Jun 1, 2010 — Addressing the more than 5,000 people in attendance at Yeshiva University’s 79th commencement, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael B. Oren declared that the bond between his country and the U.S., as well as between Israel and YU, is inextricable.
“Whenever difficult decisions had to be made and intrepid answers rendered, religious Zionists were ready,” said Oren. “And in America, no institution better represents this readiness, the commitment to combining Jewish and secular scholarship, the dedication to preserving Israel and defending its essential relationship with the United States, than this remarkable university.”
While Oren admitted that life after graduation would pose difficult challenges and questions, he told graduates that the decision to stand with or even move to Israel was something they would never be questioned about.
“Here, I know that you know the answer—intrinsically, intellectually, and spiritually. You have always known the answer….examine any facet of Israeli life—in governance, finance, academia, defense—and you will find Yeshiva graduates,” he said. “And little wonder. Every year, six hundred of you study in Israel under Yeshiva’s auspices, and fifteen percent of all of you receiving degrees today will make aliya, enriching and strengthening our State.”
With the same emphasis on preserving and expanding Jewish and Israeli heritage through a Yeshiva University education, President Richard M. Joel said to the graduating class, “Yeshiva University’s success lies not in what it can become, it rests in what you are. For you are the blossoming flower of our tomorrows, of your parents, your people, your loved ones, and your children.”
Oren was one of four notables in the Jewish community who received an honorary doctorate at commencement from YU President Richard M. Joel. The other recipients were Rabbi Moshe Gottesman, a respected Jewish educator who served as dean of Hebrew Academy of Nassau County (HANC) for 16 years; Alfred Henry Moses, a philanthropist, communal leader and former US ambassador to Romania, and Zygmunt Wilf, Yeshiva University trustee and chairman of the Minnesota Vikings.
Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, professor of social medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a renowned researcher, was awarded the Presidential Medallion in recognition of her groundbreaking work in medicine.
The commencement honored undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, whose daughter received a bachelor’s degree from Stern College, delivered the invocation.
“This unique university has educated these graduates so well in timeless values of Torah Judaism, the thrilling opportunities of a modern secular knowledge and the ways in which these two streams can be combined,” said Lieberman.
Fay Burekhovich, valedictorian of Stern College spoke of the way that Yeshiva University had provided countless opportunities for students to showcase their talents and to go out as leaders of their nation, while her closing remarks echoed Ambassador Oren’s call for Jews to come together as one nation, no matter where they are.
“Too many categories serve to separate us; instead, we need bridges that bring us together, irrespective of where we originated, how we conduct ourselves religiously, or even how we act towards others,” she said. “We need unity not because of our similarities, but so that we can appreciate our differences with greater clarity, so that we recognize the inherent beauty in having so many different types of Jews working together for the sake of the common good.”
In all, more than 2,000 graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies and psychology, as well as undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, are being awarded degrees this commencement season.