Sep 19, 2008 — Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, dean emeritus of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and special advisor to the President on yeshiva affairs, was honored for his extraordinary achievement in Torah learning and leadership over 35 years as the seminary’s dean at Yeshiva University’s RIETS Annual Dinner of Tribute on September 17. Almost 700 people attended at the event at the Grand Hyatt in New York City.
Herbert Smilowitz and his son, Rabbi Mark Smilowitz, were the inaugural America/Israel Dor L’Dor [generation to generation] Award recipients. RIETS also paid recognition to members of its 10th, 25th and 50th anniversary classes (1958, 1983, and 1998). More than $1 million was raised for the seminary.
The evening was marked by warm tributes and a celebration of RIETS. In recognizing Rabbi Charlop, Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel said, “You have raised all of us to be your wonderful family, and you’ve done it just by being Rabbi Zevulun Charlop.”
“He has set the pattern for the needs, and for filling the needs, of the modern rabbi in the modern community,” said Rabbi Julius Berman, chairman of the RIETS Board of Trustees.
“Rabbi Charlop has left us with a legacy of excellence, a legacy of integrity, a legacy of erudition, a legacy of honor and a legacy of kindness, compassion and sensitivity towards all students,” said Rabbi Yona Reiss, who succeeded Rabbi Charlop this year as The Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS.
“I wouldn’t be who I am without the support of Rabbi Charlop,” said Rabbi Reuven Brand, a RIETS alumnus who came to the dinner from Illinois, where he is the director of the Yeshiva University Torah Mitzion Chicago Kollel in Skokie. “There’s a magic in RIETS, and a magic in what we have in this room. Thank you, Rabbi Charlop, for helping us to share this magic with others.”
President Joel announced that a wing of the Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Study–now under construction on YU’s Wilf Campus in Washington Heights–would be named for Rabbi Charlop, thanks to gifts from a group of YU supporters.
A 1951 Yeshiva College graduate, Rabbi Charlop received his semikhah [rabbinical ordination] from RIETS in 1954. He was appointed The Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS in 1971 and served in that position until this past July. Rabbi Charlop has also served as the spiritual leader of the Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway in his native Bronx for the past 54 years.
Rabbi Charlop comes from a long line of rabbinic leadership and Jewish scholarship. His father, Rabbi Jechiel Michael Charlop, was ordained at RIETS in 1921 and served as the spiritual leader of the Bronx Jewish Center for 46 years. His grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop, was an associate of Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook and rosh yeshiva of Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem from its inception.
Visibly moved by the many tributes he received, Rabbi Charlop thanked all the speakers, and added of the evening’s other honorees, “I’m extremely happy that I can share this evening with my very good friends, Herbert and Mark Smilowitz.”
The Smilowitz family has a deep and long-standing connection to RIETS. “Blessed is the father who has such a son, and blessed is the son who has such a father,” said Dr. Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University. Dr. Lamm hailed Herbert Smilowitz as “a quiet giant,” and noted that Mark Smilowitz is “a superb politician–not in the vulgar sense of the word, but in the Aristotelian sense: he has an intuitive knowledge of human relationships.”
Herbert Smilowitz, honored at the dinner as “a humble man of faith,” joined the RIETS Board of Trustees in 1994 and now serves as its vice chairman. He received the RIETS Eitz Chaim [Tree of Life] award in 2002. Mr. Smilowitz and his wife, Marilyn, are Benefactors of YU and reside in West Orange, NJ.
Rabbi Mark Smilowitz, who was cited for his rabbinic leadership and educational commitment, graduated from Yeshiva College in 1992 and earned his master’s degree from YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. He received semikhah from RIETS in 2002. Rabbi Smilowitz resides in Beit Shemesh, Israel with his wife, Michelle, and four children.
The America/Israel Dor L’Dor Award recognizes parents and children who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of higher Jewish education in the Torah Umadda model and who have made a meaningful impact in communities in both the United States and Israel.