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Created by Yeshiva University Students, New Website Helps Torah Go Viral

Two months ago, a team of Yeshiva University students launched “BuzzTorah,” a BuzzFeed-inspired site designed to share Jewish values in a fun, easy way by providing quick and comprehensive Jewish content in the form of lists, pictures, GIFs and short articles. The site took off in the weeks that followed, spreading quickly via social media. But what’s it all about? In the spirit of BuzzTorah, here’s a listicle (an article in list format) with some fast—and sometimes surprising—facts.

1.       It was inspired by the 2013 Pew Report.

When Yeshiva College student Tzvi Levitin heard that more young Jews than ever were losing touch with Judaism, he started envisioning ways to make Torah and Jewish thought accessible, shareable and interesting—like BuzzFeed, a social news and entertainment website famous for its compulsively-readable lists.

2.       It’s more than just lists.

The site premiered quizzes like “How Fluent Are You in Jewish Terminology?” this month and is also hoping to debut a regular column titled “5 Things This Week in Jewish History.” Look for new content on Jewish art, literature and film and catchy long-form articles in the near future, too. Read the rest of this entry…

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Jonah Wilkof Chosen for 2Seeds Training in Tanzania, Africa

Jonah Wilkof portraitGraduating Yeshiva University senior Jonah Wilkof, of Beachwood, Ohio, has been selected for a highly competitive nonprofit training position with The 2Seeds Network, a nonprofit organization that incubates small, efficient and effective agricultural development projects in Africa.

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Kayla Applebaum, Molecular Biology Major, Receives Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship

Kayla Applebaum, a junior at Stern College for Women, has been awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a highly competitive grant that supports undergraduates who intend to pursue careers in science, math or engineering.

Kayla Applebaum, Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Award WinnerOnly 271 college sophomores and juniors across the country are selected for the scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Applebaum, a molecular biology major, will use her scholarship to continue her study of the targeting molecular pathways of breast cancer in hands-on research with Dr. Marina Holz, associate professor of biology at Stern College, who she has worked with for the last three years.

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Nearly 500 Students Participate in Third Annual Cake Wars, Presented by Fairway Market, to Raise Money for Breast Cancer Awareness

Pink boxing gloves in a yellow-cake rink. A frosted boat sailing through an ocean of sprinkles. Cut-out cake footprints on a cookie-crumb beach.

12501356294_be5dd8051f_bThese were just a few of the more than 40 cakes in radically different shapes, sizes and colors that filled Room 501 in Yeshiva University’s Furst Hall on February 12 at the end of its third Annual Cake Wars, sponsored by Fairway Market. The cake-decorating competition celebrates National Sharsheret Pink Day Around the World, an event held on high school and college campuses worldwide to promote breast cancer awareness. Each cake was decorated by a team of students, many wearing pink bandanas, facepaint or clothes.

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Yael Roberts Explores Gap Between Images and Words in ‘Correspondences’

In the last year, Stern College for Women senior Yael Roberts has mailed 792 postcards and 144 letters.

Some were addressed to old friends or people she barely knew, like famous writers and artists. Others she left in random places around New York City for anyone to find. Each one asked the same questions: “Who or what inspires you? How do you define inspiration?”

yael_roberts_03The answers to those questions, as well as the many modes of communication Roberts used to ask them, form the heart of “Correspondences,” her first solo exhibition, which will run from January 15-21 at Blackburn 20 | 20, 323 West 39th Street, New York, NY.

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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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MK Tzipi Hotovely Emphasizes the Need for Unified Vision at Israel Club Event

tzipi hotovelyOn December 19, Deputy Minister of Transportation and Road Safety Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely joined Yeshiva University students on the Wilf Campus for a frank discussion about one of the most challenging issues facing Israel today: Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.

“People are saying, ‘We want to have a Jewish state,’ but they can’t tell you what that means,” Hotovely said. “What we need today more than ever is to have our own vision as a Jewish state, with a clear message.”

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Wurzweiler Students Turn Focus Inward at Self-Care Day

On December 12, students at Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work learned a few techniques to treat some of their most important clients: themselves.

20131212_ wurzweiler_self_care_037“Because of the kind of work social workers do every day, it is very important that they put aside time to take care of themselves,” said Dr. Carmen Ortiz Hendricks, the Dorothy and David I. Schachne Dean of Wurzweiler. “Vicarious traumatization can occur when a social worker takes in the clients’ experiences and it begins to affect their lives. Finding ways to relax, socialize, exercise, and have fun is essential to a healthy mind, body and spirit. Today was Wurzweiler’s way of helping students and faculty take care of themselves.”

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As We Care for Survivors, Don’t Forget the Damage Done to their Descendents

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor, co-presidents of YU’s Student Medical Ethics Society, will present an Oct. 21 conference on “Jewish Approaches to Medical Dilemmas Borne Out of the Holocaust.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center. Their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone—the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal. Read the rest of this entry…

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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!’ ”

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