A New Class of Educators

Dr. Chip Edelsberg Implores New Azrieli Graduates to Strive for Authenticity

The buoyant mood and cheerful light that infused the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration’s annual commencement ceremonies served as perfect contrast to the grey and gloomy evening weather outside Belfer Hall on Monday, May 21. Fifty one master’s students, 11 accelerated students, 10 doctoral students, and two specialist certificate recipients received recognition in a packed hall where extra chairs had to be brought in at the last minute to accommodate an overflow crowd of excited family and friends.

For Judith Cahn, who earned her doctoral degree, at least two members of her family didn’t have to worry about finding a chair because they had spots in the section reserved for graduating students.

“This is a very emotional moment for me,” said Cahn, whose daughter, Chaya Shochet, and son-in-law, Matisyahu Shochet, received their master’s degrees during the ceremony. “There’s no way we could have coordinated graduating at the same time, but it just worked out that way. This has been an amazing journey for all of us and this graduation has become a memorable family occasion.”

The celebratory mood was amplified by the words of Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel, who in introducing the commencement speaker, Dr. Chip Edelsberg, executive director of the Jim Joseph Foundation, made sure to highlight the generosity of Azrieli’s many benefactors.

“Tonight, we are celebrating the fact that the confidence that we have in ourselves, and that I encourage you to have in yourself, is mirrored by our patron and benefactor, David Azrieli, whose foundation has just awarded a gift of $10 million to our school in honor of David’s 90th birthday. This gift represents the largest gift that the foundation has awarded anywhere in the world. This is only further validation of the $15 million that the Jim Joseph Foundation has bestowed on us, which is again a reflection of the confidence that our good friend Chip Edelsberg has in this school, and which has taken this school to new heights and new possibilities in Jewish education.”

President Joel went on to note that the Jim Joseph Foundation has given several grants to Azrieli and YU over the years totaling $15 million. The foundation has funded more than $700,000 in scholarships each year for Azrieli, GPATS and Stern College students receiving bachelor’s degrees in Jewish education, and has provided staunch support to initiatives such as new masters programs at Azrieli; certificate programs in Differentiated Instruction and Education Technology at the Institute for University School Partnership; a certificate program in Experiential Jewish Education and winter missions at the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).

Azrieli Graduate School Animation Video from Azrieli Graduate School on Vimeo.

During Edelsberg’s speech, he told the audience that education was one of the primary forces in his life, and that before his current role at the Jim Joseph Foundation, he was a teacher himself. While talking about his first experience as a teacher in Rhode Island, Edelsberg framed his speech around three major themes: disruption, reconciliation and authenticity.  He implored students to use all three in their teaching and in their lives, and to strive for a kind of teaching that will lead to them to see the profession not just as a gratifying career, but as a mission to be lived.

“I look to you, the educator, to reveal the fullness of yourself to your learners, to invoke from them honest effort and intellectual candor, and commitment to informed action,” said Edelsberg.

Dean David Schnall expressed full confidence that this year’s graduating class would be able to meet Edelsberg’s imploring challenge. “It’s so wonderful to see the passionate, creative, intelligent people that we are sending out to change the world of Jewish education through their leadership, their research, their innovative use of technologies and their creative teaching,” said Schnall.

“Whether in administrative offices or in classrooms, they are consummate professionals who place their students at the center of their practice and we have every reason to believe that they will be successful. And I want to emphasize that we as faculty, students and all members of the Azrieli and YU community owe a great debt of gratitude to the Jim Joseph Foundation for underwriting our accelerated programs, our distant learning initiatives, our school partnerships and a host of other efforts. We hope that this wonderful relationship continues to deepen and grow.”

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