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October 1st, 2014 by shur
(JERUSALEM, Israel – June 22, 2014) The Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (www.yu.edu/cjf) announced today that its “Counterpoint Israel Program,” an immersive service-learning initiative that aims to empower the next generation of Israeli youth via an exciting, Jewish values-driven summer camp experience, has been retooled to maximize manpower efficiency and its impact on the Israeli communities it serves.
Over the last several years, undergraduate students from Yeshiva University ran four separate summer camps in the cities of Arad, Dimona, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi concurrently. Basing itself on the North American Jewish Camping system, this year’s program will offer two separate camp sessions, making it possible for YU students to focus their undivided attention and complete creativity on two cities at a time.
The YU students – natives of North America, Colombia, and Chile – will run camps in Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi from June 29 – July 10 before relocating to Dimona and Arad for the second session, scheduled for July 13– 24.
“We want to enhance the YU student experience by providing them with the opportunity to work for two consecutive camp sessions, enabling them to experiment with their teaching methods and educational approaches,” said Gila Rockman, Co-director of Counterpoint Israel.
“The socio-economic and educational backgrounds of the students in Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi differ greatly from their peers in Dimona and Arad, so our students are in for a unique opportunity.”
The municipalities of cities where Counterpoint operates see it as indispensable to their educational systems and are committed to contributing their own resources to ensure the program’s success. Each city makes a financial investment in the program. “Counterpoint Israel has become such an integral part of the lives and Jewish identities of the teens in the towns in which we engage, so it is no wonder that the municipalities want to invest in their own futures,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, YU’s Vice President for University and Community Life and the David Mitzner Dean of the YU Center for the Jewish Future. “For years, the municipalities have watched as its high school youth flourished in our camps and realized that they needed to do something to make sure that this trend not only continues but reaches as many students as possible.”

“As in years past, we’ve seen that the Counterpoint Israel Program, through its English classes and workshops in arts, fashion, music, dance and sports, continuously improves the skills of the Israeli teens and promotes a positive self-image and traditional Jewish values,” said Sharon Blumenthal, who with her husband Avram has supported Counterpoint for seven years. “While visiting the program last year, it was gratifying to watch the YU students work with the Israeli teens and their families. Counterpoint provides these students with a glimpse into the great – and challenging – moments of Israeli life, and leaves them with a deep and profound appreciation of life in these communities.
Counterpoint Israel is run with support from Ron Fischer and Lisa Rosenbaum/the Fischer Family Foundation, Repair the World, and the VIP Passover Yizkor Appeal.
The Kiryat Gat program is run with additional support from Jennifer and Saul Burian and Doreen and Beryl Eckstein, the Kiryat Malachi Program is dedicated in the memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson, the Dimona program is run with additional support from Sharon and Avram Blumenthal, and the Arad program is run with additional support from the Jewish Federations of Central New Jersey and Delaware and Neals Fund in memory of Neal Dublinsky.

CJF Kallah Teachers Training Course

October 1st, 2014 by shur

abstract_water_1920x1200The Kallah Teacher Training Course, taught by Rebbetzin Peshi Neuburger, a renowned Kallah teacher, took place this summer during the Nine Days for the third year in a row, at the Teaneck Mikvah. Seventeen women attended the seminar in person, and several via Skype from distant states and Canada. The intensive two and half day course provides a clear model of how to teach a Kallah and offers time to answer many questions that arise. Rebbetzin Neuburger, in her gentle way, shares Halachic, Hashkafic and anecdotal material which is invaluable to a novice Kallah teacher and a great enhancement for those women who have some experience in this area. A tour of the beautiful Teaneck Mikvah with detailed information is given by the Administrator of the Mikvah. In the last three years, over 70 women, mostly wives of pulpit rabbis, have taken this course. It provides them with an opportunity to network and share with their peers, to learn from each other’s experiences and to support each other. Many of the participants had Rebbetzin Neuburger as their Kallah teacher when they got married. They come back to learn from a master Kallah teacher. The participants leave the seminar feeling charged with new knowledge, energy and passion for their teaching.

Yeshiva University Tisha B’av programming reaches tens of thousands

September 22nd, 2014 by shur

Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and the Orthodox Union (OU) once again combined efforts on programs for the Three Weeks and Nine Days leading to Tisha B’Av, which were followed by a variety of shiurim [lectures] on Tisha B’Av itself.

“We were proud to partner with the Orthodox Union in providing our community with an inspirational program for Tisha B’Av,” said Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “This collection of shiurim addressed the meaning and poignancy of Tisha B’Av in the framework of our contemporary Jewish experience.”

The centerpiece of the program was a video featuring Rabbi Glasser; Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Undergraduate Torah Studies; Mrs. Shoshana Schechter, assistant professor of Bible and director of the Mechina Pathways Program at Stern College for Women; Rabbi Steven Weil, senior managing director of the OU; and Rabbi Ari Lamm, a student at RIETS and the William Fischman rabbinic intern at The Jewish Center.

“In light of the tragic events in Israel this summer, the Three Weeks was a time of deep introspection for the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Judah Isaacs, director of community engagement at the OU. “The jointly prepared video classes by the Orthodox Union and Yeshiva University provided a forum on Tisha B’Av for synagogue members to learn about the tragedies of the day, and how they resonate in our times.”

The free DVD was sent to all Orthodox Union member congregations and by CJF to synagogues across North America, Israel, the United Kingdom and Australia.

In addition to the DVD, YU once again presented two Tisha B’av live webcasts of the kinnot services, entitled “Mourning for Jerusalem in 204″. Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, University Professor of Jewish History and Thought at Yeshiva University as well as Senior Scholar at CJF, presented his annual kinnot program at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, NJ, while Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, rebbe at Yeshivat Ashreinu and Rabbi of Ganei Haeila in Ramat Beit Shemesh, presented a kinnot program at Yeshiva University’s Gruss Campus in Jerusalem. Both programs were well attended in person and drew thousands of visitors to the live webcast online.

The Benjamin and Rose Berger Tisha B’av To-Go 5774 was distributed to hundreds of synagogues, camps and other institutions in the US, Canada and Israel, with over 20,000 copies delivered in print and online. As it is each year, Tisha B’av was the busiest day of the year for the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah.org website, with thousands of listeners going to the site for Tisha B’av insights and inspiration. We hope and pray that in the merit of all the learning and mitzvot that were done on Tisha B’av that this will be the last Tisha B’av that the Jewish people must mark in exile and that next year YU can provide even more resources for the first joyous Tisha B’av in Jerusalem.

CJF Summer Programs 2014

September 14th, 2014 by shur

berlin-wall1Counterpoint Israel

With support from: Ron Fisher and Lisa Rosenbaum / the Fisher Family Foundation, and the VIP Passover Yizkor Appeal.
The Counterpoint Kiryat Malachi Program is dedicated in the memory of Dr. Bernard W. Gamson.
The Dimona program is run with support Sharon and Avram Blumenthal.
The Arad Program is run with support from the Jewish Federations of Central New Jersey and Delaware and Neals Fund in memory of Neal Dublinsky.
The Kiryat Gat program is run with support from Jennifer and Saul Burian and Doreen and Beryl Eckstein.

Counterpoint Israel was a five-week Jewish service-learning program run by Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future, during which YU Students traveled to development towns in Southern Israel and ran English summer camps for at-risk Israeli teenagers. The program highlighted Israel-Diaspora education and aimed to nurture and grow a strong sense of Jewish identity within its participants through meaningful and much needed service work, leadership education and authentic and long lasting partnerships. The students forged meaningful connections that changed lives as they taught the teens English, ran a variety of workshops including art, sports, and drumming, as well as traveled on tiyulim together.

Read more at the official Counterpoint Israel 2014 blog


Students enjoyed a unique multi-dimensional experience that allowed them to reflect on their own Jewish identity on an intellectual and emotional level, while connecting to the local Jewish community as well. Panel discussions with local politicians touched on topics relating to history and anti-Semitism and gave students a chance to explore a multitude of thought-provoking issues in an effort to understand how German society confronts its history. Visits to the Jewish Museum of Berlin, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and several Jewish memorials also created poignant moments of deep reflection and opportunities to connect to the broader narrative of the Jewish people. The highlight of the trip was a memorable Shabbat spent in Leipzig, where students connected with the small but dedicated Jewish community, infusing energy and enthusiasm into the davening, which took place in the city’s only remaining shul; 18 others were destroyed in the Holocaust. The trip also gave participants a newfound sense of gratitude for the Jewish lives they are able to lead.

Summer Internships:

Students spent the summer in the following cities doing internships. South Bend Indiana, Kansas City, Kansas, and Houston Texas.  The summer internship program offered students the opportunity to explore other cities and gained a valuable internship experience in their chosen field, while simultaneously worked to inspire the host community through torah learning and exciting programs.

Read about the South Bend program here

Read about the Kansas City program here

YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education graduates 3rd cohort

September 10th, 2014 by shur

EJE-Photo-for-CJF-newsletter-9.8In July of 2014 the YU Certificate Program in Experiential Jewish Education  graduated its third cohort of educators, Cohort III, and welcomed Cohort IV. At their moving graduation ceremony, each of the twenty-one members of Cohort III presented their personal statements explaining what it means to them to be an experiential Jewish educator.

One graduate poignantly remarked:

“The psychological present, a moment of experience, is said to be about 3 seconds long. Most of those moments are lost forever, ignored by what we can call our remembering self or the stories we tell ourselves to make meaning of our experiences…As an educator, I seek to facilitate for my learners – my peers, the truly impactful, examined experiences that have led me to where I am today. I cannot control every aspect of even those 3 seconds of experience, but while I may relinquish control, it is unmistakably my responsibility to guide and support, to provide context and relevance, and to encourage exploration and risk both in my learners and myself. Experience is fleeting. Memory can be slippery. But values and intentionality can create the footholds we need to move forward together – building something greater than ourselves.”

You can watch videos from graduation here and here.

The graduates of Cohort III and incoming members of Cohort IV come from locations across North America, ranging from Pittsburgh, Toronto, San Diego, Chicago, Washington DC, Baltimore, Boston, and Detroit to name a few and hold distinct positions in a variety of organizations including: Hillel International; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC); NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation; Yachad; NJOP; Pearlstone Center; The Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University; The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life; Toronto March of the Living; UJA’s Community Connect; Ulpanat Orot; American Jewish World Service (AJWS); Bible Raps; Camp Stone; Center for Jewish Life – Hillel at Princeton University; Center for Jewish Education (CJE); Frankel Jewish Academy; Gesher Jewish Day School; Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh; Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston; jUChicago; OU-JLIC; Tanenbaum CHAT; The Abraham Joshua Heschel School; Yeshiva University; and Yeshivat Netivot Montessori.

Applications are now open for Cohort V of the Certificate Program. We’re seeking applicants who have a minimum of 3 years of relevant experience in the field of experiential Jewish education, specifically from day school settings, youth movements, and major Jewish organizations and agencies (such as Federations and central education agencies). For more information and to apply visit www.ejewisheducation.com or email eje@yu.edu .

This past year, the Certificate Program also published two series of articles on various topics in experiential Jewish education on eJewishPhilanthropy. Articles written by two members of Cohort III can be viewed below:

  1. What Exactly Is Experiential Jewish Education? By Carolyn Gerecht, published on March 3, 2014
  2. The Journey of the Four Children By Benji Berlow, published on March 31, 2014

Kohelet Fellowships Program Graduates Cohorts in Two Cities

June 3rd, 2014 by shur

P1010581A few weeks ago, Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future completed its third year inspiring day school parents through the Kohelet Fellowships.  As of this year, 28 day schools, 12 Preschools and over 1100 day school and preschool parents have participated in the Kohelet Fellowships program.  Participating communities have included Boca Raton, Philadelphia, Manhattan, Long Island, Memphis, Denver, Kansas City, and Atlanta.  This year the program is continuing in three communities, New York, Denver and Kansas City.

The Kohelet Fellowships Program is a 2-year Jewish learning experience for parents of Jewish day school students.  Fellows study Jewish texts, either in classes or one-on-one, participate in community learning events, and explore the provided lessons with their families.  Fellows receive tuition breaks from their Jewish day schools, funded by the Kohelet Foundation and its partners as a grant to each school.  The Kohelet Fellowships are run as a partnership between The Kohelet Foundation, The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, and Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future.

Fellows enrolled in the CJF chavruta learning track are partnered with a chavruta, or learning partner. Each week, via email, fellows receive the curriculum for the following week and they set up their own time to learn, either in person, by phone, or over video chat. The curriculum is structured as four 10-week semesters, with each session lasting approximately one hour.

This year, about 200 people have been learning every week through Yeshiva University.   Kohelet Fellows study materials on various relevant and engaging topics.  The current semester is entitled “Leadership Lessons,” and discusses important Jewish leaders throughout history, focusing on ethical issues that they encountered and what those lessons teach us today.

This year’s learning concluded with graduation events for fellows in Boca Raton and Atlanta.    Participants from diverse backgrounds and affiliated with a variety of Jewish schools attended the  events where they sat and learned Torah together.  The evenings began with a video message from David Magerman, President of the Kohelet Foundation, explaining his motivation for becoming so strongly involved in Jewish education.  It was truly inspiring to see all types of Jews united around our shared texts and a shared experience of two years of weekly Torah study.

We hope that the energy of these events will carry the Kohelet Fellows through years of learning in the future.

More information can be found at www.Koheletfellowships.com.

YUConnects hosts “A Conversation on Dating”- April 1st

May 22nd, 2014 by shur


Over 100 men filled a large classroom in Glueck Beis Medrash on April 1 for a wonderful program  spearheaded by Isaac Attia, President of SOY-JSC, called “A Conversation on Dating.” The event was sponsored by SOY-JSC, YUConnects, RIETS and the YU Counseling Center. The panelists included Rabbi Ari Sytner, Director of Community Initiatives, CJF, Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky, Rosh Yeshiva, Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, Director of YUConnects and Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch, Rebbe at SBMP. Rabbi Sytner moderated the evening by introducing the panelists and posed common questions which frequent the YUConnects office. Rabbi Sobolofsky shared Torah insights on dating and marriage, practical pointers to consider before dating and emphasized the compatibility factors that matter.   Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky elaborated with easy and useful tips to get started dating and moved through the beginning stages of a relationship. Rabbi Maybruch concluded the panel with secrets to moving a relationship forward using specific examples of appreciating the other person and ways to offer compliments.

The program began at 9:30 PM and ended close to midnight due to the volume of questions and a lively Q & A eloquently moderated by Rabbi Sytner. Since the popular forum, many young men have visited the YUConnects office to gain guidance on relationships or to learn more about the organization. Educational activities such as this one, which pool together the unique resources at Yeshiva University and expand the outreach of YUConnects to the student population enhance its reputation as a premier relationship-building program.  Similar programs and other interesting lectures can be found on  YUTorah.

Keeping Communities Safe

February 28th, 2014 by shur

Center for the Jewish Future Hosts Conference for Rabbis on Addressing and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Jewish Communities

On February 25, Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future hosted an educational and training session for rabbinic leadership focusing on the unique challenges of addressing and preventing child sexual abuse in religious communities.

Victor Vieth, executive director emeritus

Victor Vieth, director emeritus of the Gundersen Health System’s National Child Protection Training Center

The conference was one of several programs and efforts by YU to promote child sexual abuse prevention and awareness and provided an overview of the latest research about abuse in faith-based communities as well as guidelines to help synagogues institute policies and procedure aimed at preventing and addressing allegations of child sexual abuse. The program included addresses from Andrew (Avi) Lauer, Esq., vice president for legal affairs and secretary and general counsel at YU; Dr. Shira Berkovits, a postdoctoral fellow at TASC Mental Health Court Program and a student at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School; and national child sexual abuse expert Victor Vieth, director emeritus of the Gundersen Health System’s National Child Protection Training Center.

Vieth presented an extensive overview of recent studies about abuse in faith-based communities, followed by a session by Berkovitz and Lauer focusing on the development and implementation of policies and procedures pertaining to the prevention of child sexual abuse within synagogues. Vieth also discussed the common misconception that abusers are usually “strangers” or adhere to a common prototype, noting that 90 percent of abused children were abused by someone they knew or even other children.

“Child sexual abuse is 75 times more common than pediatric cancer, 167 times more common than autism and infinitely more common than a terrorist attack, yet we invest heavily in efforts to treat these diseases and disorders and security to prevent terrorist attacks in our yeshivas and our schools,” said Berkovitz. “But we have done little to actually prevent child sexual abuse in our communities. As rabbis, the most vulnerable of the Jewish community are in your hands—I hope you will join me today as we seek to change this.”

Andrew (Avi) Lauer, Esq., vice president

Andrew (Avi) Lauer, Esq., vice president for legal affairs and secretary and general counsel at YU

The event also featured a panel discussion reflecting on the specific implications for rabbis and community leaders with Lauer; Dr. Chaim Nissel, YU dean of students; and Rabbi Kenneth Hain, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom. Rabbi Hain stressed the complex role that rabbis play and encouraged his colleagues to act responsibly and proactively to protect the children and those most vulnerable within our communities.“Community rabbis must take a leadership role in promoting child sexual abuse prevention and awareness, as well as developing and implementing policies and procedures to deal with the issue within their communities,” said Lauer.

“Child sex abuse is unfortunately a very real and serious issue and it is critical that we give our rabbis and community leaders the tools they need to both prevent abuse and to recognize it and respond appropriately to it when it unfortunately occurs,” said Nissel. “Considering the long-term damaging effects of abuse, I believe this program and similar ones to it will save lives.”

Dozens of rabbis from shuls, schools and youth organization participated in the session in person and via a web-based national simulcast.

“It’s especially vital for us as rabbis to have this training because of our ability to impact change in shuls and schools within our community,” said Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz of the West Side Synagogue, an alumnus of YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, who ran a similar program in conjunction with YU at his shul last year. “Who else are our congregants hearing from on a weekly basis, from the pulpit or in other communications? It’s our responsibility to educate and spread awareness within our communities about what’s safe, what’s appropriate, and what to look out for, and to be proactive in protecting our most vulnerable children.”

“A conference like this is so important because we know from studies that many abused children have spiritual questions that need to be addressed to help them heal, and if there is no one to answer their questions, they don’t cope as well physically or emotionally,” said Vieth. “’It’s critical that we educate and train our religious leadership to be able to support this community. These are the shadow children of our country—boys and girls, young and younger, who from the corners of their rooms ask us, ‘Is it safe to come out now?’ By your presence here today, you have dedicated yourselves and your communities to the proposition that we should answer this question: ‘Yes, it is.’ ”

Yeshiva University Presented Kollel Yom Rishon Dedicated to Torah Leader’s Legacy on November 24

February 5th, 2014 by shur

P1000543-X32Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) and Abraham Arbesfeld Kollel Yom Rishon and Millie Arbesfeld Midreshet Yom Rishon presented a tribute event dedicated to the legacy of HaRav Ovadia Yosef zt”l on Sunday November 24. The event featured special remarks by Rav Yosef’s daughter, Rabbanit Adina Bar Shalom, founder, chief executive officer and chair of the board of directors of the Haredi College of Jerusalem. Other speakers at the event included Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, Joel and Maria Finkle Visiting Israeli Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, who received ordination from Rav Yosef. “It’s an honor to host Rabbanit Bar Shalom at Yeshiva University to discuss her father’s legacy,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, YU vice president for University and Community Life and the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “We were privileged to have Rav Yosef visit our yeshiva several times to give Talmudic and halachik lectures. Maran was one of the transformational figures of this generation and we will always remember his warm friendship with our institution, which he respected for its commitment to Torah scholarship and the preservation of the Sephardic heritage.”

Recent YUConnects Events

February 5th, 2014 by shur

teaneck-shabbaton-flyerYUConnects Shabbaton in Teaneck, Nov 1-2

Nearly 70 young men and women participated in the Shabbaton at Cong. Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck with terrific results! With an interactive Friday night symposium “A Jew in the the Workplace,” a relaxed Shalosh Seudot at the home of the Orlinsky family and an exciting dairy melava Malka with six stations of game challenges, the attendees had opportunities to meet and network. Many dates have resulted already from this beautiful weekend which was a direct result of the sponsorship of our lead supporters, Lois Blumenfeld, Dr. Norman Sohn and other generous community donors (click here to see donor list). Rav Hershel Schachter, Dr. David Pelcovitz & Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt gave community wide shiurim which were of course excellent and very well attended.


tachlis flyerTalking Tachlis For Women, November 4 

The Shenk Shul was packed with over 100 women on this autumn evening as Rav Mordechai Willig offered Torah insight into their ongoing search for a match. Mrs. Deena Schoonmaker then provided practical advice for facing issues that often come up in dating, such as opening-up in relationships, deal breakers and red flags in dating.  Click here to listen Rav Willig’s and Mrs. Deena Schoonmaker’s shiurim. This event was co-sponored with Shenk addressing the numerous requests for educational forums coming from our graduates and other residents in the Washington Heights community.



normal-flyer2Is This Normal? November 11

An educational event for the undergraduate men at Yeshiva University’s Wilf campus that featured 3 fascinating video clips on relationship traps and family clashes. Rav Moshe Weinberger, Mashpia at Yeshiva University introduced the evening. Professional facilitators from the Counseling Center and YUConnects led dynamic discussions about the films produced by Project SARAH with YU’s Drama Society. Engaging and eye-opening activities like this were appreciated by the 80 students that attended. More educational panels are being held in the spring. Stay tuned!



zahtz_112113bShiur & Sushi by Rabbi Ari Zahtz, Nov 20

Another “Shiur & Sushi” was held at the Koenigsberg home in Washington Heights. Rabbi Zahtz gave a wonderful shiur with over 40 people in attendance. This event was sponsored by the Wiesen family. If you would like to sponsor this or any other YUConnects event, please email yuconnects@yu.edu.