President Bush Keynotes Hanukkah Convocation

Michael Gamson, Judith Weiss and Anita Zucker Honored at Yeshiva University’s 90th Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner

Former President George W. Bush was the special guest and keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s 90th Annual Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on Sunday, December 14. More than 750 people came to show their support for the University and to witness YU President Richard M. Joel confer an honorary doctorate upon the 43rd U.S. president.

“What an honor it is to have you as part of the Yeshiva University family,” said President Joel in his introduction of President Bush. “We celebrate you for the steadfastness of your integrity, for your commitment to democracy, and your clarity of vision that only in a democratic society can people achieve and grow and thrive. Put simply, you taught Americans that democracy is a condition for civilization.”

He added, “We applaud you for the loyalty of your friendship and commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”

In his keynote address, President Bush said, “Yeshiva University is a prestigious university and I am proud to accept this degree.”

He added: “Students leave Yeshiva with, not only a fantastic education, but as better citizens of the world.”

President Joel also awarded honorary degrees to Michael Gamson, of Houston, Texas; Judith Weiss, of Cleveland, Ohio; and Anita G. Zucker, of Charleston, South Carolina.

Gamson, a member of YU’s Board of Trustees since 2011 and a member of Yeshiva College’s Board of Overseers, is the senior managing director of Freepoint Commodities LLC. Along with his wife, Barbara, Gamson has endowed the state-of-the-art Dr. Bernard W. Gamson Computational Physics Lab and the Dr. Bernard W. Gamson Physics Teaching Lab at Yeshiva College, both in honor of his late father. The Gamsons have also given generously to the University’s Trustee Scholarship Fund.

“Michael Gamson is a man with clarity of vision and a sense of integrity,” said President Joel. “Fueling the Jewish future will always be his trademark; showing solidarity with the State of Israel, supporting Jewish study and academic excellence at educational institutions, and passing on Jewish pride to the next generation.”

Weiss and her husband, Morry, have supported a number of Yeshiva University programs and initiatives, including the establishment of the Stone Sapirstein Center for Jewish Education, and have made gifts to support YU Distance Learning and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary Distance Learning, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Sy Syms School of Business, Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and the Yeshiva University Museum, among other major programs and affiliates. Weiss has a long history of communal involvement and leadership on both the local and national levels, and sits on a number of boards including the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living, where she is a lifetime member of the board, and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

“Judy Weiss has led her family in the footsteps of her parents as giants in Torah philanthropy,” noted President Joel. “Together with her husband Morry, Yeshiva University’s former Chairman of the Board, she has continued a generational commitment to YU, the Cleveland Jewish community, and the Jewish people.”

Zucker is chair and chief executive officer of The InterTech Group, Inc., a global holding company with investments in a wide array of industries including aerospace, advanced chemicals, financial services, consumer products, sports teams and arenas, location-based entertainment, real estate and alternative energy. A former elementary school teacher for over a decade, Zucker remains a staunch advocate of advancing education. She is a supporter of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, and, in 2013, participated in YU’s ChampionsGate conference in Florida, where she delivered a lecture about tikkun olam, repairing the world.

“Anita Zucker is driven to repair the world and embodies the idea of Tikkun Olam,” said President Joel. “Her life’s mission is in line with that of Yeshiva University; the future of the community depends on how we educate our children. We are proud that many of our community educational programs have been touched by her influence.”

During the dinner portion, President Joel paid tribute to eight Points of Light—students, faculty and alumni who exemplify the mission of Yeshiva University—inviting each one to light a symbolic candle on a large menorah.

“The lesson of Hanukkah is that the Jewish people must cast the light of our values onto the world,” President Joel explained. “Tonight, we publicize the lights that represent the past, present, and future of Yeshiva University.”

The Points of Light included Stern College’s Kayla Applebaum; Dr. Susan Bendor, longtime professor at Wurzweiler School of Social Work; Toby Golick, director of clinical education at Cardozo and the Founding Director of Cardozo’s Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic; Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Chelsea McGuire; Willie Roth ’10YC, ’14BR; Shoshana Schechter, assistant professor of bible at Stern College, and Amanda Esraelian ‘15S, in honor of the Mechina Pathways Program; Ike Sultan ’14YC, ’17R, ’17A, creator of Halachipedia; and Sam Weinstein, Amalia Weinberg and Devora Schloss, in recognition of the Counterpoint Israel program.

Read more about the Points of Light.

The convocation and dinner, the University’s main annual fundraising event, raised more than $4.2 million.