Professor Leonard Fuld (center) at the Seforim Sale with students in his “Managing a Growing Business” class

The class is open to students on both the Beren and Wilf campuses and aims to give them the unique opportunity to work as a consulting team together with a faculty member to advise and develop solutions for a business client on a chosen project. This year, that client is YU’s annual Seforim Sale, North America’s largest Jewish book sale, which is operated by YU students—from ordering merchandise to setting up the premises, marketing, accounting and all the technology the project entails.

“The students have now spent a number of months studying the Seforim Sale and trying to determine what are the critical issues that need to be addressed,” said Leonard Fuld, clinical assistant professor of accounting, who is teaching the class. “Similar to PricewaterhouseCoopers or any outside firm, the idea was for them to look at the Sale and determine what needed the most attention… to give them the hands-on experience you don’t get in the classroom.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Serial Entrepreneur Adam Moisa Finds Mentors and Associates at Sy Syms School of Business

Adam Moisa was impressed by his first phone conversation with Michael Strauss, associate dean and entrepreneur-in-residence at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business.

Adam Moisa and Dean Strauss

Associate Dean Michael Strauss, left, with Adam Moisa

Strauss called Moisa while he was studying at Yeshivat HaKotel in Israel to ask if he had thought of any business ideas lately. As it happened, Moisa had. He wanted to create an aggregate cloud storage program that would allow people to access all their online content stored on various cloud storage services—whether on Google, Dropbox, Box or other sites—through one simple, easy-to-use platform. Moisa knew it was a great idea, but he wasn’t sure exactly where to go from there.

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EMBA Program at Sy Syms School of Business Travels to Israel for In-Depth Study of Entrepreneurship

A behind-the-scenes tour of the Knesset and frank conversations with the leaders of companies including high-tech startup Given Imaging, integrated energy giant Delek Group and Recanati Winery were just a few of the unique learning opportunities for students in the Executive Masters of Business Administration program at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business during one jam-packed week of field study in Israel this summer.

EMBA Israel trip 1

EMBA students on a site visit to Elbit Systems, which develops, manufactures and integrates advanced, high-performance defense electronic and electro-optic systems for customers throughout the world.

The trip, from July 1-9, enabled students in the program’s Management of International Business course to shape their own learning experience so that it provided maximum exposure to the topics that were of most interest to them, with an overall aim of understanding the specific opportunities for global arbitrage offered in Israel. That meant arranging their own on-site visits with government and policy-setting bodies, globally-oriented Israeli companies, the Israeli presence of foreign-based multinational companies and academic institutions. Read the rest of this entry…

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Students Pitch their Business Plans at 2012 Sy Syms Entrepreneurship Competition

A Web site that makes personal training available to exercise novices in their own homes. A Facebook app that offers one-on-one tutoring and keeps track of students’ coursework. An organization that enables college students to bring their love of science to classrooms in public schools across the country. A sandwich company that delivers one meal to a homeless person for every sandwich it sells.

Bella Frankel presents her idea—a comparative shopping search engine—before the judges at the Fast-Pitch Competition.

These were just a few of the ideas in the running for the grand prize at the 2012 Ira Rennert Entrepreneurship Institute Fast-Pitch Competition, presented by Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business on May 9. Read the rest of this entry…


From Caracas to Cologne, Childhood Friends Reunite to Pursue Business Dreams at Yeshiva

Daniel Simkin and Leon Franco have come a long way together. As children in Caracas, Venezuela, they attended the same grade school.  In March, as students at Yeshiva University, they attended the 15th World Business Dialogue in Cologne, Germany—winning two of only 300 coveted slots available to students across the globe in a rigorous selection process.

Childhood friends in Venezuela, Daniel Simkin and Leon Franco have reunited at Yeshiva University.

The conference is the world’s largest student-run business convention. Featuring 60 high-profile personalities and executives from top companies such as British Petroleum, General Electric Europe and North Asia, and Ford of Europe, it engaged students and speakers in conversation about topics that will have economic and social impact on the future.

“We met students from all around the world who want to do something in life, change something,” said Simkin, a sophomore majoring in mathematics at Yeshiva College. “They run profit or nonprofit organizations around the world. We all had this ambition and desire to share ideas and concerns.”

Simkin and Franco have always been ambitious. In Venezuela and over his time at YU, Simkin has tried his hand at a variety of industries—“entertainment, manufacturing, social media, iTunes and politics,” he says, to name a few—and Franco, a junior majoring in marketing and finance at Syms School of Business, has interned for New York Senator Charles Schumer and UBS Wealth Management.  The two applied to the World Business Dialogue because they were convinced it could give them valuable insight and connections to further their careers.

“I want to create or participate in a multinational company and to do that, I have to understand people and different economies,” said Simkin. “I’m hoping to apply what I learned about general business practice at the conference in the future.”

At the conference, Franco and Simkin had the opportunity to hear from industry leaders about everything from business strategies to ethical dilemmas and future forecasts. They also benefited from the juxtaposition of opposing worldviews in conversation.

“The CEO of British Petroleum Europe was advocating a slower introduction of eco-friendly alternatives to oil consumption, while the German Transport Authority explained that it is developing strategic ways to be more efficient with their use on a day-to-day basis,” said Franco. The conference helped crystallize his feelings about sustainability.

Franco (left) and Simkin (right) networked with students from around the world and heard from captains of industry at the World Business Dialogue in Germany.

“Individuals have to change their consumption habits, but someone has to educate them,” said Franco. “Whether I make a green company or just a company with green aspects, I understand that anything I do is going to have a social component. There has to be more than just profit-generation—you have to be giving back because that’s the only way we’re going to maintain a healthy world.”

Though Franco and Simkin knew each other as children, they only recently reunited. Franco, who had moved to the United States with his family in search of greater religious freedom in 2000, had already begun his studies at YU when he encountered Simkin at a dinner with mutual friends in New York City. Simkin was shocked. He had come to the U.S. for a summer course in English between semesters at the Universidad Metropolitana of Caracas.

There, things had been rough: a hostile atmosphere toward Jews on campus led him to downplay his religious identity and as more and more of his friends left the country for Israel or the U.S., he found his own grasp on Judaism slipping.

When Franco told him about YU, Simkin had to see it for himself. The two headed back uptown together and Simkin was amazed by what he found. “I saw a small campus where everyone has a Jewish environment,” he said. “People walking around in the streets with kippas on and tzitzit out, eating kosher food, inviting each other for Shabbat. It was exactly what I lacked in Venezuela, and I thought, ‘This is where I need to be.’ ”

The road wasn’t easy. Simkin spoke very little English. But three courses and six sittings for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) later, he arrived at YU. “I’m pursuing my university education as a businessman while studying who I am in the morning,” Simkin said. “Everyone knows Hebrew, so I use it more than I did in Venezuela. And when my kids ask me in the future, ‘How do you make Kiddush?’ I’ll know because I learned about it with a rabbi in class.”

For Franco, the school held a similar appeal. “Here, we are always surrounded by people who share our values, respect us, lead morally correct lives and have a vision for the future,” he said. “I have friends here from Spain, France and Thailand and everywhere around the world that there is a Jewish community. Somehow, we all ended up here and we’re all united, and I think that’s amazing.”

YU’s New York City location is also critical for Franco as he develops his professional career. “Every business has a headquarters in New York,” he said. “The fact that we’re here and able to connect with potential employers and an international community of Jews while receiving a good education and exploring our religious identities as individuals is important.”

“We have a great group of international students here at YU and I have the fortune in my role as the entrepreneur-in-residence to meet them on a one-to-one basis and discuss with them everything from how to start a business and how to raise money to what career they should pursue if and when they plan to go back to their home country,” said Michael Strauss, associate dean at Syms.

When Franco and Simkin were accepted to the World Business Dialogue, Strauss worked with the students to find a way for them to attend despite the cost of airfare, which they couldn’t afford. “I have spent 40 years in business and we’re no longer in a cocoon,” said Strauss. “Any day that a businessman is involved in business, he is exposed to the international world via importing, exporting, sales, purchasing, supplies—it’s an international global environment.” He added: “Having exposure to that environment, which the conference gave them, is extremely invaluable and therefore I felt that it was critical that they, as YU students, were able to attend.”

Simkin and Franco are especially appreciative of their professors at Syms and Yeshiva College, including Strauss, Professor Steven Nissenfeld in management and Professor Brian Maruffi in entrepreneurship, whose mentorship and guidance have helped them flesh out big plans for their futures.

For Simkin, Professor Norma Silbermintz’s English as a Second Language course had particularly meaningful results.

“At the World Business Dialogue, Leon [Franco] looked at me and said, ‘Six months ago, all you knew how to say in English was ‘Hi, my name is Daniel,’ ” Simkin recalled, laughing. “ ‘Now you’re speaking in front of 300 international students as a delegate from YU!’ ”


Taxi Mogul and Cardozo Graduate Shares Journey to Success with YU Students

On January 25, students at Yeshiva University’s Syms School of Business gathered around a conference table in Belfer Hall for a discussion with Evgeny Freidman, the business mogul who has made hundreds of millions in the taxi industry.

Evgeny Freidman

Evgeny Freidman oversees New York's largest taxi fleet.

The event, called “Crazy Taxi,” was the first in the Syms Student Council Spotlight Series. The series seeks to introduce students to entrepreneurs from an array of surprising fields and backgrounds. In Freidman’s case, that included immigrating to New York from the Former Soviet Union at the age of five and a rough-and-tumble adolescence that got him kicked out of Skidmore College and working at a local video store in Queens, NY.

“I looked at myself and said, ‘Never again,’ ” said Freidman.

After packing six semesters’ worth of coursework into three, Freidman received his bachelor’s in accounting/business from Skidmore and was accepted to YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he graduated at age 23. As students listened keenly and asked questions, Freidman detailed the beginnings of his business career in venture capital projects in Russia for billionaire Sam Zell and an argument with his father that changed everything.

Freidman’s father, who had been a thermonuclear engineer in Russia, owned a medallion of 60 yellow cabs when he was hospitalized following a heart attack. As his son sat at his bedside, the elder Freidman began to explain the family business in case the worst happened. “But something didn’t sit right with me,” said Freidman. “I’d ask simple questions like, ‘Why does it have to be this way? Isn’t there another way to do it?’ and he’d say, ‘No, this is how it’s done.’ ”

Freidman, a Cardozo alumnus, took questions from students at the Jan. 25 event.

Freidman walked students through the inspired and strategic business decisions which have made him the manager of the largest taxi fleet in New York and revolutionized the taxi industry as a whole. He stressed innovative thinking and discussed basic challenges, such as securing financing, as well as the impact of unique and potentially debilitating crises like the 2008 blackout. “I had 850 taxis and not one of them could fill up their tank,” Freidman said. He’s ready for the next time, though: after the blackout, he bought gas stations and now has a reserve of gas to keep his fleet running no matter what happens.

Today, as principal of Taxi Club Management, Inc., Freidman is worth more than $600 million and has been featured in Crain’s New York “40 Under 40” series.

The evening’s intimate, conversational atmosphere gave students the opportunity to ask Freidman about everything from his logic in bringing hybrid taxis to the industry to insight into the taxi driver workforce. They also debated the pros and cons of expanding Freidman’s business across the country and overseas.

“It’s fascinating,” said Isaac Harari, a sophomore majoring in management. “I’d never have thought it was possible to make that much money in a business like the taxi industry.”

Prof. Michael Strauss and Freidman

Michael Strauss, associate director of student advising and administration and clinical professor of management at Syms, pointed to Freidman’s high-risk, high-reward philosophy as a thought-provoking aspect of the night’s discussion. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for our students to get hands-on insight into how someone who is entrepreneurially-motivated can start a business and become a multimillionaire at the young age of 42,” he said.

Syms Student Council President Benjamin Blumenthal initially thought to ask Freidman to speak after a taxi driver began telling him and a friend about the steep value of medallions. “We got out, looked at each other and said, ‘We have to learn more about this,” said Blumenthal. Their research led them to Freidman’s story.

Blumenthal is also committed to sharing others like it. He’s hoping that an Israeli venture capitalist will be Syms’ next visitor in the Spotlight series. “There is so much happening on campus this semester,” he said. “From administrators to professors to students, everyone is engaged in furthering our education in any way possible and bringing more opportunities like this to campus.”

Freidman sensed that passion. “I don’t speak often, but I knew that speaking here, in a place where everyone is studying Torah, I’d be working with an intelligent and cerebral audience,” he said. “It is incredible to share something you’re passionate about with students like these, who ask all the right, hard-hitting questions.”