Shimon ’08YUHS, ’12YC and Davida Fried ’12S, ’13A had the good fortune of meeting each other in 2008 at the ever-romantic Sarachek basketball tournament on the Wilf Campus of Yeshiva University. Davida came to Washington Heights with her senior class from her home in Brookline, Massachusetts, and Shimon, hailing from Scarsdale, New York, came as a paid photographer for the tournament (a position he held until 2012). They were introduced to each other by Shimon’s cousin, they started dating shortly after that, and by November, they told their parents they were ready to get engaged. They married in 2011, before their senior year of college.
YU News had to chance to catch up with them on what’s been happening since they graduated from YU.
You both say you grew up in observant households. How would you describe “observant”?
Shimon: I grew up in a modern Orthodox household in an observant community in Scarsdale, New York, which I am happy to be moving back to with Davida and the children. My parents and grandparents instilled in me and each of my five siblings Torah values such as keeping kosher, putting on tefillin [leather prayer boxes] and attending minyan [a prayer group] regularly with my father and four younger brothers. My mother, Aria, instilled in each of us the importance of keeping and beautifying Shabbos, and going above and beyond in celebrating the Jewish holidays with great simcha [joy], something that was passed onto her from her mother.
My father, Philip, is a physician in a shomer Shabbos [Shabbos observant] practice and proudly wears a yarmulke when practicing and treating patients. He taught me the leining [Torah reading] for my bar mitzvah and both he and my mother have been religious role models for me throughout my life. Three out of four of my grandparents, alav hashalom [may they rest in peace],were survivors of the Shoah. I believe they would be proud to know that their grandchildren are frum [pious] and continuing to raise their children in observant homes, focused on observing and performing the mitzvot [commandments] and entrenched in Torah values.
Davida: I grew up in a modern Orthodox household as well. I am one of eight children, so perhaps not your most typical modern Orthodox family. We were brought up keeping strict kosher in and out of the home, observing Shabbat and attending shul every Shabbat together as a family. My father, extremely knowledgeable in Torah and halacha [Jewish law], went over the parsha [weekly Torah reading] with us in vivid detail every Shabbat as we walked back and forth to shul. We were brought up with the values of treating others with kavod [respect] and giving back through chessed [charity] to our immediate and greater community. My mother is a deeply spiritual person and instilled in us a strong sense of hashgacha pratit, that Hashem is present and involved in every detail of our lives. This hashkafa [outlook] has served me well throughout my life and in adulthood as well.
What was your Jewish education like as you grew up?
Shimon: It was important to my parents that me and my siblings attend yeshiva day school. The value of a Jewish education was something instilled in them by their parents, three of whom were survivors of the Holocaust. I attended Westchester Day School from kindergarten to 6th grade. I then went to Stein Yeshiva for 7th and 8th grade. Davida now runs the early education program there I attended MTA for high school, which I loved, and where I formed many long-lasting friendships. The academics at MTA prepared me well for college.
Davida: I attended Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, a modern Orthodox coed day school. Tuition was difficult for my large family, so I did not take my enrollment in the day school for granted. I was thankful and grateful for each day that I was there and for the financial aid that the school provided us. Learning Talmud seven times a week with Rabbi Avi Bossewitch was a definite highlight for me as was the David Project (Israel Advocacy) class with Zeev Shachar and the Holocaust Curriculum, Facing History and Ourselves, with Rabbi Reuven Cohn z”l. I participated in many extracurricular clubs including Mock Trial, Girls Soccer and the Drama Club. I was chosen as director of the high school senior play, something that had been a dream of mine since freshman year. We put on The Mouse Trap by Agatha Christie; it was great fun and a smashing success.
What convinced you to attend YU?
Shimon: I seriously considered New York University Film School but ultimately wanted to stay in a frum college environment. I actually chose a minor in film at YU, so I got the best of both worlds. My uncle went there as did my great-great-uncle, who was one of the first graduates of Yeshiva University’s Belfer Graduate School of Science. My father and uncles also attended and graduated from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Davida: I was enrolled in Boston University before I left for my gap year. I was attending seminary in Israel while Shimon and I were already seriously dating. Aside from us wanting to be closer to one another, I no longer had any desire to attend a secular college. When I applied and got accepted to Stern College on a full scholarship through the Legacy Heritage Fund, I took that as a sign from Hashem that I was making the right decision and moving my life in a good direction.
How would you describe your time at YU in general?
Shimon: YU was great! I was with my high school friends from MTA and almost all my friends from yeshiva (I studied at Mevaseret). I was also able to maintain a full class load, attend shiur [lecture] every morning and still work for Academic Computing. The experience that I gained both in my classes and at Academic Computing was tremendous. I attribute this time to my realization that I wanted to work for myself, be my own boss and create companies that I could run, oversee and directly manage.
Davida: I loved Stern. I took such incredible Judaic Studies courses that challenged my prior knowledge and ways of thinking. The female student body was surprisingly diverse. I appreciated the opportunity to attend classes with young women who had vastly different upbringings than mine while also discovering all that we had in common. Indeed, some of my dearest friends today are women I met and befriended during my time there.
Can you recollect one or two experiences that would give readers a feel for the essence of your YU experience?
Shimon: I basically majored in everything Dr. Ruth Bevan taught. She instilled a love of politics in me and really taught us the science behind it. She encouraged me to pursue my aspirations and was so happy and proud when I entered the workforce. She always encouraged me to run for public office (still on my bucket list) and is someone I continue to look up to and keep in touch with today. My other passion is photography and film. I was probably one of the last film minors at YU. Dr. Eric Goldman was a fantastic and engaging professor of film of whom I cannot speak more highly.
Davida: American Jewish History with Dr. Jeffrey Gurock was an absolute favorite as was every Judiac Studies course I took with Rebbetzin Smadar Rosensweig (I took as many of her classes as I could). Outside of class, participating in Torah Tours with Shimon for Simchas Torah with a group of our close mutual friends was a definite chavaya [fun experience]. We made such a kesher [connection] with the community that we visited, in fact, that the Rabbi and his wife invited us back for Shabbos Chanukah— and we all went.
Shimon, how did you become interested in computer science?
Shimon: I started tinkering with computer parts at an early age. When I was younger, my parents would often get frustrated with me for breaking things, mostly electronics. It wasn’t done with ill intention, I just loved to deconstruct the various pieces and then put them back together again. I was trying to understand how each component worked. Soon, I started fixing all the electronics around the house, and I’ve been fascinated with technology ever since.
At MTA, I fixed the computers of all my teachers and administrators. I’ll share a story I’m sure Dr. Seth Taylor wouldn’t mind: Dr. Taylor used to let me skip gym class in order to fix local computer issues throughout the school building. Needless to say, I wasn’t in gym class very often.
Shimon, can you describe the process that brought you from founding a business with your father after graduation to being COO of West Derm Center, especially the work you did obtaining PPE for health care workers?
Shimon: My parents have always been supportive of me in all my ventures. When I was at YU, my father and friends of his who were practicing physicians at the time were worried about switching over from paper records to electronic medical records. I helped my father with the transition, and this ultimately turned into a business as my parents started referring me to their doctor friends.
We realized that physicians needed more help with the business and administrative aspects of their practices, and that’s when I formed DRCLOUD (now DRCLOUD Medical Management and Consulting). Several years into DRCLOUD, my father and I joined forces and expanded West Derm Center, the dermatology practice my father founded in 1994. One of the services we offer our clients is supply chain management and access to our large medical supply contracts, though medical supplies were not, in truth, a large part of our business.
This changed, of course, last year when COVID started. Overnight, we had customers worldwide asking us to procure medical supplies and personal protective equipment for them that were in short supply and suddenly impossible to find. One year later, we spun off our medical supply business, Blade Medical, and are now manufacturing our own supplies overseas. We service many hospital systems and were able to deliver large amounts of 3-ply masks, N95s, face shields and gowns to frontline workers at the height of the first wave of the pandemic back in April. We were grateful to be in a position to do some good at such a critical time.
Davida, explain what it means to be in the first cohort of Legacy Heritage Scholars and in what way(s) did your YU experience influence the choices you made to pursue a career in education?
Davida: I mentioned that I grew up in a large family; I have always loved being around children. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, but when I came across the opportunity and got accepted to join the Legacy Heritage Scholars, a new program at that time, I felt that education could be the right calling for me.
The program put me on an accelerated track to earn my master’s in education at the Azrieli Graduate School and allowed me to gain incredible firsthand experience with master teachers in some of the best yeshivas and day schools in the New York area.
I work in administration now as the Early Childhood Director at Stein Yeshiva in Yonkers and as the preschool director of Camp Regesh in New Jersey. I certainly feel that my coursework and fieldwork during my time in the program put me on the path for success in my current field. I feel passionate about chinuch [education] and early childhood education and feel blessed that I have a career that allows me to make a positive impact on Jewish families and their children every day.
Some family vitals: children (names are always good), other interests, and so on.
Shimon: We recently celebrated our nine-year anniversary and have been blessed with two boys, Jonah and Joseph, ages 3 and 5, and we hope to welcome our newest family member this spring. We are so fortunate to live close to my parents in Westchester; we often spend Shabbos and Sundays together with them and my younger sister. Davida and I and our boys are excited to be joining the Young Israel of Scarsdale community and to be within walking distance to my parents.
Davida: As Shimon said, we have been blessed with healthy children. Starting a family was difficult for us, and I struggled with both infertility and miscarriage. I have spoken publicly about our journey to starting a family both at women’s community events in Riverdale and on social media. Infertility and miscarriage are unfortunately so common and yet still highly stigmatized and hardly spoken about, even among just women. Shimon and I are supporters of organizations such as Bonei Olam and NechamaComfort that do such incredible work and provide critical services to help Jewish couples start families of their own while also possibly dealing with grief and trauma. We are happy to personally know many couples who have benefited positively and in life-changing ways from their services.
What you’re looking forward to in the near future?
Davida: Visiting my parents again in Florida. We have not seen them since before the pandemic and that has definitely been hard. Also, no more masks! I am so grateful that the children are back in school for in-person instruction, but I do miss seeing the children’s beautiful smiling faces and look forward to a time in the not-so-distant future when we can, im yirtze Hashem [G-d willing], be safely without the masks again.