Sep 5, 2007 — Yeshiva University welcomed 700 new undergraduate students at Orientation this week. Along with returning students and new students starting in the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program, they make up an undergraduate student body of well over 3,000, the largest in YU’s history. International students came from as far away as Panama, South Africa, Morocco, and Switzerland, representing 15 countries. Approximately 500 of the incoming young men and women studied at yeshivot and seminaries in Israel before beginning college. About 175 are entering Yeshiva University directly from high school, and another 25 are transfers from other colleges.
We spoke with four first-timers on campus to see how they were settling in.
Shera Sonenberg, from Schenectady, NY, is ready to take full advantage of all that Yeshiva University has to offer. “I wanted a college where I could live a Jewish lifestyle and major in art,” Sonenberg said about her decision to attend Stern College for Women, where she is also a student in the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program.
A graduate of Guilderland High School, where she was ranked seventh in her class, Sonenberg is entering Stern’s Basic Jewish Studies Program in order to brush up on her Judaic studies.
“I was a little tense when I arrived on campus for move-in day because the line to get room numbers and get upstairs was really long,” said Sonenberg, whose parents came along to help her settle in, “but I ended up meeting a lot of people just waiting in line.”
She is excited to be studying in the heart of New York City because of its proximity to museums, stores, and especially kosher restaurants, which are sorely lacking in her hometown upstate.
She took full advantage of all the fun activities during Orientation Week—taking a bus tour of New York City, watching the Blue Man Group perform, and visiting Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and a Yankees game.
After his first week on campus, newcomer Etan Bluman said he is ready for the challenge of balancing his twin interests of Torah study and accounting at Sy Syms School of Business.
“I came to YU because of the mix of Torah learning with the great roshei yeshiva [professors of Talmud] and a high level of academics,” said Bluman, who spent the past year studying at Torat Shraga in Israel. He attended the Jewish Studies Program Orientation, where the sganei mashgichim [spiritual advisors] spoke to students about keeping a balance between Torah and their secular education. “I began my focus on Torah Umadda at high school,” said Bluman, who attended the Torah Academy of Bergen County in his hometown of Teaneck, NJ. “It has stuck with me since then, so I’m prepared for the demands of the dual curriculum.”
He also plans to coach basketball at his old high school, where he was captain of the varsity team during his senior year, and to continue leining [reading from the Torah] and leading services as a cantor periodically at his local synagogue, where he ran the junior congregation for four years. But he is looking forward to the spirit and camaraderie of his first Shabbat on campus this weekend.
“What I’m most excited about is to feel part of the YU community,” Bluman said, “and to see all the other students on campus, whether they’re on their way to shiur [Torah lesson] or to class, and to know that we all have the same focus.”
When Rebecca Cinnamon visited her top colleges around New York City as a Yeshiva Atlanta high school student, she felt the most comfortable in the dormitories at Yeshiva University. On Sunday, Cinnamon returned to those same dorms, this time as a Stern College for Women student.
She had made up her mind to attend YU, where her brother Michael is a junior, even before her year studying at Nishmat in Israel because “continuing Judaic studies was important to me,” she said.
Cinnamon, whose mother came with her to move in, eased right in to campus life during Orientation, which she found “very organized and not too stressful.”
“There were a lot of people walking around offering help,” she said, including waiters dressed in tuxedos serving food and resident advisors strolling through the lines offering assistance. “I thought I might be overwhelmed but I met more people than I expected.” One of those people was President Richard M. Joel, who came over to welcome Cinnamon to YU and even helped her move her bags into the dormitory.
Cinnamon always wanted to be in New York City for college and knows how much there is to gain from the city, specifically within the Jewish world.
She is considering majoring in biology, but is very interested in music as well. “I dabble in guitar and drums, and may pursue a minor in music,” she said. She is also looking to get involved in the drama society.