Yeshiva University Celebrates 84th Commencement
Hundreds of students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were presented with their degrees in front of thousands of proud family and friends at YU’s 84th Commencement exercises, held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Sunday, May 17.
“I’m going to really miss all these guys,” said Yosef Mendelsberg, a graduate of Sy Syms School of Business. “It was a great ride. I’m sad that it’s over.”
“It’s been a great four years!” said Tamar Berger, a graduate of Stern College for Women.
For Rabbi Joseph Schreiber of Los Angeles, California, who delivered the invocation, and his wife, Robin, this year’s commencement carried special significance: their triplets and two of the triplets’ spouses were among the graduating class. “There is so much that makes YU such an important part of our lives,” said Rabbi Schreiber. “Suffice it to say that our family will always have a tremendous amount of hakarat hatov and gratitude to YU and all of the YU family.”
President Richard M. Joel urged graduates to use their YU education and experiences to “matter and continue to matter” in the world: “Torah charts your direction to shape hearts and minds. There is a sacred mission to go forth with. Bring that to who you are, wherever you go. Build whole communities of integrity based on Torah Umadda. The Jewish story is a story of being worthy, of being partners with God, advancing creation, and sharing that notion with those around you. You can do that, and you must do that.”
Dr. Ruth Wisse, Yiddish scholar, author and literary and social critic, delivered the keynote address. “I’ve spent most of my life in universities, so I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you how very fortunate you are to be part of this academic community,” said Wisse, who was an awarded an honorary degree from Yeshiva in 2004. “You have been educated in the traditions of a people with an enviable record of moral and intellectual achievement. Unlike many in North America, you have enough knowledge both of your own traditions and of the world around you to see yourselves within a comparative framework.”
President Joel awarded the Presidential Medallion to Pearl Berger, dean of YU Libraries, and conferred honorary doctorates upon Peter Frates and Martin Greenfield.
Berger, who will retire at the end of the academic year, has served as the dean of libraries at Yeshiva University since 1985. She is the former president of the Association of Jewish Libraries and has authored numerous articles related to library services and Judaic library collections.
Since his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2012, Frates has worked to raise awareness and funds for ALS research. In 2014, Frates helped launch the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a social media phenomenon that raised more than $100 million in donations for the ALS Association. Dorine Gordon, president and CEO of the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter, accepted the degree on behalf of Frates, who congratulated the graduates in a pre-recorded video message.
Greenfield is a Brooklyn-based master tailor who honed his craft in the brutality of Auschwitz. The sole survivor of his immediate family, he went on to become the clothier of presidents and celebrities. Greenfield recently published his life’s story as Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents’ Tailor.
In his remarks, Yeshiva College Valedictorian Mark Weingarten referenced the significance of this year’s Commencement Ceremony coinciding with Yom Yerushalayim, noting that his time as an undergraduate had helped him to fulfill the Psalmist’s call to remember Jerusalem in daily life: “We have had incredible mentors in our families, Roshei Yeshiva, professors, and each other; individuals who display unparalleled kindness, humility, dedication to their heritage, and a passion to contribute to the broader community,” he said. “Together, we have forged a synthesis and bridged two worlds, embraced our studies, activism, and service without compromising on our tradition. And so we proudly proclaim that, today, we remember you, Jerusalem.”
The reunion classes of 1955, 1965, 1975 and 1990 were recognized at the graduation ceremony for their 60th, 50th, 40th and 25th reunions.
Celebrating her 50th reunion, Estelle Glass ’65S of Teaneck, New Jersey, noted that both she and her husband and four children are YU graduates, and two granddaughters are currently in Stern College. “We are a devoted Yeshiva family. To us, there is no institution comparable to YU capable of creating generations of Torah-educated and accomplished individuals, living examples of Torah Umadda.”
In all, more than 1,800 undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, as well as graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, will be awarded degrees from YU during its commencement season.