“Nostalgia is Vibrant in The Room Tonight”

Reunion 2016 Brings Together Friends and Memories

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(l-r): Class of 1966 – Moshe Bernstein, Lawrence Grossman, Victor Didia

Alumni from the classes of 1956, 1966, 1976, and 1991 of Yeshiva University gathered at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Tuesday, May 24, in New York City to make merry and share their YU memories at Reunion 2016 organized by the Office of Alumni Affairs. As one of the participants put it, “nostalgia is vibrant in the room tonight.”

Rabbi Saul Berman, ’59YC, ’62R a professor of Jewish studies at Stern College for Women, offered a pre-event shiur [lecture] on the Birkat Kohanim [the priestly blessing]. He gave a lively analysis of why this prayer of blessing is often said over children. To Rabbi Berman, the prayer tells children to make sure that they live their lives in the proper spirit of both confidence and humility.

After the shiur, alumni gathered for some pre-dinner socializing and reminiscing over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Elisheva Teitz ’66S remembered how her fellow students embraced her as she came from Israel in 1958 for her studies, even though she was older than they were and had children (she would often bring two of her children to the biology lab).

Pearl Schmier ’66S and Lenore Richter ’67S spent their professional careers in service to others: Pearl as a social worker and Lenore as a teacher. They affirmed that these life choices came from what they had learned at Stern.

Julius Berman ’56YC credited the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik z”l, known as “the Rav,” for “setting the course of my life” at Yeshiva College and beyond, an assertion seconded by Victor Didia ’66YC, who called the Rav’s shiur “life-changing.” He added, “These were the best four years of my life – fabulous – and I loved how my education allowed me to live out the synthesis of Torah Umaddah.” Elliot Rudnitzky ’66YC gave a hearty thumbs-up to these sentiments.

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(l-r): Marilyn Selber (1966), Pearl Schmier (1966) and Lenore Richter (1967)

Three 1991 graduates from Stern – Karen (Muth) Raskas, Lorraine (Karp) Gersten and Debby (Aharon) Levitt – all agreed that one of the best things about being at Stern was, in the words of Raskas, “not having to ask for a place to be… I was surrounded by people who believed as I did.” The lighting of Chanukah candles in the lobby was an evocative memory for all of them, and they all agreed with Levitt when she said that Stern “gave a jumpstart to my life.”

Shoshana Schechter ’91S, assistant professor of Bible studies in the Mechina Pathways Basic Jewish Studies Program, gave an inspiring opening speech about the “endless formative experience” of being at YU. She noted how much YU has both changed and stayed the same, how it has retained its core principles while moving forward in the world. “As we look back on our years at YU, we have tremendous hakarat hatov [gratitude], not just because we had a good time but because it was so formative in who we are. We should always connect back in order to carry it forward.”

After a stirring video of testimonials from faculty and students about the importance of YU, President Richard M. Joel gave an equally stirring speech that presented, in dramatic fashion, what he called “data, not anecdotes,” about the sterling successes that YU has in such areas as post-graduation job and academic placements, high-level research and publications and its respectable ranking among other universities. He ended by inviting everyone to come to the campuses to see these successes themselves and exhorting his audience to “be proud of what you have built in the United States and in Jewish Israel.”

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From the Class of 1991 (l-r): Daniel Oshinsky, Dov Lando, Evan Maron, and David Matkowsky

Next, Didia presented the class gift, a significant pledge that received a rousing round of applause from the audience. He urged his colleagues to use the reunion as “an opportunity to reflect upon all that has been bestowed upon us by YU that has shaped our characters and careers.” “YU is to be credited for whom I am,” he said, and the class gift would be used to ensure that men and women coming to YU “will have the same chance to succeed as we did.”

The main event ended with Rabbi Jonah Kupietzky ’52YUHS, ’56YC, ’59R, ’59BR leading the Grace after Meals, after which people gathered for dessert and recollections.

A Reunion book will be made available online in the coming weeks and will be sent electronically to all Reunion alumni by the Office of Alumni Affairs. For more information, contact alumni@yu.edu. The Alumni office also encourages alumni to join YU ALUMinate, an online networking platform designed specifically for YU alumni.