Sep 4, 2009 — A group of 16 Yeshiva University (YU) graduates from the class of 2009 have decided to extend their stay on campus for another year to experience the University from another perspective: as Presidential Fellows.
The top graduates will build their professional skills while assisting in programmatic and organizational roles at various schools and departments across the institution. Since its establishment in 2004 by President Richard M. Joel, the Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership has played a major role in transforming YU into a leadership laboratory for the Jewish community.
“The program has motivated its participants to reflect on the positive experiences they have had at Yeshiva University and examine the opportunities in the Jewish community––in both lay and professional capacities—in light of their interests and skills,” said President Joel. “The fellowship inspires them to reach for the nobility and responsibility that comes with leadership.”
This year’s Presidential Fellows are Avi Amsalem, Abigail Schoenfeld, David Eckstein, Nava Billet, Esther Goldstein, Daniel Neiss, Avital Gozhenko, Adira Katlowitz, Steven A. Loterstein, Aviva Miller, Allison Liebman, Uri Westrich, Ephraim Shoshani, Annie Wasserman, Osnat Rabinowich and Perel Skier.
The fellows were chosen after an intensive screening process based on academic performance, campus leadership and involvement with the Jewish community. For the duration of the year, each fellow is mentored by a senior administrator within their assigned department. They work on projects of importance to the University and attend a graduate-level weekly leadership seminar covering key topics in university administration and Jewish communal leadership.
After speaking to previous fellows about their experiences, Avital Gozhenko of Volograd, Russia decided to apply for the fellowship. “This was an opportunity to contribute to the University as a show of gratitude for the best four years of my life,” said Gozhenko, who will be working with J. Michael Gower, YU vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer.
Some of this year’s Presidential Fellows are considering careers in Jewish communal service and see their participation as a good way to test the waters. Others will use their new skills and experiences as future lay leaders in the Jewish community.
“The fusion of traditional Jewish values with a progressive workplace environment made YU the ideal setting for the beginning of my career,” said Ephraim Shoshani of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Shoshani will serve in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs under the mentorship of its vice president, Georgia Pollak.
Perel Skier of Milwaukee, Wisconsin will be working in familiar territory under her former Stern College for Women dean, Dr. Karen Bacon, as the Beatrice Diener Presidential Fellow. “I loved my experience as a student and wanted to stay connected to the University,” explained Skier. “I also wanted to widen my range of skills so that I could be more useful to any organization I may end up with.”
Previous years’ fellows have also taken positions in the corporate sector as well as in Jewish communal organizations such as the American Jewish World Service, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the UJA-Federation of New York and various Jewish day schools. Others have gone on to graduate study in public service, psychology, law, dentistry, medicine and the rabbinate. For some, the fellowship can lead to more permanent work within the University’s administration.
“Working in the offices of Academic Affairs and Institutional Research under both Provost Morton Lowengrub and Dr. Ariel Fishman was both a rewarding and challenging experience,” said Mati Sved ’08Y, a 2008-09 Presidential Fellow who now serves as an analyst for Institutional Research. “The mentoring and learning through the fellowship—while giving back to the institution—has been truly gratifying.”
The program is directed by Rabbi Josh Joseph, chief of staff and deputy to the President, and coordinated by Elysia Stein ’04S, herself a former Presidential Fellow.