My archival philosophy is guided by a variation of the well-known statement of Rabbi Chanina quoted in the Talmud (BT Ta’anis 7a) that “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues and from my students most of all.”  My version, formulated from many years as an archivist, acknowledges all I have learned from the patrons I am charged with serving.

An example of this occurred several years ago, when I was asked by a Human Resources staff member for “tidbits about the University that are particularly unusual, quirky, interesting, etc.” to be presented as part of onboarding new employees.  I did not have a such a list, but, after thinking about it, was able to identify a small set of items that met the patron’s needs. This wonderful suggestion struck me as something valuable to have on hand. Some time was spent recording items of this nature from the recesses of my mind, which has become a continually evolving part of our department’s documentation and is updated as new items are discovered.  I refer to this listing as “Fun Facts about Yeshiva University”.  Below, in no particular order, is most of what we have compiled:

  • SOY Seforim Sale is the largest Jewish book sale in North America       
  • Coinciding with the University’s Centennial in 1986, a postage stamp honoring Dr. Bernard Revel, first YU president, was issued by the U.S. Postal Service as part of the “Great American” series. It was the first to honor a Talmudic scholar.
  • The (now) independent non-profit The Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to help free those wrongly convicted/imprisoned, began as a law clinic of professors and students at YU’s Cardozo School of Law in 1992.
  • The Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association traces its roots to 1965 when founder Harvey Sober began teaching karate classes to YU students in Rubin Hall. Sober taught at YU’s James Striar School for 50 years beginning in 1967 and expanded his karate classes to what has become a worldwide martial arts program.
  • In a November 2010 event at the Max Stern Athletic Center dubbed “Dreidelpalooza”, YU set a new Guinness Book of World Records for spinning the most dreidels simultaneously at 618, surpassing the previous record of 541.
  • In 1995, a bequest of $22,000,000 was made to the University by Anne Scheiber, a retired Internal Revenue Service auditor unknown to YU. The gift comprised virtually her entire estate. The bequest endowed scholarships and interest-free loans for women at Stern College and Albert Einstein College for Medicine.
  • Philip Roth at YU

    Part of the University’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 1962 included a symposium of three authors on conflicts of loyalties they experience as minority writers of fiction. One panelist was a young Philip Roth, who, over the course of his long career, referred to the event as a “bruising experience”. In 2021, Newark Public Library, which houses Roth’s personal library, held a conference on the Yeshiva symposium at which Roth scholars and others analyzed its influence on Roth’s career.

  • Former YU Chairman of the Board Ronald P. Stanton’s donation in 2006 of $100 million to Yeshiva University was, at the time, the largest single gift ever in support of Jewish education in North America.

    Coach Jonathan Halpert

  • Noted Maccabees coach Jonathan Halpert completed his tenure at YU as the longest serving men’s college basketball coach in New York City history (42 years)
  • A lawsuit by the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the YU Faculty Association, seeking to unionize, was appealed up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In NLRB vs Yeshiva University [444 U.S. 672 (1980)], the Court ruled that full time faculty at private universities are managerial and therefore do not have the right to unionize granted to employees under the National Labor Relations Act.
  • Jazz great Billie Holiday made her first recordings at 55 Fifth Avenue, presently the Brookdale Center of the Cardozo School of Law. One of the building’s former tenants was Columbia Records, which had recording studios on its 10th and 11th floors in the 1930s and ’40s. In 2021, Cardozo held an event honoring Holiday’s legacy.
  • Abraham “Doc” Hurwitz, a member of the first faculty of Yeshiva College, was well-known throughout New York City as “Peter Pan the Magic Man”, where he spearheaded the Parks Department’s Youth Magic Program during the Great Depression and for years afterwards. Hurwitz’ daughter, the children’s entertainer Shari Lewis, spent her early years living in the original YU dormitory while Hurwitz also served as Dean of the Dormitory.

    Yeshiva College instructor Abraham Hurwitz and children’s entertainer Shari Lewis, Hurwitz’s daughter

Are you aware of other facts about YU that are unique, unusual, or quirky?  Help Yeshiva University Archives in documenting these lesser-known, interesting aspects of our institution’s history by sending them to

Deena Schwimmer, Archivist





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