May 6, 2004 — Some 800 guests gathered yesterday at Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt to experience Jewish scholarship firsthand and honor individuals who have devoted their lives to Torah lishmah—learning for its own sake.
The venue was the annual dinner of Yeshiva University’s affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), and attendees—including RIETS and YU graduates and an array of Jewish communal professionals—used the occasion to honor four of its distinguished roshei kollel, Rabbi J. David Bleich, Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, and Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig.
They did so in speeches that lauded the academic and pedagogic efforts of each honoree, and of the seminary, that have produced so many top-flight pulpit and communal rabbis, teachers, principals, and roshei yeshiva.
The evening began with shiurim (lectures) delivered by the roshei kollel — a RIETS dinner first. More than 250 guests, many standing shoulder-to-shoulder, packed a separate reception room to hear lessons that reflect the depth of Torah learning and commitment of the honorees to Yeshiva.
The main program also honored long-time communal leader Carmi Schwartz, who received the Eitz Chaim (Tree of Life) Award, the highest honor RIETS bestows.
Mr. Schwartz was the ninth recipient of the Eitz Chaim Award and inductee into the Tree of Life Society.
YU President Richard M. Joel presented Mr. Schwartz with the award and used his remarks to salute the enduring link between RIETS and Yeshiva University. “This is a time of celebration and triumph,” he said. “The opportunity to build and strengthen Community based on the values of the Torah is ours. That’s what the future holds if we work together.”
The dinner chairman, RIETS alumnus and board member Rabbi Hyman Arbesfeld, extolled the value of the kollelim in cultivating scholars and communal leaders of exceptional quality who devote their academic energies to Talmud and service to the Jewish community. His remarks included praise for both the men who head the kollelim and the benefactors for whom the programs are named.
In particular, Susan Wexner, Robert Beren, and Marcos and Adina Katz, kollel creators and supporters, were recognized by the audience for their leadership and extraordinary generosity. The Jesselson family and YU Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm were also enthusiastically acknowledged at the dinner for their leadership of their eponymous kollelim.
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Rabbi Bleich is rosh kollel of the Rabbi Norman Lamm Kollel Le’Hora’ah Yadin Yadin and the Ludwig Jesselson Kollel Chaverim and holds the Herbert and Florence Tenzer Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at RIETS; Rabbi Rosensweig is rosh kollel of the Israel Henry Beren Institute for Higher Talmudic Studies and holds the Nathan and Perel Schupf Chair in Talmud; Rabbi Schachter is rosh kollel of the Adina and Marcos D. Katz Kollel and holds the Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud at RIETS; Rabbi Willig is rosh kollel of the Bella and Harry Wexner Kollel Elyon and holds the Rabbi Sol Roth Chair in Talmud and Contemporary Halakhah at RIETS.
Founded in 1896, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) is the Western Hemisphere’s leading center for Torah learning and training for the rabbinate.